Staying connected on a ride can be as simple as sending a text to let family and friends know you’re taking on extra miles. I very rarely go out riding by myself as I prefer the comfort of knowing someone will be there to scrape me up off the trail if I find the edge of my grip. If I am out on a solo mission, I let my partner know exactly where I’m going, and i’ll send a text update if I decide to change course mid-ride. However, you don’t have to go very far into the hills before cell service falls off a cliff and you are, for real, on your own. Somewear provide one convenient solution to this very problem with the personal satellite communicator, Somewear Global Hotspot.
Somewear Global Hotspot GEOS Device
The 4oz (114 gram), compact Somewear unit pairs with iOS & Android devices to provide global 2-way text, location sharing, weather updates, and emergency SOS services via the professional global emergency response organization, GEOS Worldwide. The Somewear Global Hotspot uses the Iridium satellite network, the most reliable satellite communication network in space today. With a cross-linked Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) constellation of 66 active satellites, Iridium provides 100% global coverage across oceans, airways and polar regions.
For all features, save for the SOS services, the Somewear unit needs to be connected to the Somewear app on your IOS or Android device. The two connect over Bluetooth Low Energy so long as they remain within 10 ft of one another (with no major obstruction). Through the app, you can text any Canadian or American cell phone number that is stored in your phone’s contact list, and send emails to any email address. You can also connect with anyone who also has the Somewear app, messaging directly through the app service. This service would be perfect for regrouping in the event of expedition groups becoming separated, or for simply updating your base contact about your location, and and change of route plan. You can also instantly inform your contact of your location by dropping them a pin.
To turn on the tracking feature, you simply select the “Tracking” tab in the app, select the track and share icon, and select the “+” icon to add up to 10 contacts who may then track your location simultaneously. A location pin will be dropped and shared with your contacts at 30 minute intervals. On a bicycle especially, it is possible to travel some distance in the space of 30 minutes. You can provide your contacts with a more accurate location while on the move through using the two-way messaging service. The Somewear app also has map functionality. You can download maps while in cellular service for use offline – but they can’t be downloaded off-grid using satellites. You have to plan ahead!
The Somewear global hotspot gets its weather data of your current location only using the Dark Sky weather app. Every time you request a weather forecast you will receive a 24-hour report and a weekly report with temperature, precipitation and sunrise/sunset data.
SOS Service with two-way comms
Unlike Spot Tracker, a similar tracking device popular with off-road cyclists, the Somewear Global Hotspot provides two-way comms on its SOS feature. In most scenarios two-way communications improve response times and effectiveness. To send an SOS call to initiate a rescue, you must first remove the blue cap on the top of the device to press the SOS button – comforting to know you won’t accidentally press it when it is knocking around in your pack! A white light will confirm the SOS message has been sent, while a second white light will turn on confirming the message has been received. Once the SOS distress call has been transmitted you can start a conversation with your emergency responders through the app, letting them know critical information about your particular emergency situation. In the event that you did accidentally press the SOS button or decided you were no longer in need of a full blown rescue, the SOS call can be just as easily cancelled.
Notably, the Somewear Global Hotspot weighs just 114 grams, a very acceptable weight penalty for the peace of mind it brings when exploring off grid. The device charges rapidly, from 0% to 100% in just 1 hour. On a full charge it can can send and receive 1k text messages or send a location pin every 10 minutes for 11 days. The Somewear unit is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than most other devices of its kind, which tend to look more like retro walkie-talkies. It is a nice size and can be clipped on to a rucksack or stowed away inside a pocket neatly.
It is waterproof rated to IPX7 standards, meaning it can cope with being submerged in up to 3 ft of water for 30 minutes. One of its drawbacks, which would foreseeably be true for any satellite communication device, is that it can only be used optimally when it has a clear line of sight to the sky – obstructions like tall buildings and, more likely, dense forestry, will reduce the signal and increase battery usage. The most obvious drawback to me as a mountain biker is that, if the worst were to happen and I ended up unconscious trailside after a big over-the-bars, I’d be in no fit state to send said SOS distress signal. This is where other devices such as the accelerometer-based IceDot come into their own. When the g-force experienced by the helmet-worn IceDot device exceed a threshold value, it sends a message to the bluetooth paired device, initiating a countdown sequence. If the rider is unconscious and unable to halt the countdown, a call is immediately placed to emergency contacts and first responders. That said, you need to be within cellular range for this to work, Swings and roundabouts, as they say.
Pricing & Availability
The Somewear Global Hotspot will set you back $349 initially, but there is a monthly subscription fee to be paid on top of this with several data plans available from $15 to $50 per month, or $100 per year. Units are available now direct from Somewear.