Monday, April 19, 2010

Spot and Earthmate Devices

This post doesn't really have any direct relevance to the library environment, but it does for montanans who like to enjoy the landscape. This is security for your person rather than your PC.

I have picked up a couple of interesting devices these past few months and I think it'll be useful to share what I've found out. These devices are the Earthmate PN-40 and the SPOT.

I first picked up the SPOT ( several months ago. The idea with the Spot is simple. First, it knows where it is, because it is a GPS device. Second, it can send any of 3 types of messages. All the messages are pre-recorded. That's it. The device is a little bigger than a cell phone and it has 4 buttons: Power, OK, Help, and 911.

When you first get the device, you register it at the findmespot website. You assign emergency contact numbers, and other similar information. You also compose the text that is sent if you send a message. My "OK" message is "Everything is fine". My "Help" message is "Better send help".

I'm frequently out in the woods alone. When I'm out, I send "OK" messages every morning and evening. If a problem were to come up that my climbing or hiking buddies could help with, I would send a "Help" message. If a really serious problem were to come up, I would press the 911 button. The "OK" and "Help" messages go to whoever I configure them to go to when I regestered the device. So my wife gets both email and text messages twice a day letting her know that "Everything is fine".

The SPOT also has an add on tracking feature I use. I put the spot into this mode and it registers my location every 10 minutes and copies that location to a web site that my wife can logon to and see how things are going. At the web site she sees my location superimposed on a topographic map. This helps her sleep better at night. But it makes it harder for me to sneak off to Las Vegas for a few days when I tell her I'm going into the Bob Marshall. I find this feature useful because I can come back after a trip and see just where I was.

The other device I recently acquired is an Earthmate PN-40. This also is a little bigger than a cell phone. The purpose of this device is to get you information while you are on the trail or road trip. It is a GPS device and it has a small screen. It also has software that lets you download USGS quad maps to it.

The only thing I don't like about it is how fast it sucks batteries dry. It uses 2 AA batteries and will deplete those in a single long day of constant use. But I love everything else about it.

The screen is easy to read in direct sunlight. If you leave it on, it is recording your total distance traveled, or if you just turn it on occassionally, you can just use the waypoints feature to record specific locations.

For example, when we are on these long day hikes, my wife never has a clue about where she is or which way to go to get back to the car. We record the location of the car when we leave it in the morning and all day long we can see the distance to the car and a direction arrow pointing to it. Of course the straight line direction to the car is not necessarily the correct direction to go, but it is a start to know which way to go.

If you are using this in a car, you can plug it into a USB port and keep it powered on that way instead of using up the batteries.

Of course I love all these new devices, but I also note that my day pack now has a full complement of new devices to weigh it down. I have my digital watch and SLR camera, the cell phone, and now the SPOT and the the PN-40, extra batteries, and don't forget the manuals. It's a little different than the daypacks I was packing 35 years ago.

So this summer get away from your computer and enjoy the marvelous country we live in. And consider these devices to help make sure you are able to get back again. Be careful out there.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Yes it is an interesting challenge - how to keep battery powered devices working out in the wilderness. Perhaps someone will come up with a hat with solar panels that can charge devices in your pack while you're hiking.