Not so long ago I wrote a post about different satellite communication devices available for outdoors use. And as many of the devices were brand new for the market there wasn’t too much user experiences available by the time. This is a follow-up and addition to the original post introducing some new satellite communication tools and listing few links to first-hand experience posts of some devices. As the short-burst-data technology (Iridium 9602 SBD satellite modem) behind these devices is quite new, there is a lot of things happening and devices coming up. I’ll keep following the market and post follow-ups when interesting things emerge. For the basic background information, please check the original post.
More satellite messaging & tracking devices
Picture stolen from the Cerberus website.
Essentially Cerberus Cerberlink is a satellite messaging device very similar to Delorme InReach and Yellowbrick YB3 devices:
– Cerberlink uses Iridium network.
– It has a GPS positioning system enabling tracking.
– It works as a two-way communication device, as a standalone unit sending pre-programmed messages or paired with a smart phone it can send 160 character messages and receive messages up to 1600 characters.
– And of course it can be used to send a distress message.
Another interesting thing is that in addition to being Android compatible (via Bluetooth as the other devices) the Cerberlink is also iPhone compatible (unlike the Delorme InReach) and Blackberry compatible (unlike Inreach or Yellowbrick YB3). The Cerbertouch app is also available as a standalone app working on the phone GPS and using GSM network. And there is also an open API for all you nerds out there to make it better.
The device is on the same line with the Delorme InReach: It weights 186 grams and fulfills the IP67 standards (i.e. is shock and waterproof). The recommended operation temperature is from -20C up to +55C. The device has a build-in 2000 mAh Li-Po battery that gives 60 days of standby time and 5-6 days of on-time. This is probably enough for most users and there are some smart battery saving functions. And, of course, it can be recharged on the field.
The messages are transmitted trough Cerbercenter webservice and it also supports social media connection. The Cerbercenter can also send user alert messages about bad weather or geopolitical conflicts on the area. Also distress messages are transmitted to chosen emergency contacts via Cerbercenter that can provide concierge service but they also clearly and honestly state that “we are not a Rescue Coordination Center (RCC)” and “The Cerberus system is not designed to take the place of a PLB or EPIRB..
The Cerberlink is not especially cheap with one-year plan costing 499 USD (383 EUR) for the device and additional 32,95 USD (23,30 EUR) every month. This includes 60 messages per month and unlimited tracking. The rental plans are quite competitive costing 64,95 USD (50 EUR) for two weeks (20 messages) or 89,95 USD (69,10 EUR) for four weeks (40 messages). The Cerberlink seems to be only available online through the company itself.
Summary: GPS positioning, tracking, 2-way messaging, works as stand-alone or with smart phone (Android, Blackberry and iPhone), rugged enough, global coverage, the smart phone app also available as stand alone
Picture stolen from the E-Track website.
The E-Track Epsilon is more targeted for the company and government segments like the Solara in the original post. The features interesting for an outdoor enthusiast would be the already familiar:
– Global coverage of Iridium network
– GPS positioning and tracking
– Two-way communication with predefined or free messages
– Distress message
The E-Track is a stand-alone unit only, so no need or possibility to use a smart phone with it. Though I think that writing a long free message with a virtual keyboard operating with four arrow keys does suck… Luckily you can save 10 predefined messages in addition to 20 outgoing and 20 incoming messages. The tracking function can send the position of the device with intervals reaching from every second to every 18,2 hours (yes, very interesting interval) and it can start automatically when the device is moved. The Epsilon can also send messages with preprogrammed times and dates which might be useful for some.
The E-Track Epsilon is quite heavy weighting 310 grams. It meets the IP67 standards and can operate in temperatures ranging from -40C to +85C which is very good temperature range. The Epsilon uses three AA batteries (anything from Lithium and Alkalines to rechargeables). Nice thing is that is had an embedded battery charger so you don’t need an additional charger for the batteries on longer trips. E-Track offers a Cartoweb software for managing Epsilon devices and for example it enables remote controlling of the units which probably isn’t much use for an outdoor recreationalist.
I didn’t find any prices for the device or plans but I guess it is expensive being targeted for the company and government users.
See also the incredibly small 60 gram E-Track Sigma. If all you need is satellite tracking and a way to shout “Help!” this might be your choise, at least if you like cracking grams. 😉
Summary: GPS positioning, tracking, 2-way messaging, stand-alone unit, global coverage, some smart autonomous functions, probably expensive, not for regular outdoor recreationalist
Geopro SHOUT Nano
Picture stolen from the Geopro website.
