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Old 09-17-2018, 02:28 PM   #1
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SPOT Trace alternatives.. ?

We have a SPOT Trace hardwired to the trailer currently, works great and does what we need - when we are out and about family can see where we are. As a hardware device I have nothing bad to say about it.



The thing I don't like is their business practice, they are now charging $149.99/yr (stated on their website) plus a $24.99 "network maintenance fee" which I can't seem to find any info on, and customer service just kept telling me they've sent me an email about it already. Is it really that hard to attach the email again? Looking thru the information available on the internet it appears the initial network maintenance fee was added, then increased again, within a year after I paid for the annual service last August.



I think I'm going to look into Garmin InReach, has anyone used this or similar technology (satellite GPS) device in their trailer and if so what is it? How do you like it?
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Old 09-17-2018, 03:36 PM   #2
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I agree Spot sneaks some things by. I use a Spot2 (Buzzards in the Sky) when I ride solo on my dirt bike so I can be tracked on findmespot.com every 10 minutes in or out of cell phone coverage.

Looks like Garmin is $144/yr plus text charges plus device purchase.

Would Google location services work well enough for you?
https://www.google.com/maps/timeline?pb
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Old 09-17-2018, 03:39 PM   #3
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I am curious as to the reasoning behind wanting people to track where you are. I prefer to be incognito unless I want folks to know where I am. This was different when I spent a lot of time in the backcountry, and it was a safety measure, kinda like Rob riding his bike off by himself.
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Old 09-17-2018, 03:50 PM   #4
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A lot of our travels are done in areas without cell phone coverage, and we'd like some family members to know where we were in case we were overdue. The battery in Trace lasted about 1 week so we have the option of pulling it off the trailer and pop it inside the vehicle too. The added bonus is we can track the trailer location in case it got stolen...
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Old 09-17-2018, 03:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by caddoster View Post
A lot of our travels are done in areas without cell phone coverage, and we'd like some family members to know where we were in case we were overdue. The battery in Trace lasted about 1 week so we have the option of pulling it off the trailer and pop it inside the vehicle too. The added bonus is we can track the trailer location in case it got stolen...
That makes sense. I never really considered that before, as we are often out of cell range when camping. Might be useful in an emergency. Can you sent a text like you can with Spot devices used in the backcountry? Not too worried about my trailer going missing though, that is a rare thing.
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Old 09-17-2018, 03:59 PM   #6
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I am curious as to the reasoning behind wanting people to track where you are. I prefer to be incognito unless I want folks to know where I am. This was different when I spent a lot of time in the backcountry, and it was a safety measure, kinda like Rob riding his bike off by himself.
Being almost 70 years old , as Jim stated prefer to be incognito . Cell phones are about as much technology , loss of privacy and cost as we are willing to accept .
Maybe we’re old school but we go camping to get away and not be connected .
Hope you find a good solution to your question
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Old 09-17-2018, 04:25 PM   #7
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A lot of our travels are done in areas without cell phone coverage, and we'd like some family members to know where we were in case we were overdue. .
And you're certainly not the only folks who feel that way. We've talked to several people who do the same thing. And, having the family be able to see where you are is very important and gives a level of comfort to them.

Heck, if we'd have had one in the Med. my mother-in-law wouldn't have had to call out the Tunisian Coast Guard to search for us because she hadn't heard from us for 10 days.

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Old 09-17-2018, 04:49 PM   #8
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We have a spot device and the most basic subscription which allows for emergency communication and a standard "I am OK" message to pre identified folks.(2) Basic emergency communication for when we are out of cell phone communication in the back country. The "i am ok" feature is fine and I haven't had occasion to check the 911 function. Better than Garmin? Who knows. I can say Garmin customer service for my GPS has been first rate.
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Old 09-17-2018, 05:37 PM   #9
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I have had a SPOT for about 10 yrs. Was mostly used as an emergency device for backcountry paddling trips, but have in the past couple of years let my subscription lapse. Don't think that I would bother using a satellite tracker for my Escape, since my replacement insurance is not much more than the cost of the satellite tracker subscription service.
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Old 09-17-2018, 08:02 PM   #10
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I have had an inReach for about 4 years and have been happy with it. I have the basic subscription which is around $12/month. The unit has increased in price since Garmin bought them out so you may want to look for a used one. Also, one reason that I went with inReach is because the satilite consilation that they use has better coverage than the one used by SPOT.
When we get to a spot without cell coverage, I send a message to my daughter and son so they know where we are. I also have enabled them to ping our location if they want.
Both my and my wife's parents are getting older and we want to be able to stay in touch with them if an emergency comes up. Also, on a trip into the backcountry of the Sierra (California) a few years ago, when we woke a few days into our trip, we could smell smoke. We had no way of telling where it was coming from so I messaged my kids and they search and told us we were safe from it. It was nice not to cancel our trip and have the peace of mind about the fire.

