Live Tracking - Spot alternatives

As far as I can tell, GPS tracking systems like Garmin LiveTrack and RideWithGPS Live Logger all rely on your phone data connection, making them pretty much useless as soon as you leave reception.

Other than a Spot tracker, is there any way to live-track a GPS signal and send it to a website, without using mobile data?

A Spot is overkill for my needs, and PLB hire is a bit of a hassle if it’s just for a half-day in a National Park.

If this doesn’t exist already it seems like a bit of a business opportunity for someone, because surely if the GPS signal is there there’d be a way to tap into it.

Unfortunately physics and economics are not on your side here.

GPS is reception only - eg there is no way to send data back to a GPS satellite, it’s a one way system.
Which is why a GPS receiver is very tiny and low in power consumption.

A spot tracker or PLB is a combination of GPS receiver and satellite transmitter - ie it receives GPS and sends data to a separate satellite network. The separate satellite network = billed per kilobyte so you need a subscription service (like spot).
A PLB will only send a location once in it’s lifetime (or preferably never) so a one-off purchasing cost works fine there for the seller.

A GSM network is much cheaper - because it doesn’t live in orbit. Unfortunately it’s towers cover a limited area so generally doesn’t get rolled out to national parks.

TLDR - spot or similar (delorme inreach etc) or nothing.

Well I guess that settles that then.

I’ve think I’ve just been watching too much Black Mirror, and assuming anything is technologically possible if you throw enough drones/satellites/AI at it.

You forgot to add money to that list. You’ll need to throw a lot of money at it too :slight_smile:

Just because this is more interesting than doing my job:

This is what your phone / Garmin livetrack sends your speed/position/snapchats to:

And this is what your spot / delorme inreach / satphone uploads to:

There’s dozens of commercial and government owned communication satellite networks above us but a few are popular for tracking and private communication services. In the case of the Iridium network there are 96 of them floating overhead (in low earth orbit at about 800km high) covering pretty much all of Earth. There’s also the Inmarsat network of 11 satellites (in geostationary orbit at 36,000km high so you can get away with less satellites) which covers most of the planet apart from the poles. The Spot tracker uses the Globalstar network which covers less of the planet again. Also Spot is one-way (simplex) and cannot receive satellite data.

The cost differences between setting up and maintaining a network of cell phone towers vs a network of bus-sized data centers floating 36,000km over our heads are pretty big for now. However re-usable rockets that can do delivery to orbit are getting along quite nicely and will drop the cost of establishing and maintaining a comms satellite network significantly:

Oh and as a sidenote for potential Spot tracking users in Australia, note that the Globalstar network is kinda ‘low budget’. It’s only 24 satellites in low earth orbit. That results in limited coverage:

Good thing the IndyPac is running so low across the country :wink:

Thanks jelmer, very interesting.

I saw a link to this on a US site and thought it might be an option for you etomato if you could hook it up to something local.