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#186836 - 08/27/14 11:08 AM Android sms beacon app
fedepaol Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/27/14
Posts: 3
Hi there, I am an hobbyist android developer. I have been asked by a guy who hikes alone to develop an app that sends the phone location periodically (let's say every 15 minutes or so) via sms to a list of numbers.
Do you guys think that it might be useful?

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#186837 - 08/27/14 12:46 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: fedepaol]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
Possibly useful in hiking areas with reliable coverage. I have InReach tracking that leaves a breadcrumb trail for my subscribers to follow, but it uses a sat network to communicate so is "in reach" 90% of the time. I rarely hike where there's a cell signal so have no use for what you're describing.

Also, does your friend know about Strava?

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#186846 - 08/27/14 09:11 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: Rick_D]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6401
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
There are, I understand, a number of GPS apps for various cell phones. Many of them only work where a cell tower can be accessed, and out here in the West we are often well away from cell phone coverage. A few, I have been told, access sattelite signals and work in airplane mode. I don't use GPS (prefer map and compass, no batteries needed), so I really don't pay much attention. I normally leave my cell phone in the car, since it's generally useless even at the trailhead.


Edited by OregonMouse (08/27/14 09:13 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#186854 - 08/28/14 03:17 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: OregonMouse]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
FWIW today's smartyphones all have a GPS chip and antenna, so can function as a standalone GPS even sans a cell signal. One has to anticipate and download the appropriate basemap before leaving town however, otherwise the location will appear on an otherwise blank screen, rather limiting one's navigation.

My experience navigating by phone is it's great from the aspect of the big, sharp screen but lousy from the lack of easy-to-use controls and tools, and horrid power consumption. The GPS antenna isn't a match for a "real" GPS unit, either.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#186860 - 08/28/14 10:43 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: fedepaol]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
OM, I did a google search a few weeks ago, there have been quite a few people rescued because they had a cell phone and were able to be located or able to make a call.

If I'm not mistaken, someone was rescued within the past few weeks in OR or WA, I think they got stuck on a cliff face or fell or something like that, and I've heard of at least a couple more in CA this year.

I almost never use my cell phone, but I do bring it with me when I travel and hike. I turn it off when I hike, but I bring it. They do offer a layer of safety that no other device can offer and even if they're not 100% reliable it'd be better to have one than not when they do get a signal. They can, and have, helped save backpackers and hikers lives.

fedepaol, I still haven't looked at your app yet, and the link was removed. I'm sure that's because you're a new member here, you have to post a few more times before you can add links, but it'd be okay for you to repost the name of the app and tell us where to find it until then, and I'd really like to hear more about your work on it.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#186863 - 08/29/14 05:56 AM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: OregonMouse]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By OregonMouse
There are, I understand, a number of GPS apps for various cell phones. Many of them only work where a cell tower can be accessed, and out here in the West we are often well away from cell phone coverage. A few, I have been told, access sattelite signals and work in airplane mode. I don't use GPS (prefer map and compass, no batteries needed), so I really don't pay much attention. I normally leave my cell phone in the car, since it's generally useless even at the trailhead.


I live in Colorado. The cell phone is almost always useless at the trailhead. However, there is often a signal at high points when I can see a distant town. Sometimes I forget to turn the phone off and I get calls in surprising places.

I wouldn't depend on a cell phone, but I carry one because it might work in some areas. Leave it turned off unless needed or it will drain the battery.

_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#186865 - 08/29/14 10:33 AM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: fedepaol]
fedepaol Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/27/14
Posts: 3
Thanks for the feedback. I suspected that kind of app was not as useful as I was told of, now I'm pretty sure.


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#186866 - 08/29/14 10:35 AM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: billstephenson]
fedepaol Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/27/14
Posts: 3
Originally Posted By billstephenson
fedepaol, I still haven't looked at your app yet, and the link was removed. I'm sure that's because you're a new member here, you have to post a few more times before you can add links, but it'd be okay for you to repost the name of the app and tell us where to find it until then, and I'd really like to hear more about your work on it.


