Spot Connect

I have a SPOT Connect device:

It’s a clever little variant of the SPOT Tracker device that allows not only tracking, and sending check-in/I’m Ok and Help messages, but very short text messages (43 characters, as I recall) as well when linked to an android or iPhone. I bought it a couple of years ago when I was first planning on sailing to Martha’s Vineyard in my little Seafarer 24. Finally, hopefully, in a few days I’ll be able to put it to its’ intended purpose as Lauren and I are planning on departing Thursday for a month-long cruise to southern New England waters. My SPOT tracking page is here. I’ll also have it updating Twitter (@b29seeker), which I may add to the sidebar here.

SPOT is pretty cool. But I also find it horribly frustrating. A public SPOT forum doesn’t appear to exist where the developers pay attention to users, so I thought I’d throw my list of gripes here.

  • The shared page will only hold a maximum of SEVEN days worth of check-ins. Seven days? I can’t contemplate a real reason for this very, very short limitation. Presumably, a great many SPOT users are using it for more than just an afternoon or a weekend at a time. I’d like to see them hold the data for at least a month, better a year, and best forever (or until I delete it). Each check-in is very small. Online storage is cheap. I can think of no practical advantage to such a short retention time, and lots of reasons for much longer retention times.
  • The web page is kludgy. It is hard to navigate. It is SLOW. Logged in IDs time out far too fast. Often times clicking on a link just never connects and it becomes necessary to try several times (often getting logged out in the process). This isn’t 1995. Upgrade your servers!
  • Tracking is frustrating. First, when you set tracking it only runs for 24 hours before it must be reset. Second, I believe if you have tracking set it will automatically send a signal every 10 minutes. This is way too often for a sailboat. For hikers it is way, way too often. It just clogs up the tracking page, and burns batteries. Happily, this has been apparently corrected in the Gen3 Spot where it is now selectable at 2 1/2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. I would like to see a completely customizable setup; but this is much better than it was. Apparently it also only sends a tracking signal when it detects movement and it no longer has the 24 hour restriction. Much better. I don’t see a gen3 Connect with this feature, yet, though. I keep hoping a software update will come along and fix it. If not, this change in feature alone might be enough to get me to change to a regular gen3 SPOT at some point.
  • Sending messages could be improved a bit. The communicator seems to work fine for sending messages when linked to a bluetooth enabled phone. However, what happens if the phone goes swimming, or otherwise dies? There is an SOS button on the Communicator. In the next version I would also like to see a check/in button, and maybe even the custom message and tracking buttons that exist on the regular SPOT. The cell phone is fine and dandy; but now there are two points of failure. Not good. I’d hate for people at home to panic unnecessarily just because my phone died and I couldn’t send I’m Ok messages or restart the tracker after 24 hours.
  • And speaking of bluetooth…My laptop has bluetooth. Why isn’t there software so that I can control the Spot Connect from my laptop? Seems obvious.
  • For reasons I can’t figure out, even though I’ve configured it over and over, my updates just aren’t ending up on Facebook. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a Facebook issue, and they are just blocking the messages as unimportant or something. Pisses me off, though, as I’ve spent too much time trying to get it to work.
  • An API would be nice so that it could be nicely integrated with WordPress and other software. Just a small request. It would be nice to be able to display the tracking map right here in this post.
  • It would also be nice to be able to track someone using an Android/iPhone app, instead of having to go to the shared web page.
  • I hesitate to add this since it isn’t SPOT’s fault; but if anyone is reading this list and contemplating getting one of these devices they should be aware that there are some dead spots in the world. It is a limitation of the satellite network that they use. Most of the world is covered, though. If you are planning a sail to the South Pacific or something, though, you might have a problem. Their current coverage map is here. There are some alternatives that use the world-wide Iridium satellite network; but I believe they are more expensive. Use what works best for you.

Otherwise, it is a neat device. I’m looking forward to using it for real on my upcoming trip.


Whatcha thinkin'?