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Real time tracking for others?

Old 10-25-15, 11:09 AM
  #26  
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iPhone Find My Friends App. First used it when I ran my first half marathon, so friends could come out to the route and cheer me on.
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Old 10-25-15, 08:41 PM
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I have a SPOT. If my wife doesn't know where I am, she checks my spot web page.
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Old 10-26-15, 02:33 AM
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It's really tiresome to read a thread about ways to let relatives/friends have real-time tracking and have half the posts be chest-thumping about how much you don't need it.

We get it. You're SO PROUD. You're SUCH a better person than all of us. OK? Is that the validation you needed?

Can you leave now so people like me can actually learn what's out there, so when I do a bike tour in a place that makes my family *really* nervous, I can offer them a wide variety of options that I can use? I want to be able to contact them at a regular enough interval to put them at ease.

Because when I go bike touring in Africa in the next year or two, I couldn't give less of a f___ that half of you are so cool that you don't need to tell anyone anything.

TIA.
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Old 10-26-15, 02:40 AM
  #29  
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To contribute, the Apple 'Find Friends' works pretty well. It can sync your location from your iPhone to iCloud, and anyone with an iPhone or a Mac laptop/desktop can be invited to know your location. They can can log in to their iCloud to see you on a map.

It does drain battery, but not so much on the newer phones...they have a better chip that's not so thirsty.

It worked fine in Turkey and the Balkans, which both have good GPS coverage. I'd call it a really good solution for an Apple-centric family for somewhat developed areas. It comes with iCloud / Me.com, so it's basically free if you're using the Apple ecosystem as designed.
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Old 10-26-15, 05:57 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by schnee View Post
Can you leave now so people like me can actually learn what's out there, so when I do a bike tour in a place that makes my family *really* nervous, I can offer them a wide variety of options that I can use? I want to be able to contact them at a regular enough interval to put them at ease.

Because when I go bike touring in Africa in the next year or two,..
TIA.
When I traveled across Africa in 2013, I went through 10 countries and got 10 SIM cards. It took some experimentation, but I was able to get network over cell coverage in all 10 countries. When we stayed in lodges, internet itself was hit and miss. I am sure SPOT works in that environment.

However, TIA is also an abbreviation for "this is Africa" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIA). I think it is also important to set realistic expectations. Cell connections might not be there, a SPOT could be lost or just not have battery charged up. Perhaps that little bit of information "spot on a map" might not be sufficient to let someone's imagination get satisfied if some other spot in Africa gets in the news (it is a big place, we saw some of the hysteria with the ebola epidemic had folks concerned about East Africa a world away).

So I also speak from experience that it is important to set realistic expectations of how frequently you might contact and the possibility of a technology failure along the way, so no news is not always bad news. In that way, I wouldn't set that "regular" interval to be some minimum, but instead some reasonable amount that accounts for TIA.

The other thing to recognize (may not help your worriers but true), is that if you do get into difficulties, their options to do something about it are fairly limited, particularly without their traveling to Africa.

Last edited by mev; 10-26-15 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 10-26-15, 01:15 PM
  #31  
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The thing about the SPOT is that the status messages it sends are one way. It doesn't get any acknowledgment that the message was actually received by the system, so it's possible for updates to get lost without you knowing. Same goes for the rescue "save me" function. This, to me, is a fundamental flaw in that system. If you want to spend a bit more, then there's the DeLorme InReach SE, which utilizes the Iridium satellite network (like satellite phones), and has two way messaging. This means you can know when your status updates have gone through.

As with all devices like this, it's not perfect - but you have to scan through the reviews and try to decide for yourself what criticisms are valid and applicable to your use case.

Amazon.com: DeLorme AG-009871-201 inReach SE: GPS & Navigation
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Old 10-26-15, 02:59 PM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
The thing about the SPOT is that the status messages it sends are one way. It doesn't get any acknowledgment that the message was actually received by the system, so it's possible for updates to get lost without you knowing. Same goes for the rescue "save me" function. This, to me, is a fundamental flaw in that system. If you want to spend a bit more, then there's the DeLorme InReach SE, which utilizes the Iridium satellite network (like satellite phones), and has two way messaging. This means you can know when your status updates have gone through.

As with all devices like this, it's not perfect - but you have to scan through the reviews and try to decide for yourself what criticisms are valid and applicable to your use case.

Amazon.com: DeLorme AG-009871-201 inReach SE: GPS & Navigation

I've used a SPOT for four canoe trips in northern Minnesota and Canada, more in the middle of nowhere than I could get on a bike. It has performed flawlessly. I suppose it's theoretically possible for updates to get lost, but it's never actually happened to me or anyone I know.
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Old 10-26-15, 03:03 PM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Most of the newer cycling Garmin's 510,520,810, 1000 etc support Livetrack which will provide live updates on your location, speed, power etc. You need a bluetooth smartphone (Android or iPhone) and a data plan. I believe the updates are sent every 30 Secs so the impact on battery life of your phone is less than some other tracking apps that use the phone's GPS.

