SPOT Tracker for Beginners

heartheart San Francisco, CAMember
edited July 2014 in Beginner Questions
Folks - I bought a (heavily discounted, hurrah!) SPOT tracker for my upcoming swims this year and got a yearly subscription. The device is not intuitive and I was hoping the collective experience on the forum would help. I registered the little gizmo on the website. Now, how do I set up the nifty website where people can follow me? Does the device itself transmit the cute orange dots, or does my crew need to press on the gizmo periodically?
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  • I want to know about this as well!
  • From what i read in the instructions. It pretty much a "set it" and "forget it", device. Once the SPOT is registered on the website, All you have to do is turn it on when you start your swim, and make sure it has a clear line of sight to the sky. The rest is pretty much done for you. I think there are some youtube videos for this also.
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember
    I believe you can embed the map by iFrame on your own site.

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited December 2013
    heart said:

    Now, how do I set up the nifty website where people can follow me?

    1. Log in to your account at findmespot.com
    2. Click the Share tab.
    3. Click Create Shared Page.
    4. Fill in details.
    5. Send your friends the URL to your unique tracking page.
    5a. Alternatively (as @Niek mentions), you can embed the tracking map in your personal website via an iframe tag. Directions are HERE.
    heart said:

    Does the device itself transmit the cute orange dots, or does my crew need to press on the gizmo periodically?

    Automatically, approximately every 10 minutes. I believe the latest SPOT Gen 3 may have a few additional options.
    IronMikephodgeszoho
  • heartheart San Francisco, CAMember
    Thank you very much, guys! I'll take the thing for a test ride around town and report back if I encounter any problems.
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember
    @heart don't know how your html skills are.
    Here is a more elaborate iFrame code with explanation:
    <div style="text-align: center;">
    <iframe frameborder="1" scrolling="yes" src="your link here" height="700" width="600"></iframe>


    div style="text-align: center;" ==>center can be replaced by left or right.
    frameborder="1" ==>means with a border around the frame.
    scrolling="yes" ==>means with scrollbar, useful if you want to make the map show smaller than the 600x700 pixels standard size.

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • heartheart San Francisco, CAMember
    Thanks!
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoMember
    Anyone know how to make the Spot map page show you a scale? Drives me nuts watching someone and not being able to easily figure out how much further they have to go.

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited July 2014
    dc_in_sf said:

    Anyone know how to make the Spot map page show you a scale?

    I don't think that's a feature of the findmespot.com interface.

    Two possible work-arounds:

    - Pull up maps.google.com (or, sorry @dc_in_sf, maps.bing.com) -- which DO have scales -- in a separate browser window and set it to the same zoom level as the findmespot map.

    - Take the GPS coordinates from the findmespot map and plug them into a distance calculator, e.g., HERE.
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    edited April 26

    Bumping this one up with some questions:

    --@heart, where'd you get yours discounted?

    --Anyone know the batteries it uses? I have restrictions where I'm located now. Basically, I can ship anything with lithium batteries IF and only if the batteries are pre-installed (think iPod) and not separate. We tried to buy a digital camera, but because the battery came in the box but wasn't pre-installed in the camera, the package got denied and sent back to Amazon.

    --Is there an option for less than a year subscription? Can you just subscribe while you're doing your swim(s)? (I checked online at findmespot.com and it looks like yearly or monthly (but paid for 12 months!) are the only options.) Figured I'd ask in case someone discovered a cheaper alternative.

    --Looks like what I (we) want is "tracking", thus there are five options available according to their website: SpotGen3, SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, SPOT Hug, SPOT Personal Messenger, SPOT Connect. What's everyone here using?

    --Has anyone had any problems with "regional settings"? I ask because it seems everything is regionally restricted nowadays. I intend on buying one from a U.S. outlet (Amazon, probably). Will that mean I have to register from an ISP in the U.S.? I hate assuming so I'll ask this seemingly dumb question: If you buy and register one in the U.S., can you use it (and all the internet "following" functions) from outside the U.S.?

    I'm hoping beyond hope to arrange a fun swim in a very large lake here in Kyrgyzstan, and I'd love to use the Spot Tracker functions so my family and friends back in the states (and elsewhere?) can follow me.

    Cheers and thanks all!

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallMember

    Mike, have you check coverage in Kyrgyzstan? It may be in the area of degraded reception. The satellite coverage appears to be right on the limit, according to the map. Another product to look at is the DeLorme Inreach. We have both but the DeLorme has better satellite coverage over a wider area and also facility for 2 way texts and FB updates from the tracker.

