A smartphone App that's 'out of this world'

Spot connect
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This week we feature a smartphone App that can stop your relatives or friends driving rescue authorities crazy when you're not where you said you'd be the next time you go sailing, and enable you to sound the alarm when there really is a problem. It's out of this world, literally, because it depends on satellite communication.

The App is aimed at people who like doing adventurous things, like crossing an ocean in a small sailing boat. The App is free, but to use it you need to spend about $300 for a fairly remarkable little black box and about $115 a year to subscribe to the Globalstar satellite network.

The app is SPOT Connect, which allows any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (either wi-fi only or 3G) running iOS 3 or later to send SMS-style text messages or brief emails to anywhere in the world that is not covered by a mobile phone network.

It does this by pairing your iDevice with the SPOT Connect satellite communicator (the aforementioned little black box).

If you want to reassure people you're okay (or not!), you type messages on the iDevice keyboard, hit send and the communicator finds a satellite that connects to an earth station (Globalstar has dozens around the world) to send the message to the specified recipient.

Features include an SOS mode that sends your GPS location to the GEOS international emergency system every five minutes until your batteries die.

Why not just use an EPIRB? Because the EPIRB does nothing until it's activated, so if you haven't activated it, your relatives have no positive information that you are still okay and transmitting. So the SPOT messenger can allow you to say, 'I'm okay', or 'Yes there's a problem, send help'.

Messages can also be sent via Facebook and Twitter. The app is also available for Android.

Here's one http://www.findmespot.com/en/spotemergency/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=131:sailors-rescued-1400-miles-off-cape-cod-in-45-knot-winds-with-25-to-30-foot-seas&catid=55:spot-saves&Itemid=31!example of how a Spot messenger assisted - along with the yacht's EPIRB - in the rescue of some sailors in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 1400 miles from Cape Cod.

More info at http://international.findmespot.com