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Old 09-18-2018, 12:39 AM   #11
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Thanks all. I think I'm going to keep an eye out for an used InReach unit and switch to it at some point as my primary focus was the ability to provide some sort of location when out of cell network, tracking the trailer real time is secondary..

As a side note I called SPOT today and tried to close my account and they offered me a 50% off deal for another year... so it looks like they've adapted the XM radio customer retaining method too..
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Old 09-18-2018, 10:19 AM   #12
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I really like having the Spot tracker in the trailer. Dirk will track me when I'm gone and I'm fine with that. I like that he can see where I'm at. I like that I can track the trailer if something happens to it and it decides to go off on it's own trip without me.


When I came back from vending in Ocean Shores over Labor Day weekend Dirk commented that I emptied my tanks at the rest stop on the way home and that it didn't take me very long. He was able to zoom in enough on their map to see the 4 dump sites at the rest stop. And nobody was there - it was great!


Anyway, humor aside, it gives me great peace of mind knowing he can see where I'm at and how long I stop somewhere. If I'm there for too long, he'll try to get hold of me.


Dirk will compare what Spot says compared to the Googlemaps tracking app on my cell. He says Spot is far more accurate. Many times I'm shown driving off the road in some field or some such. I've kind of played around with the idea of getting Spot for the truck, for when I leave the trailer in the campground and go off exploring.
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Old 09-18-2018, 10:52 AM   #13
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I...When I came back from vending in Ocean Shores over Labor Day weekend Dirk commented that I emptied my tanks at the rest stop on the way home and that it didn't take me very long. He was able to zoom in enough on their map to see the 4 dump sites at the rest stop. And nobody was there - it was great!...Anyway, humor aside...
I know you stated the above to be humorous, but it does require some explanation. The SPOT tracker sends out its location via satellite at a specified time interval, which was about 10-15 minute intervals a couple years ago when I was using mine. Someone with the proper access to your SPOT tracks can go online and follow your SPOT location tracks as they are posted, using a typical Google Map as background. The photographic details on the Google map are not in real time and would not show other campers at a dump station as the same time as you (only those campers that may have been there at the moment the photography was flown). Your presence at the dump station could be confirmed if one or more SPOT tracking markers are plotted at the dump station location on the map. The more markers that are located there, the longer the period of time that you spent at the dump station. If only one marker shows up on the map at the dump station, it could be inferred that you were in and out of the dump station in less than about 20-30 minutes.
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Old 09-18-2018, 11:10 AM   #14
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The SOPT Trace has a feature that's not in the SPOT Messenger (Gen1-Gen3), it was meant for tracking assets so you can tell it to detect movement. They also have a boat mode that you can specify drifts so it does not generate false alerts. You can configure it to send a movement alert after it being stationary for x minutes..(I think 15 and 60 minutes are the selection) so if you stopped for <15 minutes it will just track, but if you stopped >15 minutes and are on the move again it can be configured to send a text message. (OK well the backend will do that not the device itself.. the device as far as I can tell only really sends location out and when it was stationary it doesn't even send it out that frequently)
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Old 09-18-2018, 12:48 PM   #15
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Dirk will compare what Spot says compared to the Googlemaps tracking app on my cell. He says Spot is far more accurate. Many times I'm shown driving off the road in some field or some such.
Google Maps itself is not a tracking or positioning system, just a source of maps and a system that can keep track of data. Something needs to give it data about your position.

The maps are sometimes out of date (so someone driving on a new or modified road can be shown in the field that was there before the road), but that affects all systems using maps. When you follow a trace from the SPOT systems, they're displaying your position (from the SPOT receiver) on a background of a map from their server... which the server gets from the Google Map service. The maps - Google and otherwise - also have some inaccuracies, often visible as road lines which don't line up with the visible roads in a satellite image.

