More positive developments for field folks. From the Thuraya partner (Geonix) site:
ThurayaRelay™ combines updated positioning services and the ThurayaLocate™ dynamics with a stream of new and useful features.
Supports two levels of alerts: basic position reports and emergency SOS requests for immediate assistance
Automatically relays SOS messages to multiple user defined e-mail addresses and mobile phones
Facilitates free-format text messages from user to centre to aid identification of assistance required
Provides detailed travel advice and risk assessment for every country worldwide
Provides timely incident reporting on inclement weather, terrorist or other threats as they occur
For more information, download the FAQs by clicking here.
ThurayaAssist™ provides you with access to a spectrum of services when you’re on the go both on the road and off the beaten track. With full global 24*7 voice assistance in emergency or for prior briefing, ThurayaAssist™ is the ultimate in personalised travel SOS services
In the event of an emergency or when faced by threats, you can call on a specialist security advisor who will advise, assist and co-ordinate effective response through to appropriate external services such as police, fire, ambulance, coastguard, embassies as well as relaying to friends, family and employers. All the time the security specialist knows exactly where you are from the emergency SOS report on his screen
The ThurayaAssist™ emergency response services are provided by the UK based global security specialists red24. Additional personalised corporate emergency and repatriation services are also available. For more information, download the FAQs by clicking here.
Thuraya has launched a new service called ThurayaLocate which allows you to track the position of any Thuraya phone in Google Maps and Virtual Earth. I am thrilled that Thuraya has decided to enter the geolocation fray. This product could prove a serious challenger to the app I have been helping the InSTEDD team with and to a lesser extent Nokia’s SportTracker and various iPhone Apps. Thuraya satellite phones are the workhorses of the humanitarian telecommunications arsenal.
From the Thuraya site:
Thuraya is pleased to announce the launch of ThurayaLocate, a free of charge GPS locating service that grants you an added sense of security by giving you the ability to send your location details from your Thuraya handset to family, friends, business associates or emergency services.
Developed by Geonix, the service works by:
• The Thuraya subscriber registering their handset for the ThurayaLocate service via www.thurayalocate.com
• Upon registration, the subscriber will receive a username and password to access the service. The subscriber decides which authorized people they will share the username and password with.
• After registering, the user acquires their GPS position using the standard features available on Thuraya handsets.
• This information is then sent manually via SMS to the ThurayaLocate operations center.
• The authorized parties log on to the website with the subscriber username and password.
• The web browser displays the handset location using maps, satellite images and aerial photography made available via Google Maps or Windows Virtual Earth.
Visit www.thurayalocate.com for more information and to register for the service.
Here’s a screenshot of the login page:
From the XSat USA website:
XSAT USA played an intricate role in the survival of two climbers after the recent mountain disaster on K2. A team of twenty two explorers were attempting to successfully reach the summit and descend the deadly K2 when disaster struck. While descending the mountain, an ice wall collapsed upon the weary climbers and destroyed the ropes and lines necessary for the safe descent. Team members were scattered throughout the mountain’s “dead zone” with no possible chance of survival without a rescue attempt. Survivor Wilco Van Rooijen used a Thuraya Satellite Phone to contact his brother in desperation. Rooijen’s brother contacted Tom Sjogren of the mountaineering website ExplorersWeb. Tom then reached XSAT USA President Jan Rademaker on Friday, August 1 at 10:30 p.m. in need of Satellite GPS coordinates from Van Rooijen’s call history. XSAT employees in Dubai managed to access the information necessary to mount a rescue attempt through Thuraya, a satellite communication company based out of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. When Rooijen used his phone to call his brother, his GPS location was saved at the Thuraya ground station in Sharjah, UAE, giving Pakistani helicopters a chance to rescue two of the stranded climbers. The men were successfully rescued and taken to a Pakistani hospital for frostbite treatment.
NPR’s Ivan Watson reports that Russian planes are continually bombing cell phone towers in an effort to knock out telecommunications networks and what’s left of the GSM network in the country only works sporadically. Also, he reports that the INTERNET in Georgia has been compromised by a cyberattack. This was reported earlier in the day by WIRED’s Danger Room. [Click here to listen to the NPR audio file.]
With an already limited GSM network in South Ossetia and Abkhazia now compromised by bomb attacks it seems that folks heading into Georgia have very little option other than Thuraya and Iridium satellite phones. While networks may work from time to time I am not sure anyone is going to want to rely on them as their only source of communication. With the INTERNET also under assault aid teams will also be relying on Inmarsat’s BGAN and the new ThurayaIP.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post here is Thuraya’s global coverage map. South Ossetia is close to the center of the the Thuraya-2 satellite’s footprint. For those agencies deploying to the region it may make sense to pack a Thuraya or Iridium phone as it looks like there may be an issue with GSM coverage in the NW region of South Ossetia.
Evan Henshaw-Plath, a.ka. Rabble, wrote to let me know that he has linked his SPOT to Twitter via Yahoo’s Fire Eagle. (You catch him on Twitter under his alias.) Check out this Twitter post:
rabble “Fire Eagle last spotted you 14 minutes ago at xxx NW Gxxxxx St, Portland, OR using SPOT Satellite Messenger. ” So cool. It Works
SPOT is a personal locator tool which uses GPS to find you and then uses a satellite network to send your location to folks that are following you. The data is a available in a variety of formats (GPX, GeoRSS and KML) and can easily be sent out via email, SMS or RSS.
