Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Delorme Earthmate

Application: iPhone 3,4&5, iPad, iPod Touch 3,4&5 gen
Function: Satellite messaging and tracking
Rating: *****
Cost: Free


The Delorme company has been in the GPS navigation and mapping field for many years. This US based company has it's headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine.  One of their hottest products to date is the inReach satellite communicator. The inReach allows you to stay connected anywhere in the world. 

Traditional cell service can only be had over about 10% of the world.  With the inReach, the other 90% also becomes your playground.  Any smartphone or tablet can run their Earthmate, IOS or Android app that pairs with the inReach to provide texting and messaging worldwide.  Now, your average person is not going to need messaging capabilities in the Southern ocean or the Himalayan mountains, but if you do, this setup is the cat's meow! 

I am thinking of all you world cruisers out there that are out of cell range most of the time.  Satellite phones are an option but come with a hefty price tag.  The inReach/Earthmate combo is a more affordable options that might fit your needs.

The Earthmate app is the interface between the inReach satellite transceiver and the user. It comes in both Android and IOS versions and allows you to send and receive messages, track your progress on charts and maps and has the ability to send out emergency distress calls if needed.

There are other devices out there like the SPOT communicator.  The SPOT however lacks world wide coverage and has some drawbacks but may suit your needs too.  The SPOT runs about $100.00 while the inReach runs about $250.00. Both devices will require some kind of service plan for satellite communication.

The inReach communicates with the worldwide Iridium network of 66 satellites orbiting the earth. If you are interested you can track them at this website.

Features:
  • Connects the inReach to your smartphone, tablet or iPad wirelessly via Bluetooth
  • Post your location to social networking sites
  • Compose email or SMS messages from your phone contacts
  • Uses the Iridium satellite service
  • Compose and send messages up to 160 characters
  • View incoming messages
  • Post to Facebook, Twitter, or your own shared map
  • SOS Alerts
  • Provide text information for emergency responders
  • Send status updates on your situation
  • Automatic track location
  • Select tracking intervals of 10 minutes to 4 hours
  • GPS position accuracy within 5 meters
  • View tracks of your position online 
  • Navigate with DeLorme Topo North America maps, DeLorme Digital Atlas of the Earth maps or NOAA Charts
  • Downloaded maps are used outside of cell range
The apps is pretty straightforward. The first screen you will see has selections for Map, Messages, Tracking, History, SOS and Options.

The app requires that you have purchased an inReach 2-way satellite communicator to use any of it's functions. So shell out that $250 and lets get started. You will need to activate your unit at explore.delorme.com and set up an inReach account. There is a one time activation fee of $19.95.

The account will allow you to add contacts to your address book. The adresses are then assigned a 2 digit code to reduce the data sent in a message.  You will have your own MapShare page that will show the tracks of your adventures. You can share this page with your friends and family.  They can even send the inReach unit a location request to find where you are in real time.

The inReach unit can then be paired via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet using the Earthmate app. Press and hold the inReach power button until the LED starts double flashing. On my iPad the Bluetooth setting are under Settings/Bluetooth.  This pairing process only needs to be done once. The next time you power the unit on it will automatically connect.

Maps

The Map Layer Mangement selection will allow you to download NOAA charts of North America or detailed Delorme topographical maps.  Different map sets are managed under the Map Library. Here you can download and delete your maps. Data Management is used to control the layers of the map details. 

On screen you will notice the GPS Location Arrow. The solid green indication shows a good GPS signal, Yellow is acceptable and Red means no GPS fix at all.

The Map Rotation Arrow in the top left of the screen allows you to control map rotation. You can tap this to toggle between north-up or direction of travel modes.

At the bottom of the screen you will see a gripper bar. Tap to pull this up to display data fields.  These can be configured to show one or two rows of data including, speed, elevation, coarse and GPS coordinates.

Messages

Messaging is a very important feature of the Earthmate and inReach setup.  Email messages and SMS text messages can be sent and received through the Earthmate app. The message list will show all your conversations sent and received. All threads of the conversations will be kept. Tap a conversation to respond directly to the text.  Your sent text messages will include a link to a map of your location.

All outgoing emails will also include a link to a map of your location and can be responded to via the website.  The number of messages you want to send will be determined by what service plan you select.  A plan of $24.95 per year gets you unlimited inReach messages and tracking points but only 40 text messages.  So make sure your son and daughter know this is not like your normal texting plan. Overage charges add up in a hurry.




Monthly Billing PlansSafetyRecreationExpedition
SOSYesYesYes
Text MessagesSee Below*40120
inReach MessagesSee Below*UnlimitedUnlimited
Tracking Points$0.25 ea.UnlimitedUnlimited
Monthly Charges
Annual Subscription$9.95$24.95$49.95
Seasonal SubscriptionNA$39.95$64.95
Overages
Messages (each)$1.50$0.50$0.25

Tracking

Another powerful feature of the inReach and the Earthmate app is the ability to provide tracking information to friends and family via the explore.delorme.com website. The tracking points can be sent at a variety of intervals.  Go to Options/Tracking interval to decrease the interval rate to conserve battery life.

To start tracking tap the Start button. Your tracking points will display on the chart as they are sent. The inReach unit will continue to send the tracking points even when the Earthmate is turned off.  The next time you open the Earthmate app it will show the updated tracking points.  Tap the Share button to send a message including a link to your tracking page.

History

The History feature is an archive of all your tracks and point data.  The data is organized in a chronological list for the days with tracking history. Tap the On/Off button for a day to show the track points recorded.  Select the Action button to hide or show all days in History.

Each point can be selected and the data for that point can be viewed, forwarded or deleted. This is a convenient way to review all of your travels and the exact tracks you took.

I am very impressed with the inReach hardware and the companion Earthmate app. The combination of these two puts a powerful tool in your hands.  Your loved ones will never have to worry again because they will know exactly where you are.  You have the ability to chat with them from anywhere in the world. How cool is that?

If your looking for a reasonably priced setup that will give you the ability to keep your friends and family updated on your travels and summon emergency assistance if needed, check out the inReach and the Earthmate app. 







~~~Sail On~~~ /)
Mark


1 comment:

  1. Wow. We've been cruising overseas for several years and never heard of this before. This sounds like a great tool to have aboard when in remote places. Thanx for the review!

    ReplyDelete