Features September 2008 Issue

The SPOT Personal Messenger Lets You Communicate From the Far Reaches of the World

This multi-function device is a handy tool for sailors, but it is not a replacement for PLBs or EPIRBs.

Until recently, mariners’ only choices for emergency locating devices have been emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and personal locating beacons (PLBs). Now there’s another product that bears consideration: The SPOT Satellite Messenger. EPIRB and PLBs are capable of only sending distress signals, but the handheld SPOT utilizes the GlobalStar Satellite Network to accomplish multiple tasks. Users can notify friends and family that they’re safe by sending their GPS coordinates along with pre-composed text and e-mail messages to their contacts list, which they setup online. They can seek help in non-life-threatening situations, and can send a 911 alert in critical emergencies. One of tester’s favorite features was that the SPOT system allows the user’s contacts to track his movement, in real time, on Google Maps. SPOT relays messages to an emergency response center, which in turn notifies search and rescue personnel, or—if no emergency exists—will let family and friends know the user is safe. SPOT works independently of cell phone coverage, so it works when your phone will not. Although testers liked the functionality of the SPOT, PS field tests call its durability into question, and over time, it will cost much more than an EPIRB or PLB. Gadget-lovers and those looking for an EPIRB backup should take a look at the SPOT. However, it should not be considered a replacement to traditional distress signals.

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