I have a 520 and have used Livetrack with no problems.
This. I ride solo and livetrack my wife. Nice to know someone would have an idea of where to look if I didn't show up where and when I was supposed to.

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Old 10-26-15, 03:06 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by schnee View Post
It's really tiresome to read a thread about ways to let relatives/friends have real-time tracking and have half the posts be chest-thumping about how much you don't need it.

We get it. You're SO PROUD. You're SUCH a better person than all of us. OK? Is that the validation you needed?

Can you leave now so people like me can actually learn what's out there, so when I do a bike tour in a place that makes my family *really* nervous, I can offer them a wide variety of options that I can use? I want to be able to contact them at a regular enough interval to put them at ease.

Because when I go bike touring in Africa in the next year or two, I couldn't give less of a f___ that half of you are so cool that you don't need to tell anyone anything.

TIA.
It's an internet thing:

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Old 10-26-15, 03:10 PM
  #35  
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My 12 year old daughter and I have Life360 app on our phones. It's not super high tech, but it's functional enough. When she is out biking around the neighborhood I can find where she is at any given time. Likewise when I go out on a three hour ride on the weekend, my husband can have her check to see where I am if he gets worried for some reason since I usually ride alone.
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Old 10-26-15, 03:15 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by revcp View Post
I've used a SPOT for four canoe trips in northern Minnesota and Canada, more in the middle of nowhere than I could get on a bike. It has performed flawlessly. I suppose it's theoretically possible for updates to get lost, but it's never actually happened to me or anyone I know.
DIsclaimer: I haven't used this device myself, just going by what I have read. Apparently the 3rd generation device has an improvement whereby it has an indicator light telling you when the message has been sent. However it is still apparently unidirectional, i.e. you don't know if the message was actually received. You can see comments about this from people in reviews on places like Amazon and REI, e.g.

SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger - REI.com

Overall, I have been generally pleased with the device WHEN IT WORKS! Meaning messages are not always received by the recipient, once sent by the user. This was a common complaint with the 1st Generation devices, coupled with the fact there was no way of even knowing if a message was sent once the user activated the various notification buttons. The latter problem was one of the major improvements of the Generation 3 device. There is a green “message sent” light which illuminates once the last message has been transmitted. Unfortunately, there still seems to be issues with messages actually being received by the satellites and ultimately forwarded along.

As an example, I conducted a five day solo trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness this last week. My wife, also an experienced backpacker, was not keen on this solo adventure. She was my primary emergency contact and was relying on my once daily check-ins to keep track of my routing, which included potential cross-country travel. Despite the “message sent” indication being illuminated, my device failed to actually send the notifications on two consecutive days. Which coincidentally were the days in which the cross country travel was anticipated. This equated to a failure rate of 40% and a very concerned and upset wife upon my exit from the back-country.
I think it depends on location - not just being close to a canyon or trees, but different places in the world can have different views to the satellites that are used by SPOT. So one person in one area might have perfect performance, whereas another could have spotty (no pun intended) reception. This talks about it a bit more, including discussion of the Globalstar satellite network that SPOT uses:

Satellite Communication: SPOT 2 ? review and warning | Korpijaakko

I'm not trying to slam the SPOT here, just that I think the one-way nature of its communication isn't something that a lot of people are perhaps aware of. I think when it works, it sounds like a great device, but the problem is, you can't tell when it's working, because there is no ack for sent messages.
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Old 10-26-15, 03:20 PM
  #37  
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I'm using gpstracker, which sends locations to my private server. I can share my tracks and current location with who I want without worrying (too much) about privacy.
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Old 10-26-15, 03:46 PM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by bmike View Post
You know what's great? There are so many ways to stay in touch with folks an share what we are doing out in the world.
You know what else is great? There's no right or wrong way to ride a bicycle on a tour.

You know what sucks? Telling people they are doing it wrong when thy specifically ask for experiences with tracking apps or devices.
Originally Posted by schnee View Post
It's really tiresome to read a thread about ways to let relatives/friends have real-time tracking and have half the posts be chest-thumping about how much you don't need it.
To make sure I understand correctly, it is totally un-cool, chest-thumping, self-validating, to post that something isn't really necessary; but it's a wise use of that same public space to dis anyone who dares to post that opposing opinion?

