"SPOT" quickly comes to the rescue


LAS VEGAS As new products go, the SPOT Satellite Messenger has quickly built an impressive resume, including the Consumer Electronics Show's 2008 Innovations Design and Engineering Award, which is no small feat in that annual mass of new product unveilings.

But most impressively, SPOT Inc., the Milpitas, Calif., unit of Globalstar, had been on the market for only six weeks when it was used in four potentially life-threatening rescues.

The SPOT Satellite Messenger incorporates both GPS and commercial satellite technology in a palm-size device that allows users to notify friends, family or an international 911 emergency call center with status messages based on their situation and need from something as simple as "Here's where I am, everything is fine," to something as critical as "here's where I am (within 5 feet) and I need emergency help immediately."

"The other GPS products show you exactly where you're going to die (in an emergency situation)," said Darren Bassel, marketing director for the SPOT. "This has the capabilities to not only save your life, but also let your family know your condition, whether good or bad. There is nothing else like it."

Additionally, especially where the confident, experienced, "I-don't-get-lost" outdoorsman is concerned, the SPOT has practical, non-emergency hunting and fishing applications.

And best of all, it's priced as practically as it functions $149 for The SPOT and $99 per year to activate unlimited use of the device.

That "unlimited use" could be considerable, when you begin to understand the practical applications of the SPOT's use in marking everything from places where you caught a fish to trees revealing deer rut marks.

When you get home, through the use of Google Maps, you can create a personalized version of the water or terrain you've covered.

But it's the emergency applications that have produced the SPOT's headlines so far.

    " Mike Brady, an outdoorsman working alone to maintain a remote seasonal lodge in Alaska's Wrangell St. Elias National Park, one of the largest and most isolated in the state, collapsed in minus 30 degree temperatures. "SPOT saved my life," said the 72-year-old Brady, who suffered a fractured vertebrae in his fall. "If my (98-year-old) mother hadn't given it to me before I left, I might not be here now." An emergency helicopter arrived in the isolated area and airlifted Brady to a hospital.

    " Natalie Bertsch bought her husband a GPS-enabled SPOT Satellite Messenger for Christmas. Shortly afterward, Brian Bertsch contacted an emergency 911 call center by pressing a single button on his handheld SPOT, while coming to aid of four snowmobiling friends who had been swept away in an avalanche. Also, because of the "Check in" button on the SPOT, Brian was able to alert his wife that he was OK, so she wasn't alarmed when the 911 service followed with a call to her.

The second example begs for a full explanation of the SPOT's four key functions:

    " 1) "Alert 911" dispatches emergency responders to your exact location. It sends one message every 5 minutes until power is depleted or 911 is cancelled.

    " 2) "Ask for help" requests help from the 10 friends or family members you program into the SPOT, giving your exact location. It may be for something as simple as running out of gas. The help message continues every 5 minutes for one hour, or until help is cancelled.

    " 3) "Check in" lets your contacts know exactly where you are and that you're OK. A Boy Scout leader on a camping trip might find this handy for updating worried parents. (You program it with e-mail or cell phone text message contacts in your 10-person list.)

    " 4) "Track progress" sends and saves your location and allows contacts to track your progress on any outdoors adventure using Google Maps. A message is sent every 10 minutes for 24 hours or until SPOT is turned off. There are an unlimited uses for this function, many the company hadn't even considered. Recently some motorcycle riders were involved in the aid of an injured biker. After the emergency personel arrived and everyone left the scene of the accident, the motorcyle involved was stolen. The owner was able to alert authorities to the exact whereabouts of his bike thanks to a SPOT left on it in "track progress" mode.

No one ever expects to be involved in an emergency situation. The multifunction ability of the SPOT makes it a valuble item to carry on a daily basis, particularly in areas where cell phones may not function. But when the unexpected happens, the SPOT becomes invaluable, using its GPS and commercial satellite functionality to send messages nothing else on the market is capable of doing.

According to the manufacturer, there are only four places in the world where the SPOT won't function sub-Saharan Africa, an area of the deep Pacific Ocean and the North and South poles. Everywhere else, if you've got a clear line of sight to the sky, you're covered by the SPOT.

For more information, see the website at www.findmeSPOT.com or call 408-933-4518.

Set your sights on the show floor in our 2008 SHOT show Las Vegas gallery.