Geopro’s SHOUT Nano is another satellite messaging device targeted to the company and government segments and thus not that much in the interests of an outdoor people. It has the typical features:
– Iridium network
– GPS positioning and tracking
– Two-way communication with predefined or free messages
– Emergency message
Just like the E-Track the SHOUT Nano is a stand-alone unit only. It has a dedicated covered Emergency button and the emergency use in general seems to be well thought. The other features are quite typical and seem to be designed towards business and government use. The device weights 185 grams including a built-in field rechargeable 1920 mAh Li-ion battery. The temperature range is from -40C to +85C but the device is not IP67 certified or similarly rugged.
The traffic from Shout Nano is transmitted via Geopro’s own network (advertised to be very secure and very reliable) and the business oriented user interface and management tool is Geopro’s own web application with a monthly fee of 17.50 USD (13 EUR).
The Geopro SHOUT Nano costs around 850 USD (650 EUR) so it’s not cheap. There is a heavier IP66 certified device Geopro Messenger available for 700 USD (535 EUR). The Geopro devices are available from few retailers. There is a 50 USD (38 EUR) software license and the monthly fee for each device is 17.50 USD (13 EUR). In addition the messages (outgoing and incoming) cost from 0,20 to 0,06 USD (0,15-0,05 EUR) depending on the bundle. Not that cheap.
Summary: GPS positioning, tracking, 2-way messaging, stand-alone unit, global coverage, expensive, not for regular outdoor recreationalist
Satellite messaging devices have many applications and naturally first user experiences usually come from the user groups that have the money for new toys… In this case it seems to be the boating and yachting segment. Thanks to the rich people with their big boats, there are some good reviews and first looks about some of the devices I’ve covered in this or in the original post:
Panbo The Marine Electronics blog has a nice two part review of the Delorme InReach. There are also some related comments with testing and some spotted problems (mainly with receiving messages). But there is also information that Delorme is actively working on the software and constantly making it better. Here is the first part of the review about the device itself and here is the second part about the web interface.
Now there are also some real user experiences about Yellowbrick YB3 from a Patagonia icecap expedition. This is very much worth reading. But it’s also worth taking into account that the review is (apparently) of a pre-production model as most of the suggested “future enhancements” are now available as standard features.
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In addition to these reviews and user experience reports there might be more already and certainly there will be more. And probably there will be even more similar devices available in future. So if you’re interested in one or the other of these devices, stay alert and see how they work in real life. And I wouldn’t mind you posting links or your own experiences about satellite communication devices!
I can confirm that our review of the Yellowbrick 3 was a pre production unit, but only by about a month or so. We took it to test, knowing that it would do a basic job for us. We will receive updates to the software as and when they are released. I believe two of our three “future enhancements” are very close.
Thanks for the comment Richard! In my opinion and only based on the specs, at the moment the YB3 seems to be the best satellite messaging device for a serious outdoor user. SPOT is only one-way, Inreach is a bit limited as a stand-alone unit but otherwise good and cheaper than the YB3. The other options are more expensive…
Your post is very interesting and shows how quickly this sector of the market is developing. When we were looking for a system pre 15th November the Delorme couldn’t confirm a delivery/release date for the InReach. The only other alternative was Yellowbrick, who I stumbled across by accident on a websearch! Now we have 3 more (in your post above) in the past month!
I have to say that after reading your review, I still think the Yellowbrick offers better ongoing pricing for personal use in the mountains. I hope you will give us an update next month! ha
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Thanks for the post, I’m from Australia and often I do take care of communications logistics for expeditions. I’m coming back from the North Pole, where I had the chance of testing a fair amount of equipment.
I’ve tested most of the devices currently on the market, but I definitely like the Yellowbrick V3 MKII best. It is reliable, with a big fat LiPo battery and it has an OLED screen, which never freezes.
Thanks for your insight GIanluca. I tested extensively the Yellowbrick V3 (the 1st commercial edition of it) and liked it a lot. There were couple of minor improvements and all that came to my mind have been addressed on the V3 MKII so I very much agree with you. It’s a great device! 🙂
No worries, the device I used was actually a RockSTAR:
same electronics and performances, just different marketing…
Thanks for noticing Gianluca. I’m litte confused here: Is there any other difference between the RockSTAR and Yellowbrick (V3 MKII) than the name and colour? And if not, why selling to similar products? Anyway, it’s a great tool. Thanks for sharing.
Good day Korpijaakko. Yellowbrick is the consumer range (in 4 flavours: basic, standard, pro and Corporate). Rockstar is the industrial range (pro, corporate). Pro and Corporate versions (yellowbrick or rockstar) are identical for electronics and features, the difference in colour is purely marketing.
Here in Australia Rockstar is used by remote workers and company operating in the outback, where there is not so much terrestrial infrastructure.
Thanks again Gianluca. I was assuming something like that but good to have confirmation. The RockBLOCK is also quite interesting one for certain applications.
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