Weird.
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Old 10-27-15, 05:40 AM
  #39  
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My family uses Find My Friends on iOS a fair amount, just to keep up with who's where. I'm the only one who might take a bike trip, and I'm the only one without an iPhone, so that particular use case hasn't been tested by us, but in general it works very well. Of course the phone needs to be on and connected to a cell network, so it doesn't work in some remote areas. And when I find that I'm in a spotty coverage area, I either turn the phone off or put it in airplane mode to conserve battery, so Find My Friends, or any service that relies on cellular data, wouldn't work in that situation.
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Old 10-27-15, 06:12 AM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
To make sure I understand correctly, it is totally un-cool, chest-thumping, self-validating, to post that something isn't really necessary; but it's a wise use of that same public space to dis anyone who dares to post that opposing opinion?

Weird.
Poster:

Hi, I'd like to try touring by bike. Anyone have experience using their bike to go camping and seeing the sights?

Responder:
Touring by bike? Why? Who needs to do that. Everyone that I tour with uses an RV! We just use our bikes at the RV park to get ice cream cones and firewood.

Poster:
Oh,ok. I thought I would ask and see what people's experiences are. This is the bike touring forum right?

Responder2:
Bike? We hike everywhere. Why complicate things with a bike. What if it breaks down? Who needs all this new fangled technology on a tour. Just drive to a cool place and hike. Back when I was touring that's how we did it. Who would ever do it on a bike!

Responder3:
Chewbacca!

Poster:
OK, never mind.
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Old 10-27-15, 07:54 AM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
To make sure I understand correctly, it is totally un-cool, chest-thumping, self-validating, to post that something isn't really necessary; but it's a wise use of that same public space to dis anyone who dares to post that opposing opinion?

Weird.
Poster:
Hi, where can I find square wheels. I think it might help me park my bike and I also like going fast.

Responder #1 :
I find circular wheels ride faster for me.

Responder #2 :
I found using a flick-stand helps keep the wheels from turning when parking.

Poster:
Not cool to be attacking people who are just looking for square wheels. Responder #1 and Responder #2 act so proud and think they are better than us square wheelers.

Responder #3 :
Not OK to give opinions on square wheels, but OK to give opinions on other responders? Weird.
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Old 10-27-15, 10:24 AM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
To make sure I understand correctly, it is totally un-cool, chest-thumping, self-validating, to post that something isn't really necessary; but it's a wise use of that same public space to dis anyone who dares to post that opposing opinion?

Weird.
Yes, someone being an absolute jerk against the spirit of the thread is totally OK.

Calling out that person for being a jerk - now that is the real problem.

--

PS - this is a request about technical knowledge, not a political pro/con argument where one 'dares' to oppose it.
Unless... you think gaining knowledge is something that should be actively opposed?
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Old 10-27-15, 10:27 AM
  #43  
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I don't generally care where others are, in real time or after the fact. When I'm riding, I want to be off the grid for the most part, unless I choose to contact others. A text message will come through if someone really needs to contact me. Now, if I was riding in very remote areas, a tracker could come in handy for emergencies.
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Old 10-27-15, 12:58 PM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
[... SPOT] doesn't get any acknowledgment that the message was actually received by the system [... snip ...]
Actually, it does show a green light when the system has processed your signal. If you send an SOS, a SAR operation will be launched.

But you are right if you mean that posting your position or sending a canned message may or may not be read and that there is no way of knowing.

(I use a SPOT on a sailboat. Does the job for me. As far as bike touring is concerned, a SPOT messenger is probably more reliable than a smartphone. Phones are more demanding battery wise, and if you travel significantly, roaming fees or local SIM cards will quickly become more expensive than a SPOT subscription)

Last edited by gauvins; 10-27-15 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 10-27-15, 01:17 PM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Actually, it does show a green light when the system has processed your signal. If you send an SOS, a SAR operation will be launched.

But you are right if you mean that posting your position or sending a canned message may or may not be read and that there is no way of knowing.

(I use a SPOT on a sailboat. Does the job for me. As far as bike touring is concerned, a SPOT messenger is probably more reliable than a smartphone. Phones are more demanding battery wise, and if you travel significantly, roaming fees or local SIM cards will quickly become more expensive than a SPOT subscription)
Sorry, I guess there's some ambiguity there in the word "system". I meant that when a message is sent to the satellite, the satellite does not send an ack ("message received") back to the unit, so you don't know if it really got through or not. I just called SPOT to confirm this; it is still unidirectional, i.e. one way, even for the Gen 3. So you never really know if your messages got through to the satellite or not. Most of the time it probably works, but you never know for sure, which would make me a little bit nervous. The difference with the DeLorme InReach is that it is bidirectional; when it sends a message to the Iridium network, it gets an actual ack back so you know for sure it got through. It can also incidentally send and receive text messages through the same Iridium network, which to me is like having a "satellite phone lite", pretty cool. But also probably more expensive for subscription, so that's always a tradeoff with these things.
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Old 10-27-15, 02:25 PM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
[... SPOT] is still unidirectional, i.e. one way, even for the Gen 3. So you never really know if your messages got through to the satellite or not. Most of the time it probably works [...]
You are right. But the odds of a message not being transmitted are very small (roughly one over 10 000). My personal experience is that unsent messages are rare and easily detected at the source (no clear sky, etc. and you get blinking red lights) so you know that something is wrong. I don't recall reading any account referring to a unit apparently working yet messages not being received.

