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Navigation - Maps, Compass, GPS How to find your way - traditional map, compass and road signs, or GPS and more
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  #1  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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Global GPS Trackers

Hi all

i'm looking for some info and personal experiences about using gps trackers for a trip i'm going to do later in the year. Basically I want a device which will continually post my location either to a site for tracking by others or output it in a format that I can wrap a google maps module around. I've had a look at a few like the SPOT device and they don't seem to get a good write up for fast moving vehicles. Ideal for walkers or skiers etc but not good for bikes. The route will principally be Europe but could venture to SE Asia etc ultimately. I've used a GPS logger before but it needed me to upload the info periodically before it was available online, ideally i'm looking for something more instant or at least automatic at scheduled intervals.

Any advice or guidance from anyone that's used these devices would be appreciated.

Many thanks

Craig
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  #2  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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hi,

i don't have personal experience with SPOT, but i looked at it.
I think its not a real tracker, it doesn't record your exact route, it only sends out your position if you push the button. on the SPOT map these points are connected by a straight line. your exact route is not visible, unless you push the button every 5 minutes, and that's not what its made for. its a emergency aid.

to record and display your exact route, you can use your gps tracklogs.

i use GPS Visualizer to convert .gdb files to Googlemap file.
the data can be copied in an html page so you can keep a list with google maps on your website. you can also direct upload them to your googlemap, but in my experience its really slow if you upload multi country tracks (loads of trackpoints).


cheers,
sander
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  #3  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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Hi Sander

thanks for your thoughts, I've used a logger before and done the conversion\upload thing but I was hoping the tech had evolved to a state where it could be done continuously.

Craig
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  #4  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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I have had the SPOT I for over a year and it works well.
It sends a signal out about every 10 to 20 minutes.

I have friends who don,t get as many signals as I do, they go about 20 minutes or more. My SPOT send the signal every 10 minutes all day long.
It may be where they put the SPOT on the bike.

You can send out signals, OK (I am OK), Help (A short message to E mail or cell phone that you put in), 911 (this goes to a call center to call emergency services).

I have had friends call me at motels where we are staying by seeing the location on the map.
One time a friend and I got separated, he called his wife and she checked the SPOT site and call us at the restaurant we were at.

If you want someone to be able to see where you are without stopping to download a track it is the way to go.

I does work at high speed (80 MPH) but there are more miles between signals.

The signals are connected by stright lines but you should be able to figure out your route.

There are some problems with SPOT II, a recall is going on.
I would get a SPOT I or wait until the get a fix for SPOT II.
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  #5  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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I too have a SPOT and it does what it says. I do have confidence in it.

Delorme has come along way the last couple of years. They just introduced the PN-60W which is a hand held GPS that works with SPOT.

PN-60 News « The DeLorme Weblog

While I like my PN-40, I would really like to have a routable world basemap for it. At $1000 US its a little out of my price range.

daryl
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  #6  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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Craig, I've just bought - a couple of weeks ago - a SPOT Satellite Personal GPS Tracker .. the Gen I model. You can pick one of these up, brand new, from eBay for around £109-£115. Example here.

As John says (in post #4 above) the Gen II SPOT is having problems at the moment .. and is under a general re-call, which is why I went for the earlier Gen I model. Moreover, if you take a look at a direct comparo between the two versions - click here - then, well, you will soon see it could be argued that a Gen I SPOT is the better buy in any case!

I've fired-up my new SPOT (Gen I) and it seems to perform well .. e.g. fixing my location has never been more than +/- 2-3 metres out so far.

I also confirm what John says about a continuous tracking mode with a SPOT. It can fix your ongoing /moving location, in near real time, every 10-20 minutes .. although you have to pay an additional annual subscription for this service. SPOT annual subs are:-

Basic service: 99(£87)
Track Progress service (linked to Google Maps):
39 (£34)

You can also buy into a Rescue Benefit insurance scheme, but I haven't bothered with this particular extra.

There's more than one way to track your trip progress too. For instance, there's a real good set-up with Spot Trip Manager (also linked with Google Maps). Indeed, I notice that several HUBBers here have signed-up for this excellent free service.

Good luck with your final choice. Please let us know how you get on.

Cheers

KEITH


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Last edited by Keith1954; 26 Jan 2010 at 18:29.
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  #7  
Old 26 Jan 2010
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I can also tell you for a quick and easy location finder the SPOT V1 is the bees knees. I have been using one for over two years now and very rarely did I have problems with missing info, that was more due to mountains etc.


If you look at this link STM Trip Viewer - TravellingStrom South America and select ALL DAYS from the drop down box, you will see that the tracks work all the way down from Colombia to Ushuaia.

It works all the way up to the northern part of Alaska as well in Prudhoe Bay, I just do not have those set up to show at this stage.


I have heard recently of a GPS with an included SPOT under development, but with the current issues with SPOT 2, I would leave it for a while and buy a cheap version one.


