DeLorme has just announced what has the potential to be a real game changer for backcountry communication with their upcoming two-way satellite text communicator called inReach.
The inReach is a small unit that on its own acts similar to the SPOT Messenger. It can track your location, send out “I’m OK” messages as well as SOS signal if you are in trouble and need to call in air support.
InReach is nothing really new on it’s own but the real innovation under the hood becomes evident when it’s paired up (via Bluetooth) to your Android phone. When connected you are able to compose and receive custom text messages via the satellite network.
This really opens up a huge pile of possibilities. Everything from sending trip updates to social media websites to two-way communication with search and rescue crews as to the type of emergency you have and your current condition.
As seen in the supplied screen captures of the Android app, you can see a conversation between an injured hiker and SAR. What isn’t evident is if the response will come from the local SAR office or if this is a master emergency coordination centre that Delorme has set up to handle incoming SOS signals worldwide. My guess is the latter.
All outgoing messages will include valuable data including your location, speed, heading, and elevation.
Another very interesting feature is that inReach units will also be able to send and receive messages to each other. This has a couple of very interesting uses including hiking partners who might be exploring different parts of the trail or a guiding company owner who wants to check-in and see how her staff on trips are doing.
The inReach system is currently under going full testing and certification but the plans are that it is going to be rated IPX7 waterproofing and it will float. IPX7 designation means the unit can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Pricing is still being worked out but look for it to be available in the fall for around $250. There will be three tracking and messaging plans starting with the Safety Plan for $9.95 per month. Additional Recreation and Pro plans increase in price and deliver larger volumes of tracking and messaging units.
The market of two-way satellite messaging is in its very early stages so watch for it to explode over the next couple years. What’s interesting with this announcement is that DeLorme has partnered with Iridium for its satellite backbone which is a breakaway from January’s announcement where they introduced their PN-60 GPS unit that could interact with the SPOT communicator network (which is owned by Iridium’s major satellite competitor, Globalstar).
Where will things go from here? Look for SPOT to refine their communicator and combine them into one unit. ACR electronics has also partnered with Iridium as well so watch what they put out over the next while. My guess is that ACR will continue go after the offshore sailing/commercial market and provide a similar product that is more robust and most likely SOLAS approved.