SPOT GPS Tracking Device: Climbers and Outdoor Adventurers Take Heart

Finding a quality, real time GPS tracking device that is going to work in the rugged outdoors is a top priority for campers, climbers, and outdoor adventurers.  The SPOT GPS Tracking Device tries to meet this need for this particular market.  The problem with many of the other traditional tracking units is that they suffer from a reliance upon the cell phone networks.  When you use the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger you don’t need to be in cell phone range for the device to work, making it perfect for those who adventure well off the beaten path.

The obvious reason for this being a desirable trait in the tracker is one of safety.  Even if you have the best of the best in tracking equipment but it is unable to transmit your signal over a network so that others know where you are your tracking equipment is useless.  It is money thrown down the drain.  The SPOT GPS avoids this serious pitfall by relying upon commercial satellites instead of cell phone networks to communicate its data.

How the SPOT GPS Tracking Device Works

Since this particular GPS tracking unit works differently from all others that I have come across it seems important that we come to an understanding of how it works if we are to understand it fully.  The graphic below is from the SPOT GPS website (

Spot GPS Tracking Device How It Works

  1. The process begins with GPS satellites broadcasting a signal containing information that a GPS device can use for trilateration.
  2. The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger receives these signals from its GPS antenna and process the information in its  onboard GPS chip.  This process is again called trilateration and is the bedrock of all effective GPS tracking.  It then sends this position information to commercial satellites to move along the chain.
  3. Once it receives your message, the communication satellite will then relay it back down to earth for one of the satellite antennas to pick up.
  4. These satellite antennas are connected to a global network that will route the information generated by your SPOT and send a central processing station where it can be stored and then communicated via the methods you selected.
  5. The final step of the process is the actual delivery of your message.  This can be through email, via a text message, or by means of telephone contact with the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center

The whole design of this system is really quiet remarkable and I am really surprised that more personal GPS tracking devices do not utilize this technology.

SPOT GPS Coverage

Tracking coverage is an incredibly important element in the purchase of any safety GPS tracking device.  You need to know that you are going to be able to use your device when you need it.  Here is a map of the SPOT’s coverage as indicated on the SPOT website (

SPOT GPS Tracking Device Coverage Map

As you can clearly see, coverage is best in North America, Europe, and Australia.  East Asia also has good coverage and so does the northern portion of South America.

One additional word about the coverage – this is map focuses on step 2 and 3 from above (SPOT and satellite communication).  That means that if you are in a place where you cannot get a GPS signal then you are not going to be able to use it to track your location or use it to contact emergency personnel.

Pre-order the SPOT 2 Satellite GPS Messenger – Orange (PRE-ORDER) now!

3 Uncommon Ways To Use the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

1.  GPS  Safety Device For Driving

Sometimes our driving takes us to paths that do not get cell phone reception.  At such times it becomes important for us to have a way to successfully notify emergency personnel in the advent of a car crash or other medical emergency.  Services like OnStar are simply not going to cut it since they rely heavily on cell phone networks to transmit their information.

That is where SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger comes in.  Through its ability to contact first responders via satellites it can still get travelers the help that they need.  Here is an excerpt from a story about the how the SPOT was used in this exact role:

[SPOT helped save an ] elderly man with chest pains on the remote Alaska Highway of British Columbia. With no phone service, Gary Sleeper used his SPOT Messenger to alert the Emergency Response Center that he was in an emergency situation and needed assistance.

When the International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC) received his 911 message … [the IERCC] immediately notified the Canadian authorities, which dispatched a paramedic to intercept the man and his father on the highway. “I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see an ambulance appear. We transferred my father to the ambulance and he was rushed to Fort Nelson while receiving evaluation and medical treatment.”

This small GPS tracking device has a large impact on this family that day even though it was being used in an uncommon way.