Yahoo’s Fire Eagle is “the secure and stylish way to share your location with sites and services online while giving you unprecedented control over your data and privacy.” If you haven’t signed up for a Beta invite yet please do so here. Evan had a hand in creating Fire Eagle as well as Twitter. You can watch him here talking about Fire Eagle at eComm 2008:
By directing Fire Eagle to route his SPOT tracks to Twitter Evan can keep his followers informed of his whereabouts at all times. Evan also said that SPOT works just fine in a backpack so there should be no line-of-sight issues.
It makes me wonder if all the climbers on K2 (that I wrote about yesterday here) were carrying SPOT’s and had them set-up so that their teammates could follow them would more of them have survived? There are so many factors to consider that there cannot be one simple answer. We do know that one person survived thanks to the fact that they could identify and send their location via their Thuraya satellite phone.
This is the type of resourcefulness that I love to hear about. While the SPOT isn’t cheap at $169.99 it is unique in it’s abilities and if you are running off to the bush, and you are in a permissive environment, you might consider throwing one in your bag. Fire Eagle and Twitter are both free to use so once you’ve paid the upfront costs you can enable your entire network of friends and associates to follow your every move.
Posted in Gadgets
Tagged Fire Eagle, GeoRSS, GPS, KML, satellite, SMS, SPOT, telecommunications, Thuraya, Twitter, Yahoo
It seems Inmarsat has a serious challenger in the arena of satellite modems. With the recent launch of the ThurayaIP I am sure that many in the humanitarian community are now considering this newcomer as a worthy alternative to the BGAN. Until now the BGAN was really the only option for remote INTERNET connectivity when heading to the field. The spec’s are impressive (the size of an A5 sheet of paper, built in 802.11b WiFi, and Skype compatible) I think this new entry will give the venerable BGAN a run for it’s money.
Check this out:
- “Standard” background IP service with bandwidth of up to 444 Kbps for Internet access, etc
- Dedicated streaming IP services ranging from 16 Kbps to 384 Kbps for bandwidth hungry applications like video streaming.
- Absolutely Portable – Exceptionally small in size (A5 size), ThurayaIP can be easily moved across locations and set up instantly.
- Highly Competitive – Offers the most attractive and competitive service with volume based charging via various bundling options and unlimited usage price plans.
- Robust – Conforms to IP 55 standard ingress protection standards; enabling outdoor installation in extreme weather conditions for extended periods of time.
- Unmatched Flexibility – Easy to use in both portable and semi-fixed environments. Instant LAN setup through multi-user support allows an entire team to share a single unit.
- Convenience– Simply connect ThurayaIP to a laptop, point to the satellite and enjoy satellite Broadband services.
- Stand Alone – Easy to setup and start working- no laptop or PC is required to navigate setup. An embedded button and LCD in the terminal guides you through the whole setup control.
- Complete security with GmPRS encryption algorithm (GEA2) – Connect seamlessly via your preferred VPN application.
As a follow-up to the last post here is a news update on the climbers in Pakistan. Apparently, one climber was saved thanks to his ability to access GPS coordinates on his Thuraya. I am not certain how the coordinates were used but it seems as if he may have been sending his coordinates to his fellow climbers via SMS.
11:32 pm CDT Aug 02, 2008
(K2Climb.net) Norit expedition leader Dutch Wilco Van Rooijen has incredibly survived 3 nights exposure on the high slopes of K2.
He is currently in Camp 3, together with Cas and Pemba Sherpa. Yesterday, Wilco was located between camp 4 and 3 on the Cesen route thanks to GPS coordinates on his Thuraya sat phone, and later people in BC spotted him coming down very slowly under his own power.
It is for this very reason that I blogged about Twittering from Thuraya some months ago. The more easily people in the field can relay there location back to their support team the better.
Posted in News
Tagged GPS, SMS, Thuraya, Twitter
Satellite Today has some Thuraya news:
Thuraya has announced a slew of distribution agreements for its ThurayaIP service, the company said July 28. The operator has signed distribution agreements with: Fort Info Technology, GPTC, IEC, Indigo Airtime Ltd, NSSL, Satcom Group, Xsat Fze and Xtra-Link throughout the last few weeks. According to Thuraya, these distributors have established networks and extensive expertise in telecom retail and will cover all of Thuraya’s markets spanning Europe and Africa to the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
“The quick rollout of almost the whole first batch of ThurayaIP was largely anticipated, due to market need and the overall quality of the product, all in size, performance and pricing aspects,” Thuraya CEO Yousuf Al Sayed said in a statement. “The distribution chain has been upbeat and excited for its launch, which is driving the marketing momentum.”
WIRED magazine’s DangerRoom blog has a great article on Thuraya’s getting ripped off in Chad:
“If you’ve ever spent an entire day trying, and failing, to make one important phone call, as I just did here in sunny Chad, you might understand how tenuous communications are in a place like Central Africa.
So it’s no wonder that Thuraya satellite phones are among the hottest items in the whole region … and why these handy little phones are at the top of bandits’ and rebels’ wish lists.”
Posted in News
Tagged Chad, Thuraya, WIRED