Photo Credits

Mountaineers Descending in a Storm

University of Alaska Fairbanks students descend a snow slope in a growing storm. Thanks to Mark Oldmixon!

Image © Outdoor Adventures, U of Alaska, Fairbanks

Affordable Satellite Texts & SOS?

DeLorme inReach Satellite Communications DevicesDeLorme has a new partnership with the reliable Iridium satellite network to offer a two-way satellite GPS communicator. The highlight of the "inReach" device is the ability to both send and receive text messages. This two-way texting is a unique feature, until now only offered by satellite phones and high end devices (some SPOT devices allow users to send text messages but none allow messages to be received). The two-way messaging, "SOS" button and additional features may make this a cost-effective and versatile device for crisis communications and more.

To send texts you will need to pair the inReach with either the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS or an Android smartphone. I wish this was a stand alone device with the two-way texting capability. The pairing is an unnecessary complexity that dramatically increases the potential for failure or user confusion. Nevertheless, the stand alone inReach will be able to send an "SOS" message on its own, which is reassuring.

DeLorme App Interface on Android OSThe device will offer tracking options with reports as frequently as every two minutes. Paired with the PN-60w GPS or an Android device you'll also have access to DeLorme's topographic maps. Future upgrades may allow access to satellite imagery and USGS topographic quads—all from beyond the range of cell phone service.

There are self contained devices (no "pairing") that offer two-way messaging on the Iridium network including the GeoPro Messenger and GeoPro SHOUT Nano. They're available today but at a price-point comparable to a satellite phone. Though I'd prefer it if the inReach offered texting as a stand-alone unit, it is a positive trend for the outdoor industry to see this lower cost device being released on the Iridium network.

DeLorme MapsExcited about the inReach? Sorry—you'll still have to wait until October for the release. The approximate price is $250 with the bottom of the three-tiers of service at $9.95 a month. Like any tech products there is no guarantee the inReach will be reliable, user friendly, or everything its made out to be, but this may be a good reason to hold off on the overhyped SPOT. We'll have more posted here once the device hits the market.

More from OSI on emergency field communications including the top currently available options.

DeLorme's blog post on the inReach, including some candid exchanges with the user interface designer (lots of iOS/iPhone app requests).

Posted by

Alex Kosseff

on 6/7/11
Categories: 
Field SafetyTools & ToysResourceNews

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