    IronMike
  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallMember

    The SPOT has lithium batteries which last for about one week of tracking. Our batteries have lasted a whole season of swims. (It won't work with alkaline.) The DeLorme is rechargeable. They both require 12 month contracts.

    IronMike
  • The "limited coverage" results from the satellite constellation (Globalstar) which relays your (usually) GPS position back to civilisation and the internet service provider. Looking at the coverage map, its optimised for land (where most people tend to be) and you do indeed have degraded performance near to the region where Kyrgyzstan is. But this degradation only seems to be in terms of ability to get a message back to base within the benchmark 20 minutes. There's stuff on the web about SPOT's poor performance, but this seems more to do with people not realising how cliffs, canyons and forests impact GPS reception. The coverage is ranked into 96% or better, and (I assume) 95.99% and lower, so they arent saying you'll never get a message through. Delorme would seem better a better choice as it uses Iridium, which has many more satellites than Globalstar.

    KatieBunIronMikempfmark
  • pavlicovpavlicov NYCMember

    Is it possible to borrow a SPOT tracker from someone?

    I am doing 2 stages of 8Bridges swim (June 9-10) and Boston Lights (Aug 15) and I would like to set up SPOT tracker for my family and friends to follow. Is anyone in NYC who would lend me theirs? I don't want it for free. However, I am not very familiar with the technology.

    I hope to be able to embed the tracker on my wordpress blogsite.

  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member

    Thanks @KatieBun and @JimBoucher. I had not heard of DeLorme (looking that up now), and hadn't even thought about looking at the coverage maps. Hell, I may just stick to my Forerunner 310XT and upload the "picture" after the swim(s).

  • pavlicov said: Is it possible to borrow a SPOT tracker from someone?

    For a couple of swims like that, you'll have better luck with myathletelive, they do rentals of gps tracking devices.

    You can also setup a smartphone with garmin connect, or maybe it's garmin fit and activate the tracking feature, it will do the same. Though you'd want to check on cell phone reception there.

  • The SPOT maps are pretty horrible, I find on long swims when you zoom out to see the whole course you see so many markers that they obscure the actual course. I couldn't find a way to turn them off. Also as mentioned above the lack of a scale always seemed a bit ridiculous.

    However it is fairly straight forward to use the SPOT data to draw a map via the Google Maps JavaScript API.

    If you view source code on this page you can see a basic example of how to code it up:

    http://lab.zoho.co.uk/lab/bldsa-loch-lomond/

    evmomalinaka
  • pavlicovpavlicov NYCMember
    edited July 28

    Hi all. I know very little about the SPOT besides that I love watching other swimmers spots pages when during their swims (I got hooked when I watched Chloe's swim!). I would like to get one so my family can follow my (shorter) swims. I am hoping to setup one before my Boston Light Swim August 15.

    I have ridiculously stupid newbie questions:

    1) Is this the spot that is appropriate for swimmers? http://www.amazon.com/SPOT-Satellite-GPS-Messenger-Orange/dp/B00C8S8S4W/

    2) I understand that I have to also subscribe to the yearly service to have it activated. What service people recommend? My swims are around 4-5h long max.

    3) Who wears the spot? The swimmer (Back of the swim suit?), the kayaker or is it on the boat?

    4) Can I be using it also for training swims without support (lets say I swim 2h around Brighton beach)?

    5) Would anyone be willing to have 10-15min conversation with me to give me the basic? Phone, chat? Or is there anything written online about spots for swimmers?

    Thank you!

    Martina

  • JenAJenA Member
    edited July 29

    Hi @pavlicov,

    Here are my responses to your questions, which may differ from others! :)

    1) Is this the spot that is appropriate for swimmers? http://www.amazon.com/SPOT-Satellite-GPS-Messenger-Orange/dp/B00C8S8S4W/

    Yes. That's the most recent version. The SPOT trackers (in Canada, anyway) are now 50% off. A new version is probably on the way. Here's the link to the Canadian rebate: http://findmespot.ca/SummerDeals/2015_SPOT_SummerRebate_Rebate_CA.pdf

    2) I understand that I have to also subscribe to the yearly service to have it activated. What service people recommend? My swims are around 4-5h long max.

    I (and I think most others) buy the default (cheapest) service. It gives tracking every 10 minutes, which is good enough for me.

    3) Who wears the spot? The swimmer (Back of the swim suit?), the kayaker or is it on the boat?

