The SPOT is a gps gadget that tracks our progress through our travels. There are a few different operating modes: 911, Help, OK and Track. The main motivation for taking this with us is a way for our families to make sure we are okay even if we are not near a computer or a phone. They can go to a link on our website which takes them to Google Earth to follow us. It also sends people of our choice either an email or text message with an "OK" and our coordinates. In case of an emergency, the 911 feature gives us the reassurance of search and rescue service anywhere in the world.
I really like the concept of this device and I believe it is well worth the investment. We will continue to take this with us, but I think SPOT can use some improvements:
- There needs to be a better way to know when a transmitted message goes through or not. We often thought we sent an "OK" or a "Track" transmission, to find days later that very few if any went through. There is a way the lights blink alternately when it doesn't have a signal, but this has been unreliable. It seems that in situations where we were outside in the wide open for the majority of the day, like hikes for example, it worked great. When we were in more urban situations either large cities like Panama City or even small towns like Antigua, the signals that went through were hit and miss at best. Going in and out of vehicles and buildings must have disrupted the signal.
- The website should have an archive feature. The fact that you can track progress on Google Earth is very cool. You can zoom in, pan around, see the overhead view of sites etc. We had a great image when we were near the crater of the volcano Pacaya in Guatemala. The problem is that all of our locations are erased outside a couple of weeks. Since Meggan and I are traveling around the world, I would have really liked to see our entire route around the world.
- The SPOT will not work in most of Africa or SE Asia. This is really more of a function of what satellites are available in space, but to be the ultimate GPS device, I believe it should work in every corner of the planet. I'm sure this is out of their control because they are very clear on where and where not the SPOT will work. I bet the people at SPOT are working this issue.
All an all we are happy with the SPOT, but it seems to be better as an outdoor gadget than an all around travel gadget. So a message to our friends and families: We will continue to use the SPOT, but DON'T freak out if were not bleeping on your screen!