Communicating from anywhere with a SPOT Connect

[Nate] over at Sparkfun put up a great tutorial for using the SPOT personal satellite communicator with just about any microcontroller. These personal satellite transmitters were originally intended to pair with the bluetooth module of a smart phone, allowing you to send a short 41-character message from anywhere in the world. Now, you can use these neat little boxes for getting data from remote sensors, or even telemetry from a weather balloon.

[Nate]‘s teardown expands on [natrium42/a>] and [Travis Goodspeed]‘s efforts in reverse-engineering the SPOT satellite communicator. The hardware works with the Globalstar satellite constellation only for uplink use. That is, you can’t send stuff to a remote device with a SPOT. After poking around the circuitry of the original, first-edition SPOT, [Nate] pulled out a much cheaper SPOT Connect from his bag of tricks. Like the previous hacks, tying into the bluetooth TX/RX lines granted [Nate] full access to broadcast anything he wants to a satellite sitting in orbit.

We’ve seen the SPOT satellite messaging service put to use in a high altitude balloon over the wilds of northern California where it proved to be a very reliable, if expensive, means of data collection. Sometimes, though, XBees and terrestrial radio just aren’t good enough, and you need a satellite solution.

The SPOT satellite service has an enormous coverage area, seen in the title pic of this post. The only major landmasses not covered are eastern and southern Africa, India, and the southern tip of South America. If anyone out there wants to build a transatlantic UAV, SPOT, and [Nate]‘s awesome tutorial, are the tools to use.

Tip ‘o the hat to [MS3FGX] for sending this one in.

Comments

  1. the dude says:

    nice!!! this could be handy for ppl surfing/sailing/kayaking and in trouble on open sea.
    hang a receptor on a pc for automated text messaging, and we’ve got a elcheapo sos system

  2. snowdruid says:

    thats pretty cool….
    on another note thought his nickname is natrium42 not 4 hes well known in the nintendo ds scene….

  3. HackerK says:

    Now, this is the kind of stuff I wanted to see at HaD!

  4. Zee says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you still need to buy a service plan from SPOT right?

    • Dissy says:

      Yes you need SPOT service. It runs around $100 USD/year, so averages out to under $10/month but does require a yearly contract.

      They are uplink only as well, aka send but no receive.

      But if you need to have your device(s) send you data from a location without wifi or cellular service while still being mobile, it’s not a bad deal at all.
      In fact, it can be cheaper than cellular data service even if you do get cell coverage.

  5. Jan says:

    Pretty nice except for one thing I live in South Africa in other words no coverage ble ble ble

    Luckily most phones these days come with GPS as standard and with Android you can make it do almost any thing

  6. austin says:

    take that south africa and india.
    hell even parts of Antarctica have coverage. india looks like the purposefully tried to avoid it…south africa just looks like they didnt think about it.

  7. Mongcon says:

    Does anyone know if you can alter or hack one of the spot trackers so that it sends a bogus trail? There’s an “explorer” who left a strangely consistent day by day track while traveling solo. Consistent as in exactly the same distance every day (he was walking and camping solo). If it weren’t for the set of tracks over about 1000 miles and 60 days, there would be other reasons to believe it was all faked.. Any thoughts?

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