    My hard-learned lesson this weekend is that SPOT is not waterproof. It's supposed to be waterproof to 3 feet for 30 minutes, but there is a little flap that covers the USB port on the SPOT, and if the waves happen to move it, water will ingress, and your SPOT will probably be toast. :( Next swim I do/observe, I'll either put the SPOT in a pelican case or a plastic container (checking in advance that this doesn't disrupt communication). I like to put the SPOT on the kayak (it's closest to the swimmer's route in my experience). Many boats have their own GPS systems, and you can download the points after the fact.

    4) Can I be using it also for training swims without support (lets say I swim 2h around Brighton beach)?

    The SPOT needs to be faced logo up to transmit (or transmit best, not sure). You could possibly put it on something buoyant and drag it along.

    5) Would anyone be willing to have 10-15min conversation with me to give me the basic? Phone, chat? Or is there anything written online about spots for swimmers?

    If you have further questions, sure. Send me a personal message.

    For what it's worth, I seem to configure my SPOT differently than most. This is how I customize the buttons:

    CUSTOM -> "Swimmer has entered or safely exited the water" (this helps timestamp and location-stamp the beginning and end of the swim)

    HELP -> "Swimmer, boat or crew are in need of assistance. This is not an emergency."

    OK -> "Swimmer and boat crew are OK". (which I use when we haven't moved as expected)

    I'm really hoping the next generation SPOT deals with the water ingression issue.

    evmo
  • pavlicovpavlicov NYCMember

    @JenA Brilliant!

    Thank you for very helpful answers! It clears up a lot of confusion for me. I found a 50% rebate for USA too, thank you for that info!

    Question: Your customized buttons: 'HELP' and 'OK' - who do you message those messages? I understand time-stamping the beginning and end of the swim but who is reacting to those other messages?

    Thank you again!

  • JenAJenA Member
    edited July 29

    @pavlicov said: Thank you for very helpful answers! It clears up a lot of confusion for me. I found a 50% rebate for USA too, thank you for that info!

    Happy to help. :)

    Question: Your customized buttons: 'HELP' and 'OK' - who do you message those messages? I understand time-stamping the beginning and end of the swim but who is reacting to those other messages?

    The "HELP" button (which I've customized to transmit "Swimmer, boat or crew are in need of assistance. This is not an emergency.") could be sent to backup crew/supporters at the wharf/port/marina. I'd use it, say, if we ran out of fuel (boat or swimmer).

    The "OK" button (which I've customized to transmit "Swimmer and boat crew are OK"), is just more of an FYI for friends and family that things are OK. My favourite waters have wicked currents that have caused me to gain only 10 meters in 15 minutes of swimming, 3 km over 5 hours, and (sob-worthily), 6km over 9 hours. (On three different swims!) I'd press that button so everyone knew that the swim was still 'full steam ahead' even if the swimmer wasn't. :) If nothing else, it's a reassurance to the Coast Guard, who actually request for the SPOT link.

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

    we bought a spot gen 3 last week. and it seems to work a treat. I am curious about the waterproofing Jen ? ie will the signal remain good through plastic if in a waterproof box etc. coupled with the suunto watch it gives a great record for later analysis (albeit the watch is not real time for others to view) my only advice would be: don't be tempted to set the spots frequency of recording to below ten minutes spots it will only display the last 50 and it is a nightmare showing the whole route post swim via your account..much easier with 10+ minutes for swims longer than 6 hours

    thanks Jim Jen and KB etal for the replies in this thread M

  • JenAJenA Member
    edited July 29

    @mpfmark said: I am curious about the waterproofing Jen ? ie will the signal remain good through plastic if in a waterproof box etc.

    I'm not sure. I haven't tested it yet.

    my only advice would be: don't be tempted to set the spots frequency of recording to below ten minutes spots it will only display the last 50 and it is a nightmare showing the whole route post swim via your account..much easier with 10+ minutes for swims longer than 6 hours

    I think the 50-points-per-page display limit happens regardless of time interval.

  • JenAJenA Member
    edited July 30

    @mpfmark and @pavlicov: Sorry, I must correct myself. It seems there is a cheaper SPOT plan that doesn't offer tracking (just "help", "custom", and "ok"). In Canada, that plan costs $100 USD/year. Tracking is an additional $50 USD/year. I opt for the plan with tracking, and it sounds like you may want to as well.

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

    I went for unlimited tracking. The 50 spots are ok so long as the time spacing is adequate to the distance/time of the swim

  • jheynesjheynes Member

    you can see your entire route when you are finished. You download the event in KML format to Google Earth, it worked great.
    I also got very frustrated with only seeing the last 50 spots, when the event had over 80spots that we just completed.

    mpfmark
  • JenAJenA Member

    The SPOT website has 50 points per "page", but the data is still there. You can see the first 50 points, and then click on an arrow to see the next 50, and so on.

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