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Latest Update on SPOT and DeLorme

SPOT and DeLorme Unveil First Handheld GPS With Satellite CommunicatorI have a few more details to provide on the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (read the original post here) However, it is just a few more details because from my discussions with SPOT it is clear that a lot of the specifications and such are still under development. So what do we know?

The wireless communication is via 802.15.4 “Zigbee” protocol, not Bluetooth or WiFi. I asked about possible adaption of the SPOT Satellite Communicator to other platforms (such as iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.) and was told that it was technically possible (we already figured that out), but the spokesperson I spoke with could provide no further information. I was also not able to ascertain if this concept will remain exclusive to DeLorme and if so, for what term.

The SPOT Satellite Communicator retains its own GPS receiver, so the SOS button the the SPOT is fully independent of the PN-60w. The location of the SOS button, as seen in the photo on the side of the SPOT, has not been finalized. The SPOT Satellite Communicator will use two AA-cell non-rechargeable Lithium batteries, same as the PN-60w.

The free-form text messages will be limited to 58 characters. Each message will also include the GPS location (Latitude and Longitude). That obviously takes up a significant part of the potential message length, so one wonders if they might eventually allow a user to use those bits for a longer text message. You don’t necessarily need that information to be included. Text entry is via a keyboard on the screen navigated via the four-way switch. Only mildly annoying, and for short messages, acceptable.

In addition to the existing SPOT SOS and Help messages, I was told that they expect to provide an additional 10-14 user-defined canned messages to be sent, as opposed to the one additional with the standard SPOT 2. These are messages to enter via the online interface, not into the PN-60w. This will allow you to avoid the awkward text entry in many cases, just select the appropriate canned message and send it.

Unlike SPOT, which allows only a single group of contacts to be notified, it is anticipated that you will be able to have “more” contacts and be able to group them in various groups. You will also be able to identify a particular contact to receive a message. At this point, they do not plan to allow you to enter a contact number or email from the device in the field.

Finally, one of the things they couldn’t provide was the cost of the subscription or even how it would be priced. No word yet if it will be a simple added cost for unlimited messages, a cost per message or if different plans with different levels of service will be offered. Certainly, the appeal of this will depend in part on the cost, so without that to factor in, it’s difficult to evaluate the package.

More details as I get them.