ACR: new PLB & Iridium partnership(s)

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

9 Responses

  1. Matt Marsh says:

    Two-way text to an emergency beacon? I like the sound of that. When things get really bad really quickly, being able to get messages to and from the boat in distress could be very helpful to the SAR teams. They would have a way to know, for example, whether they need to bring extra supplies to deal with a medical condition, or whether damage or injuries might preclude the use of some extraction techniques. It’d also be great for morale and safety aboard the stricken vessel, knowing what SAR assets are on the way and what to do when they arrive would.
    The clincher, as always, will be price. If this adds a significant recurring fee, ships might not mind but cruising boats might choose to do without the extra features. If they can roll it all into a one-time purchase price that’s not a prohibitive jump up from GPS EPIRBs, it’ll likely become the de facto standard across most long-range fleets.

  2. johnd says:

    I’ve had occasion to use Iridium phones and the texting is really the part that gets used as the pricing is low and transparent in most plans vs calling Iridium phones. Curious what the input approach will be. Liked the bluetooth concept as an option, but keying the text in is probably going to be an area with some different solutions.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I agree, Matt. There are also plenty of distress situations that start slowly and it would be good for all if a boater could notify the authorities that there was a possibility help would be needed, knowing that it was the beginning of a conversation.
    But let me be clear that I don’t know of any two-way device in development that’s really like an EPIRB or PLB beacon, because the COSPAS SARSAT system doesn’t have two-way abilities. What’s happening is that Iridium is making it possible to develop two-way texting/tracking devices with a high level of reliability and global coverage that could be used to communicate with the international SAR organization via a commercial service.
    Globalstar provided this sort of commercial distress service first, but the reliability, coverage, and build quality of SPOT made it no comparison to a PLB (though it’s affordable and quite useful in other ways). But given Iridium’s technology, and its partnership strategy, it seems quite possible that we’ll see commercial distress communications devices that are quite competitive with COSPAS SARSAT, even better because they’re two-way.

  4. greg says:

    My big concern continues to be battery life.
    Texting services via iridium will have to use the PLB’s battery, and unless they allow a separate battery for texting, will be a very expensive message system.
    If you are content to NEVER use it, except in a real emergency when you would activate the PLB, then fine. But draining a PLB battery on notes home to the wife is going to get expensive. PLB/EPIRB batteries don’t come cheap.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’m worried that I’ve somehow confused readers. Greg, please read my note to Matt if you haven’t already. In other words, neither ACR nor any other company I know is working on a PLB that can also doing messaging via Iridium. PLBs and EPIRBs work with the COSPAS SARSAT system and are built to strict regulations. I don’t know what ACR is developing, but it might look like the Cerberus:

  6. SanderO says:

    A Global suggestion for all posts and user comments.
    Could you all kindly explain the 3 letter acronyms you use aside from the really well known ones such as GPS.
    Do it once and then readers are no guessing.
    Excuse my density… it comes with old age.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Understood, SanderO…I temporarily forgot my Bonnier boss’s last name for a while this morning! I did think about writing out Personal Locator Beacon when I wrote this entry, but thought having it spelled out in the picture was sufficient. SBD is for short-burst data, which is written out in the entry linked to. I also meant put in a link to COSPAS SARSAT, though even the organization seems reluctant to explain its acronymialogy 😉
    If anyone knows of, or is willing to create, a glossary of acronyms used in marine electronics, I think I could find some place to post it on Panbo.

  8. SanderO says:

    That would be a super idea… a Panbo glossary!

  9. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Is this for sale real soon? I was interested in purchasing for my upcoming cruise.

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