Early last year we learned about a great new device called the SPOT Messenger. This small GPS and satellite enabled device serves several functions. Most importantly, the Spot is an emergency communication device. If you’re lost and/or incapacitated in the backcountry, holding down the 911 button on the Spot sends a message to a rescue coordination center that will then send rescue personnel your way. The Spot also features a ‘help’ mode. Initiating this mode sends a ‘please help me’ email with your current GPS location to up to 10 pre-selected e-mail addresses, so friends or family will be able to come to your rescue. This is great for getting help in non-life threatening situations.

While these two features are excellent, they’re not why we were so excited when the Spot was introduced. We really like the check-in and tracking features. Activating the ‘Check In’ function sends your GPS location along with a pre-selected message (such as “I’m OK, Everything is fine”) to 10 different e-mail addresses. This is great if you’re in the back country and wish to let your friends & family know how things are going. The tracking feature is similar, it automatically sends your GPS location to the Spot system every 10 minutes for 24 hours. Anyone with the link to your tracking page can then track your progress while you’re on an outing. This is great for extended trips where you don’t want to have to worry about checking in all the time. Lance Blair & Disabled Explorers used the tracking feature very successfully during their recent Continental Divide Expedition.

Being a technically inclined group, we thought it would be exciting to extend the functionality of the Spot messenger. We created a system that automatically places multiple Spot messages from multiple Spot devices onto one map, so that interested individuals can track all of them at the same time. We call it SpotCatcher.
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SpotCatcher simply turns the ‘check in’ e-mail message into data that can be displayed on a Google Map or in a Google Earth file. This information (like Spot’s Tracking feature) is automatically updated whenever it’s received. We can add as many Spot devices as we want to the SpotCatcher system, it only takes about two minutes to setup a new device. Once we configure the device in the system and the device owner adds a special e-mail address as one of the ten ‘check in’ addresses, that device will be active in our SpotCatcher system. We’re hoping that FJC Magazine readers will be interested in joining this program so other readers can see what trails we’re all running and when. It is  really exciting to see what everyone is up to when they’re wheeling locally. We’d like to include as many spot devices as we can during large events such as Cruise Moab, the FJ Summit, and the Thrill on the Hill for 2009.

SpotCatcher is a brand new program, if you’d like to have your Spot Messenger added, simply contact us for more information. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you, and hope you’ll share yours with us!