One real problem with accuracy is due to infrequent sampling (as Dave explained). I tried Google's tracking to keep track of bike rides, and the distance determination was useless because just connecting the dots of too-infrequent locations wouldn't match the route that I actually rode. Even if it followed the roads (instead of just straight lines between positions), it would miss when I took a loop off the main road.

A substantial problem with accuracy of tracking is simply inaccurate position determination. The SPOT uses a reasonable GPS receiver. Google's tracking through a phone is using the phone's GPS (which can be good... but can be marginal), and sometimes it's even using just clues such as a known (maybe not known correctly) location of the nearest WiFi hotspot or cell tower.
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Old 09-18-2018, 01:01 PM   #16
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One real problem with accuracy is due to infrequent sampling (as Dave explained). I tried Google's tracking to keep track of bike rides, and the distance determination was useless because just connecting the dots of too-infrequent locations wouldn't match the route that I actually rode. Even if it followed the roads (instead of just straight lines between positions), it would miss when I took a loop off the main road.
.
I use map my hike for tracking all sorts of things, a trip to town in the car, a hike with the pup, a dirt bike ride. Cell phone coverage not needed.
https://www.mapmyhike.com/
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Old 09-18-2018, 01:16 PM   #17
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...A substantial problem with accuracy of tracking is simply inaccurate position determination. The SPOT uses a reasonable GPS receiver. Google's tracking through a phone is using the phone's GPS (which can be good... but can be marginal), and sometimes it's even using just clues such as a known (maybe not known correctly) location of the nearest WiFi hotspot or cell tower.
I once did a test with my SPOT tracker where I turned on the device and just let it sit at the same location for 24 hours. When I looked at the SPOT track on the website (overlain on the Google map) most of the markers were positioned within close proximity (say about 100m) to the actual location of the device. However, there was a scatter of markers positioned at other locations that were hundreds of metres away from the device location. My conclusion was that if I needed my location to be found it was better to have the device in one location transmitting for a significant time period so that most of the locations sent out would at least be in the vicinity of my location. If a single location was transmitted and the device shut off, there was a greater likelihood that it could be an inaccurate location.
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Old 09-18-2018, 01:30 PM   #18
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inReach and Spot communicate directly with GLONASS - global navigational satellite system (similar to a satellite phone) whereas cell phones rely on cell towers to connect to satellites. Cell phones will not provide GPS locations if there is no cellular connection. Cell phone and inReach/Spot GPS accuracy depends on number of satellites being accessed to fix location and if there are obstructions like tall buildings in the way of cellular service. Generally their accuracy are the same if the communication rate is set the same for both devices.

Maps on cell phones can be accessed without cell coverage but will not provide location. inReach and Spot devices are very helpful if you venture outside of cell coverage, particularly in the backcountry. inReach and Spot have come out with new devices that are smaller and can be used to send and receive text messages to email accounts and cell phones along with tracking the user with mapping functionality using the GLONASS. These devices also provide connectivity to emergency response coordination centres if in trouble in the backcountry.
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Old 09-18-2018, 03:38 PM   #19
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inReach and Spot communicate directly with GLONASS - global navigational satellite system (similar to a satellite phone) whereas cell phones rely on cell towers to connect to satellites. Cell phones will not provide GPS locations if there is no cellular connection.
That's not quite how GPS works (whether the U.S. GPS system or GLONASS). Signals are received directly from the GPS satellites (never via cell towers), whether the receiver is in a phone, SPOT, automotive nav system, or anything else. Something needs to then do some calculations based on information from the satellite data (both current signals and longer-term reference information), and the confusion arises because phones often go cheap and easy and leave some of that calculation work (including collecting reference data) to servers rather than doing it themselves (which they call "Assisted GPS"); that's why a phone often needs the mobile network to determine a location. This isn't important to accuracy, but it does make location unavailable from a phone just when you need it most, while lost in the middle of nowhere.

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Cell phone and inReach/Spot GPS accuracy depends on number of satellites being accessed to fix location and if there are obstructions like tall buildings in the way of cellular service.
Yes, that's inherently true of all GPS systems (in any device): the location is determined by comparing timing information from multiple satellites, so signals from three satellites are required to work at all, location accuracy is better if satellites are available from suitably spread positions in the sky, and more satellite signals means more data to reconcile and produce a better result.
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Old 09-23-2018, 12:10 AM   #20
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Apparently this company's products work pretty well...

https://www.nbc4i.com/news/u-s-world...any/1064820202
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