I don't know whether a duplex network is more likely to process your inbound message. I've used sat phones in the past (in the context of an ocean passage) and would not consider these devices on a bike expedition unless one has very extreme plans and wants to broadcast his/her adventure).

So back to the original question -- I would think that a smartphone tracking app does make sense if you have considered that you'll have to recharge your phone every day if not more than once a day for continuous tracking; and have network access, which is unlikely if you travel in remote areas. A SPOT messenger works essentially everywhere and 2 AAA batteries last several months if the unit is used sparingly or a week if used on a continuous basis.

In my experience, smartphone solutions tend to create unrealistic expectations. If travel plans extend beyond city tours, you may hope to be able to send an update at the end of the day. If you are lucky, you'll have wifi and be able to send your tracks somewhere; or you'll make do with an SMS. Quite frequently, if you travel across less travelled terrains, you'll have to rely on telepathy. Which is underrated.
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Old 10-27-15, 04:06 PM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
You are right. But the odds of a message not being transmitted are very small (roughly one over 10 000). My personal experience is that unsent messages are rare and easily detected at the source (no clear sky, etc. and you get blinking red lights) so you know that something is wrong. I don't recall reading any account referring to a unit apparently working yet messages not being received.

I don't know whether a duplex network is more likely to process your inbound message. I've used sat phones in the past (in the context of an ocean passage) and would not consider these devices on a bike expedition unless one has very extreme plans and wants to broadcast his/her adventure).
Ok, but I feel like you're trying to dismiss something as a non-issue, when it really is an issue. It's a simple fact that you don't know if your message has been received by the satellite or not. And I have definitely read quite a few reviews (I even quoted one earlier) that talked about times when they went on some trip only to discover when they got home that their updates had not gotten through. The simple fact is, you don't know. With a bidirectional system like the DeLorme, it might have times when it's having issues getting through, but at least you will know, because there is an ack as part of that process. If you don't get the ack, it probably didn't go through, but at least you know that.

Perhaps the Globalstar network of satellites has gotten better over the years, and if so then that's obviously a good thing for everybody. But it still doesn't get around what is a design issue with the system: You never know for sure if your update went through or not. And, despite the rose tinted spectacles, sometimes it doesn't.
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Old 10-27-15, 04:53 PM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
Ok, but I feel like you're trying to dismiss something as a non-issue, when it really is an issue. [...]
Yes your point is relevant, and there are circumstances where you might want to consider a sat phone. But they will cost $30/week + $2+/min. All I am trying to say is that SPOT works as a rule (there are exceptions to all rules).

But no point in being argumentative. It might be useful to sum things up. If you want to broadcast your whereabouts:

o smartphones work sometime, some places. Will cost 0$ in hardware and some difficult to forecast network charges. May be reasonable depending on where you go. Assume it will not work as hoped.
o SPOT works essentially everywhere but is one way. Will cost 150$ in hardware and a $99/year subscription. Assume it will work as expected
o deLorme Explorer works essentially everywhere in and out. Will cost $360 in hardware and, say, $50/month. You'll know for a fact when it works.

Makes sense?
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Old 10-27-15, 05:05 PM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Yes your point is relevant, and there are circumstances where you might want to consider a sat phone. But they will cost $30/week + $2+/min. All I am trying to say is that SPOT works as a rule (there are exceptions to all rules).

But no point in being argumentative. It might be useful to sum things up. If you want to broadcast your whereabouts:

o smartphones work sometime, some places. Will cost 0$ in hardware and some difficult to forecast network charges. May be reasonable depending on where you go. Assume it will not work as hoped.
o SPOT works essentially everywhere but is one way. Will cost 150$ in hardware and a $99/year subscription. Assume it will work as expected
o deLorme Explorer works essentially everywhere in and out. Will cost $360 in hardware and, say, $50/month. You'll know for a fact when it works.

Makes sense?
Yes, but I think you're overstating the cost of the DeLorme InReach a bit. The basic model costs $279.99 on Amazon currently:

Amazon.com: DeLorme AG-009871-201 inReach SE: GPS & Navigation

And they have introduced some much cheaper rolling "Freedom" plans that are nowhere near $50 a month.

DeLorme inReach - Two-way satellite text messaging, tracking and SOS anywhere in the world
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Old 10-27-15, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocivixen View Post
iPhone Find My Friends App.
+1 An excellent use of the technology! My wife and I use that. (P.S. it's built into the iOS and cost nothing).
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