I used the basic package, the tracks and evacuation insurance, cost $160/year cheap at half the price.

Cheers
TravellingStrom
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Last edited by TravellingStrom; 26 Jan 2010 at 22:35. Reason: spelling
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  #8  
Old 30 Jan 2010
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SPOT (Gen I) Tracking Reliability /Performance

I thought this would be worth posting: I've just tested, for the first time, my new SPOT's (Gen I) performance in tracking mode.

I've read a few comments that not all of SPOT's 10-minute interval transmissions necessarily get through to the satellite.

Well, I've just run a three-hour local test (a shopping run) with the SPOT unit perched on top of my car's dashboard shelf.

Firstly, I sent an 'OK' message at 10:46am. Then about 30 mins later I set-up the SPOT into tracking mode. The performance results are listed below .. and as you can see, every single signal transmission got through to the satellite. Didn't miss one for the whole three hour trial. I'm definitely impressed with this little device ..

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  #9  
Old 30 Jan 2010
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When I got my SPOT 1 I did a test.
SPOT at the bottom of my tank bag facing front up, signal good all day.
SPOT in my GIVI top box facing front up, good signal all day.
SPOT in my pocket facing front to the front of the bike, 75% of the signals got through.

A coupe of us have found that if your SPOT is in your pocket your body is the thing that will block the singal. Depending on where the satellites are you can be sending out good signals then go around a corner and lose the signal for a while.

A friend of mine had problems with signals when his SPOT was on a ram mount next to his GPS, he moved the SPOT away from the GPS and it worked much better.
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  #10  
Old 30 Jan 2010
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John - Agreed, your carry/hold position is critical.

Also, Jodie Tice Lawrosky writes in her SPOT instruction document (.pdf) that ideally the unit should be in view of the Southern sky - when using SPOT in the Northern Hemisphere of the world, OR the Northern sky - for countries in the Southern Hemisphere .. which suggests that the satellite's zenith is probably somewhere above the equator.


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  #11  
Old 31 Jan 2010
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The SPOT website recommends the SPOT be located at least 1 foot(12 inches) from any other GPS signals for best operation.

JB
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  #12  
Old 8 Feb 2010
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Thanks very much for the responses , I'll continue my research but looks like SPOT is back on the list as an option.
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  #13  
Old 21 Jun 2010
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I looked at spot and from the blurb on the website, comlimented by the reviews on this thread, it does everything i need. The problem appears to be coverage as i'm going down the East coast of Africa, which for some reason is a blank spot. Anyone know any different or suggest an alternate solution?
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  #14  
Old 22 Jun 2010
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Depends where exactly in eastern Africa you will be traveling.

Short answer:

If you must be able to remain in contact anywhere in the world, then you should consider (more cumbersome & costly) satellite communication technology like those from Iridium or Inmarsat. Otherwise, SPOT works very well, but has some coverage limitations.

Another idea is to simply supplement SPOT with other means of communications when needed (e.g., use a smartphone tracker where regular cell coverage is available, such as in South Africa).

Long answer:

SPOT is owned by Globalstar, the satellite phone company. In the Globalstar architecture, satellites are simple repeaters which immediately relay messages back down to regional earth ground stations (called "gateways").

Think about Globalstar satellites as "mirrors" in the sky. They orbit low enough to the earth's surface to receive even weak signals from a SPOT, but consequently, each satellite can only reflect those signals to nearby locations back on earth.

Hence the limitation: unlike a GPS, it's not enough for SPOT to have a good satellite "view". The satellite must also be relatively close enough to a Globalstar ground station.

In Africa, the closest Globalstar gateway is in Nigeria. So the farther away you are from Nigeria, the less chance SPOT will work. If you're in western Kenya or Tanzania, SPOT might still work, though some messages will likely get dropped. If you're in the eastern parts South Africa, SPOT will probably not work at all.

Unfortunately this is a limitation of the Globalstar "bent pipe" architecture. Competitors such as Iridium are able to relay traffic between satellites to far away ground stations, so they don't have this problem. Other competitors use satellites operating at far higher orbits to have more reach (Inmarsat being one example).

Of course no architecture is perfect; there are pros and cons to Iridium and Inmarsat as well.

Globalstar, in the meantime, are having extreme issues with their satellite phone (two-way) communication system. They see SPOT and other global "one-way" simplex applications as essential for their survival, so hopefully they'll establish more gateways to reduce their coverage gap.
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  #15  
Old 24 Jun 2010
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Thanks for responses.

Have since found GPS Tracking | GPS Tracking System | GPS Tracking Device Which looks interesting. It doesn't send a signal until downloaded online but tracks speed, date, time, temp, location, heading and altitude. Interface is with google earth and a neat function allows you use add pictures to your route map which uses the time and date to show where exactly they were taken.

The claim is it works anywhere.

Anyone had any experience with one of these?
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