2.  Child GPS Tracking Device

One very common application of GPS tracking is for children.  You see it in a wide range of devices and ideas.  The features of the SPOT GPS that would lend itself well to this application are the SOS button, the Help button, the Check-In/OK button, and Custom Message button.   Have three different ways to communicate with your child makes it much easier for them to communicate accurately with you, their parent.

Here is just a touch of some of the different ways that you could use these different communication options in a child GPS function:

  • SOS button – This would obviously be used for the worst case scenarios.  If you child is hurt, in an accident, or kidnapped they should press this button.  This will notify you and the authorities about your child’s location.  I’m not certain the that the police will be notified per se, but at least you know some government agency will be.
  • Help button – This is designed for non-emergencies and to notify parents of your need for help.  Is your child lost on their way home?  Are they stuck at school because you forgot to pick them up?  Are they stranded at a county fair because they got seperated from the pack?  These would all be proper uses of the Help button.
  • Check-In/OK button – This could be used by a kid who is wanting to let their parent know that they got to school, baseball practice, or a friends house okay.  It could also be a way for them to let you know that they have been thinking of you and just wanted to say I love you.
  • Custom Message button -  You can make up to three custom messages with the SPOT GPS tracking device.  Use your imagination or discuss with your child how these three messages should be used and what their content should be.

While this sounds like a great candidate for use as a child tracking device there is one major concern that one should be aware of.  It is that the device is fairly large when compared with some of the smaller child tracking devices like the Amber Alert GPS.  The larger the device, the more likely it will be discovered and discarded in the event of a kidnapping.  This is the exactly the situation in which you want your covert GPS tracking device to stay hidden!

3.  Bring Me Stuff Device

This is a going to be a very uncommon use of this device, but I thought it was so interesting that I’d put it down anyway.  Imagine a very rich man who travels around a lot but has certain things that he wants constantly – like chocolate or massages.  He has hired a bunch of people to cater to his wishes but he doesn’t want to drag an entourage with him every single time he is out on the town.  A man like this just has to take a long a SPOT GPS tracking device and he is no more than a button away from delicious chocolate or a relaxing massage.

Once he presses the help or custom message button his people will be notified of his express desire can be dispatched forthwith to cater to his every need!  Now that is living in the lap of luxury.

Buy The SPOT GPS Tracking Device

If you are interested in purchasing the the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger then you can pre-order it using the link below.  This product is expected to ship sometime in October 2009.

Pre-order the SPOT 2 Satellite GPS Messenger – Orange (PRE-ORDER) now!

SPOT GPS Tracker In The News

An elderly man was saved by the Spot GPS Tracker after having a very serious ATV accident that left him unconscious.  Luckily, the man’s son had a SPOT that he has just recently activated.  Within minutes of the accident the 9-1-1 button was pressed and emergency personnel were notified of the distress signal.  Shortly after that a rescue team was on the scene and the injured man was taken by helicopter to the nearest hospital.  This just goes to show you the power of a GPS tracking system when adventuring in the great outdoors!

How To Evaluate a GPS Tracking Device

There is a sea of choices when it comes to GPS tracking devices today.  You have a wide range of tracking manufacturers to choose from as well as a great many providers to sift through in your search for the tracking system that is best going to fit your particular needs. This task can seem a little daunting to someone just starting out in the world of GPS powered tracking, but if you let a few controlling principles guide you in your decisions then you should be able to easily navigate this sea until you have found port with GPS tracking system that works out best for you and your needs.

One of the main problems that people suffer from is an abundance of choice. While we think we like to keep our options open, the human mind can only filter and process so much information at any given time. If we simply stare at the 20-50 different GPS tracking devices that exist on the market then we are going to get nowhere fast. We will despair of finding a device and either choose a suboptimal tracker or not even make a purchase all together. I hope that was follows is a series of useful filters through which you can sift through the many choices available to you in your quest to evaluate the GPS tracking device that is best for you:

Determine if you need real time tracking or if you are content with data logging. This is mainly going to depend on the type of tracking that you want your device to do for you and will generally be a very person specific question. Some applications just do better with a real time tracker while others do just fine with a data logger. I like to think of it this way, if you need to know information as it happens then you will want a real time tracking device. If you are fine with figuring out where something has been after the fact, then a data logger is going to meet your needs just fine. Fortunately, there are personal GPS tracking devices that fall into both camps. It is also often the case that a tracking provider will provide both data logging and real time devices for their customers to purchase.

