The SPOT Satellite Messenger is getting some new competition from personal locator beacons (PLBs). These emergency devices utilize the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system designed to aid in search and rescue missions. The advantage SPOT has enjoyed, is the ability to send non-distress signals. Today, Cobham Life Support-ACR Products announced a new service that will take advantage of PLB’s self-test function to send non-distress messages via text and email.
While PLBs are more expensive than the SPOT Satellite Messenger, this newly-leveraged functionality will be priced at $39.95 to $59.95 per year, significantly lower than SPOT’s $99.99 basic plan. Another differentiating factor is that the PLB can continue to be used for emergency extraction, even if the subscription plan expires. These advantages may help drive sales volume, allowing further reductions in unit costs.
The extent to which messages can be customized is unclear. For the most advanced functionality, the ACR PLB 350C (pictured) is required. The news release cites “the added features of multiple text and e-mail messaging, trip planning, and GPS test location.”
SPOT recently unveiled a partnership with DeLorme, whose PN-60w will allow custom messages to be composed in the field. However, SPOT has flubbed the introduction of their second-generation stand-alone device, having to recall it shortly after launch. According to comments on this site, the situation has yet to be resolved.
Here’s the full news release from today’s announcement.