I did not develop it yet (nor I will, based on the feedbacks I am receiving). I was just asking if something like that would make sense before start developing something that nobody would use.

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#186867 - 08/29/14 12:07 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: fedepaol]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I did not develop it yet (nor I will, based on the feedbacks I am receiving). I was just asking if something like that would make sense before start developing something that nobody would use. [/quote]

I made a pretty simple app a few years ago you can show your friend. It's a "Web App", meaning you need a connection to use it and it has a feature that let's you send an email that contains your lat/lon and a pre-filled message saying "I'm OK", or "Send Help". You can change or add to the message. You can find it at www.navigraphic.com.

I'd be more than glad to share to code with you if you're interested in playing with it.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#186872 - 08/30/14 11:29 AM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: fedepaol]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3571
Loc: Texas
BIG WORD OF WARNING WHEN USING CELL PHONES AS SAFETY DEVICES!!!
They rarely work in the back country.

As a ham radio operator, I know a thing or two about RF, cell phones, sat phones, etc. .....and fell into my own trap when trying to use texting to report positions. The story:
A couple years ago, I did a solo motorcycle ride up Old Ore Road in Big Bend National Park. My friend stayed behind in camp. I agreed to text my condition every few miles. Both our phones showed service at some level the entire ride. Having a great ride, I sent about 10 texts, and tried to call. The texts looked like they went through. The calls went to voice mail. Finally I receive a text from him saying "haven't heard from you in three hours. One more hour and I will start search." grin I high tail it back and find him loading up the truck to head to the ranger station.
His cell service was Verison, mine ATT. He received all my texts the next morning!

So, in my experience, amateur radio (or a dedicated radio service), sat phones, SPOT (sat based service), will likely work. Cell service should be only considered a convenience, not a solution.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#186876 - 08/30/14 05:23 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: Dryer]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By Dryer
BIG WORD OF WARNING WHEN USING CELL PHONES AS SAFETY DEVICES!!!
They rarely work in the back country.
...

So, in my experience, amateur radio (or a dedicated radio service), sat phones, SPOT (sat based service), will likely work. Cell service should be only considered a convenience, not a solution.


I agree that Cell Phones are not safety devices and shouldn't be considered one, but I'd bet a few beers as to which of those four options led to the most rescues of backpackers in the past two years. I have no stats to reference, but if I were to bet I'd bet cell phones are #1 and I'd bet a beer on the side that it's by a fairly large margin.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#186877 - 08/30/14 05:26 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: billstephenson]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Of course, that might just mean that backpackers that carry cell phones need more rescuing laugh
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#186880 - 08/30/14 11:22 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: OregonMouse]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6401
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Bill, I carry a Personal Locator Beacon for emergencies; it's far superior to a cell phone that does't work most of the places I hike.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#186885 - 08/31/14 08:59 AM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: billstephenson]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3571
Loc: Texas
Oh, you'd win, but it's because pretty much 100% of the population carry them now and if that's what you got that's what you'll use. If there is coverage, so be it. We had a deputy sheriff lay in a creek bed three hours with broken ribs (mountain bike accident) in my park because he was below grade and couldn't get a signal....5 bars had be been standing on the trail! So, if a cell phone works, great! PLB or SPOT would have worked. A whistle would have worked for the sheriff. grin
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#186886 - 08/31/14 01:19 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: Dryer]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I always carry a whistle too grin

The cell phone rescue numbers are a result of accessibility, not dependability, no doubt about that, but that's not cause to dismiss their ability to enhance a rescue opportunity.

I would say that in this day and age for one to advise in essence that a cell phone is of no use so don't carry one because it provides a false sense of security is, simply put, not very good advice.

