DeLorme GPS Device Offers Satellite Messaging, Images

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WASHINGTON — Navigation hardware and software firm DeLorme planned to begin shipping by the end of July a new consumer GPS device that will feature a satellite-enabled one-way text-messaging capability, according to a DeLorme official.

Yarmouth, Maine-based DeLorme’s newest hand-held GPS unit, the PN-60w, is a waterproof and ruggedized device marketed toward hikers, sailors and other outdoors enthusiasts. It will allow users to send text messages over a satellite network to anyone in North America, said Caleb Mason, vice president of the DeLorme’s consumer division.

DeLorme also signed a three-year contract with satellite operator DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., to be the sole provider of satellite imagery for DeLorme devices, Mason said in a July 8 interview.

The PN-60w will send text messages over a satellite network provided by Spot LLC of Milpitas, Calif. Spot, a subsidiary of mobile satellite services provider Globalstar, sells its own GPS-enabled devices that allow users to send simple, preprogrammed messages and location information over its satellite network. DeLorme’s PN-60w unit will take that capability a step further, allowing users to type and send custom text messages up to 41 characters to customized lists of contacts, Mason said.

“It’s very new and we’re all interested to see how it actually goes, because no one actually knows,” Mason said. “People haven’t before had the ability to send text messages from outside of cell coverage.”

Meanwhile, Spot is excited to begin broadening its user base with its partnership with DeLorme, said Katie Schoeben, Spot’s director of global marketing. “We are proud to partner with DeLorme in bringing to market the world’s first hand-held GPS with Spot satellite messaging,” Schoeben said in a July 21 e-mail. “This technology breakthrough demonstrates our continued commitment in providing satellite communication solutions for consumers.”

The PN-60w device will retail for $550, with various satellite messaging capabilities available on subscription. The basic Spot network service costs $99 a year, only allowing users to send SOS distress signals with position data. For an additional $50 a year, users can buy the full text messaging capability and send as many as 500 text messages. Another $50 option will allow anyone with an Internet connection to track the device’s user on a Google Maps interface. Though the Spot network covers most of the Earth’s landmass and coastal waters, DeLorme is only offering the messaging services to users in North America at this time, Mason said.

Since 2007, DeLorme has sold GPS devices that display satellite and aerial imagery, and it will now partner with DigitalGlobe for this imagery, Mason said. DigitalGlobe imagery with ground resolution as fine as 30 centimeters will be available on the PN-60w and a similar model without satellite messaging capability, as well as the older PN-40 model.

DeLorme will now offer two separate map packages. Its existing package costs $30 a year and includes DeLorme’s aerial and satellite imagery of North America, plus U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps and nautical charts. DigitalGlobe imagery will be available for an additional $30 a year, Mason said. The imagery is licensed for use only on the hand-held devices, and not for use with any other hardware or software.

DeLorme pays a flat fee per user for access to DigitalGlobe’s entire imagery archive, which is updated continuously, according to Margaret Coughlin, DigitalGlobe’s chief marketing officer.

“DeLorme is known for being innovators in the category and building out features that users really want,” Coughlin said in a July 8 interview. “So they’ve gone solely with us because we’ve got the largest archive library of imagery in the areas they’re interested in, and also the fastest refresh rate.”

DigitalGlobe imagery also is available on GPS devices sold by Garmin and Callaway as well as other companies’ devices that use Navteq mapping software, including smart phones, Coughlin said.