Choose a tracking device with the appropriate battery life.  After deciding which style of tracker you are purchasing it is time to begin considering the battery life of your device. As I am sure we all know, most electronic devices are limited by their power supply or battery life. If they have week batteries then it doesn’t matter how great the device is, we simply can’t use it for that long or else the battery will run out. If we had to speak in general terms, most data loggers will have a longer battery life than a real time GPS tracking device. This is mainly because real time trackers have to communicate their information via a cell phone modem which is an extra drain on the device’s power supply. Some real time trackers overcome this problem by hardwiring the device to a power supply. This is particularly common in GPS vehicle tracking devices that are used in commercial applications. While this is also possible for other uses, like tracking a teen’s car or possibly even tracking, it is most often used for fleet vehicle tracking.

Choose a a GPS tracking device that is going to be the appropriate size for your proposed tracking purpose. If you are planning on doing any sort of covert GPS vehicle tracking then you really need to think about the size of the device. Something that is small and easily attached to or hidden under your target is a top priority since covert tracking only really works as long as it goes undetected. Once the target has found the device they will be able to remove it or change their behavior, resulting in skewed results. Generally speaking, you are going to want a portable GPS tracking device. This will allow you to move it various locations as the need arises and even track multiple targets over a short period of time. If the device is not portable then will lose some of the tracking flexibility that you might be looking for.

Find out if the GPS tracking software run by your company is going to meet your needs. As you might suspect, there is a host of different GPS tracking software packages that really cater to different tracking functions. For example, a child GPS tracking device is not going to have the same user interface or software package as a GPS car tracking device. They are used for completely different purposes by different types of people. They most certainly gather their information the same way (via GPS satellites and a process called trilateration), but what they do with this information and how they present it to their customers can sometimes be radically different.

The reasons for this are pretty obvious. The information a parent might want to gather from their child GPS tracking device is going to center around the location of their child. Have they stayed within their specified GeoFence? Where were they at 3:30 PM today when they were supposed to be home from school? Did they get to soccer practice on time? These are the types of questions that a parent is going to want to know and this is the information that GPS trackign software geared for child tracking devices is going to be able to provide.

Similarly, GPS car tracking devices have their own set of metrics that need to be reported and they will have software that provides that to end users. Things like vehicle speed, lane position, and past locations are all wanted by car tracking users.  This is obviously different information than what the child tracking folks want and will therefore result in a different type of tracking software.

Even among different providers of the same type of tracking service you will get different GPS tracking software packages and features. Be sure to check out screen shots of the tracking system and see if they have a live demo for you to explore. There is nothing more important than getting a hands on feel for how the software will actually work and how you will interact with the information that your device will communicate.

Finally, consider all the costs involved with your new purchase. Real time tracking devices generally cost more up front and have a reoccurring subscription that you have to maintain if you are going to continue to use the device. This subscription generally costs just as much as a cell phone plan (around $40) if you want to have true real time tracking. Data loggers, on the other hand, do not really have any reoccurring costs and they generally are significantly cheaper than real time trackers. While they don’t have a lot of the same cool features that a real time GPS tracking device might have, they are just as accurate and just as useful for certain tracking applications.

    In the final analysis, choosing the right GPS tracking device for you is going to be very situational. What might work for one person is not going to work for another. But if you follow these simple steps and use them as a framework through which to evaluate your GPS tracking purchase you should come out on the other side with a useful tracking device that fits your particular need for that particular situation.