One might advise that a SPOT or PLB is more reliable, and thus a better choice, and maybe stand on solid ground, but one has to ignore the numbers to advise cell phones are not worth carrying because the evaluation of those numbers mostl likely overwhelmingly proves carrying a cell phone can be helpful.

In this equation it's important to consider accessibility to the devices in question, in fact, in the real world it's necessary. It's also important to consider that in the real world a cell phone can be useless, better than nothing, and far better than either a SPOT or PLB in aiding a rescue.

We have all this tech, but what we don't have is what the OP asked about. We're just not there yet, but it's not hard to imagine we will be soon.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#186887 - 08/31/14 02:12 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: billstephenson]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2860
Loc: Portland, OR
We are drifting away from the sms system, but toward an interesting side subject.

I carry a PLB for most hikes I take, but not a cell phone. However, it is important to understand that a 911 call initiated through a cell phone may get a SAR team into the field more rapidly than a PLB would, because the 911 operator can make immediate, direct contact with your local sheriff's office.

If you initiate a SAR attempt by using a PLB you are contacting a communications center of the U.S. Coast Guard (located in D.C., I believe) and before initiating a search they will attempt to reach the contact person you listed with them when you registered the PLB to verify that the signal they are getting is from a place where you might be. This does involve more delays than a 911 call. The compensating benefit is that a PLB works almost anywhere there is sky overhead, while cell coverage is a gamble.

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#186888 - 08/31/14 02:54 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: aimless]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
IF a search is ongoing, they can pick up your cellphone's signal with the right gear, so it's helpful to have it switched on even when you're out of coverage.

File under: Better than nothing.

I chose InReach for the two-way texting. While I can imagine its helpfulness in an emergency, I also hope to never test that. What I do, is have the folks at home daily send me the next three days' weather, which can be one way to stay out of trouble to begin with. Of course, it also gives them a way to let you know the teevee is going out.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#186889 - 08/31/14 04:40 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: Rick_D]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6401
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
My cellphone switches off when there's no reception, so would be extremely useless in any situation where there is no reception, which is 95% of the area I hike in. As mentioned, I usually run out of cell phone coverage long before reaching the trailhead in my car! That's the reality of hiking in the western mountains--never, never rely on a cell phone!

In my case, SAR will know I have a PLB because that's how they'll be notified in the first place, and they can triangulate on that if the GPS fix is not sufficient.


Edited by OregonMouse (08/31/14 04:41 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#186897 - 09/01/14 10:28 AM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: OregonMouse]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3571
Loc: Texas
I suppose the wisest choice of emergency communications mode is to know what is likely to work where you are going.
In my sailboats/kayaks, I'll carry both a marine radio and a cell phone. Sometimes 911 won't work on the water.
Sat phones, hopefully, will become more affordable...they have come way down.
One thing that has never failed me but has been used as only a hobby in the boonies is HF ham radio. I've always been able to make contact but the equipment is not necessarily light weight (2 lbs.), license required (except in an emergency), and some skills are needed. The signal goes around the world if conditions are right.

I do carry a cell phone now, even when coverage is not expected...sometimes...because of stored maps. My old gps lays in the drawer back home. Whistle, map and compass, always.

A friend who hikes the same desert I do, but always solo, puts me on his SPOT email receive list. I find that very useful. I get reports of his whereabouts several times a day. Even if he hasn't changed the message from "OK", but sits in one place very long, I'll know something's up and can call the ranger station. It's been 100% reliable the last three years.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#187023 - 09/07/14 01:32 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: Dryer]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
I like Glenn's answer from some time back. Carry a deck of cards with you. If you get in trouble, start to play solitaire. Pretty soon, someone will show up to tell you to put the black Queen on the red King.
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#187056 - 09/10/14 02:03 PM Re: Android sms beacon app [Re: fedepaol]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
looking at my Android phone, and the google play store, I found a couple apps that already do what you describe. FWIW
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I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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