Keeping Safe And In Communication With DeLorme’s InReach


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Occasionally, my wife and I will venture out for a day hike, but usually nothing more than a few hours. In the last couple years, however, I’ve gone on some more substantial hikes, including a 53 mile hike from Utah to Arizona. On a three hour day hike, I don’t worry too much about getting stranded in the wilderness, but the many-day hikes require more planning and some form of emergency beacon. This is where something like InReach comes in.

DeLorme InReach

What and Why

A device like InReach could end up being the most important think you pack for a long or remote hike. When I was scrambling up steep rock formations or navigating the rushing Paria River waters on slippery rocks, not only did I increase the likelihood of breaking a leg, but cell phones don’t work in deep, remote canyons. Had one of my party been injured, we would have used our emergency beacon to send a signal that we needed help. Imagine the alternative.

InReach Stands Out

DeLorme’s InReach has a few features that make it stand apart from your average emergency beacon. For starters, it includes Blue Tooth connectivity to your mobile or tablet device via DeLorme’s free Earthmate mobile app. While you generally wouldn’t want to use it for anything unimportant, it could be a great way to let a family member know that you’re half way through the trip or almost out. Of course, you could post to Facebook or Twitter if you wanted to. With their Interactive SOS feature, you can send out more than just a distress signal. Instead, you can include details about the problem and the help needed.

Because the InReach connects to a mobile app, it opens up even more possibilities such as sharing your trip map with family and friends like you can see below. This is even better because they’ll be able to check in on your map on their own time and see how far you’ve gotten. We did something similar when driving from Phoenix to Detroit and my wife’s parents loved checking in on the map.

In addition to sharing an map with the family and friends, you can download maps before your trip and use the InReach GPS data to find yourself on these maps. This could be a real life saver if you manage to get lost.

The app is compatible with a number of devices, including most of the latest iPhones (no word on iPhone 5), iPads, iPod Touch, and Android phone and tablet devices. It’s a little smaller than the device I took on my biggest hike, coming in at 3.4″ H (4.77″ including antenna), 2.85″ W, 1.73″ D; 8.6 cm H (12.1 cm including antenna), 7.2 cm W, 4.4 cm D but weighed about the same at 8oz with batteries. The device costs $259.95 on their site and services start at $9.95 per month. The cheapest plan covers your basic emergency needs with minimal messaging, while the other plans offer more messages and tracking.

Conclusions

You might find cheaper emergency devices, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one as advanced and well thought out as the InReach. For a device you’ll buy once and use for years, it’s worth the added investment just as you would pay more for the better tent or sleeping bag even though a cheaper one might meet your minimum needs for outdoor shelter. It’s a great device and well worth a look for any serious outdoor adventurer.

Trick Or Tracker Tracks Your Kids On Halloween


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Last Halloween, a friend’s kids wandered off in search of candy before the younger children and adults were ready. Their mom knew they were going, but finding them later had me a little worried. On top of that, it’s a lot less fun finding kids in a crowded mess of people in the dark than just taking the little ones door to door for candy. This is where Trick or Tracker would have come in handy.

Trick-or-Tracker

Trick or Tracker’s main objective is to allow the parent to know where the child is when that child is old enough to go out door to door on his or her own. That may be the core focus of the program, but it has some pretty cool features to round the whole thing out.

– Locate a trick-or-treater with the touch of a single button on the parent’s smartphone.
– Messages can be sent to the child’s phone using a special code that is picked up and responded to via pre-set coordinates.
– The child’s phone will have a special “Where Am I?” button, and the parent’s phone will have a corresponding “Where’s My Kid?” button.
– Parents can program their phone to receive messages at regular intervals revealing exactly where their child is.

I imagine most parents would want the peace of mind that the instant location checking can offer, but the feature that intrigues me even more is the notifications based on pre-set coordinates. From the sound of it, you can be alerted if the child wanders off too far or into an area you don’t want them in. This is a great feature that I can see my sister using with her kids.

Only the child’s phone must be an Android OS phone. For the parent, any Google maps-loaded phone (including iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Phone 7) will work using a simple manual process that the developer identifies in the FAQs on their web site. I’d love to see the child app available for the iPhone, too, but I’m guessing hurdles exist with regards to a developer’s ability to access certain data on the phone.

Priced at $4.99, it’s not exactly necessary if you’ll be walking with your child every step this Halloween, but if they’ll be out on their own this year, Trick or Tracker seems like a pretty good way to give your child a little freedom without being completely in the dark.

What Is A Geofence And Why You Should Care?


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It seems like every day, I get to learn about some new technology that has the possibility to reshape how I see the world, work with data, or get something done much more easily. As a web developer, I’m very familiar with geofences and have applied them in working applications, but I wanted to introduce the concept to those of you who are unfamiliar with it.

Geofence example

What Is A Geofence?

Wikipedia has this to say about geofences:

A Geofence is a virtual perimeter on a geographic area using a location-based service, so that when the geofencing device enters or exits the area a notification is generated. The notification can contain information about the location of the device and might be sent to a mobile telephone or an email account.

Although I think they’re pretty close, I’d like to add that a geofence is really just the area that is defined for a notification trigger (or other event) and the notification isn’t exactly part of the geofence. As an example, you might have a device in your car that is linked to a service and that service has a geofence (that you defined) around your neighborhood. On your way to work the service detects that you’ve exited the geofence (your neighborhood), and shuts off specific devices in your home through a home automation system. When you re-enter the geofence after work, it sends a text message to your wife that reads, “Honey, I’m (almost) home!” or turns on your laptop.

Practical Uses For Geofences

I know the above example may seem a little Jetsons-like, but the technology is actually here today and already in use.

One real-world example is the annual Iron Dog® snowmobile race in Alaska. It wasn’t long after the race began that the first team entered a checkpoint and like many other people, I received a text message on my phone letting me know about it. Making this happen was software developed by Ontec Technologies, the company that has provided real-time tracking and mapping of each racer for the past few years. In the software, every checkpoint was defined as a geofence and each racer was outfitted with hardware from Applied Satellite Engineering that sent data over the Iridium satellite network to Ontec where it gets mapped and triggers alerts for geofences. In this example, friends, families, and fans were able to know very rapidly as their racer hit each checkpoint.

The article, Searching for Real Estate Made Easy: Geo-Fences Plus Mobile Phones from SoftwareAdvice.com describes, in detail, a scenario in which a young couple on a leisurely stroll is alerted that they’re near a home for sale that they may like. It seems the couple’s tech-savvy realtor entered their search criteria and cell phone number into a system that has geofences around properties and when their phone’s GPS location entered the geofence, it triggered an alert. The story is just a made-up scenario, but the reality of such a service is just over the horizon. We already have the technology in the phones and all it will take is for someone to build an app for the iPhone, Android, and Windows Mobile 7 and the web service to pair it with.

The practical uses for geofences are numerous and I’m certain we’ll see them in use more and more. Imagine an alert on your phone when your young child wanders off your property, or a friend is near the coffee house you’re sitting at. A system that turns on a couple lights when I get within 50 yards of my house is entirely possible right now with a little hardware and some programming.

Possible problems

Any really good technology that makes use of your personal location information brings with it concerns about misuse of that information. However, if used with consent and in the proper applications with these concerns in mind, the advantages far outweigh the unlikely possibilities of misuse.

If you could geofences for anything, what would it be?

Disclosure: I am a part owner/founder in Ontec.