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How Does Iridium Satellite Communications Work When Using the Garmin inReach and Zoleo for Communicating With Family and Friends

With the increase in popularity of outdoor activities, Garmin and Zoleo have made it easier to stay connected with friends and family. Satellite communication devices like the Garmin inReach mini and embedded products and Zoleo Satellite communicator can now send text messages, GPS locations, SOS alerts for emergencies, as well as tracking data from these devices back home to those who are concerned about them. However, there is a lot that goes into satellite communications technology before this type of device works properly. This blog post will outline how Iridium satellite communications work when using these types of devices so you can make an educated decision on whether or not they’re right for you!

Iridium Satellite Network

First thing is to know about the Iridium satellite network. The Iridium satellite constellation is a network of 66 low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites. These satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 48 degrees north and south latitude, which means they are able to provide service to two-thirds of the globe. This also includes much of the polar regions where other satellite networks do not have coverage. This means that you can use satellite phone or text devices that use the Iridium network to communicate from anywhere around the globe except for these location:

  • The poles
  • Underwater
  • Inside a building or cave

The Iridium satellite network was designed for use in the most extreme environments and is the only satellite network that has coverage over both the North and South Poles. This also makes it an ideal choice for marine applications as well as other outdoor activities where cell phone service is limited or non-existent.

Obviously when using a satellite communication tool, your device needs a clear line of sight to the sky. Garmin InReach and ZOLO satellite devices both use the Iridium network.

For an emergency it is a great tool to have when you need help. This device allows you also both tracking and navigation even in remote areas, which makes this tools a must for hikers, climbers or mountain bikers that venture into the wilderness alone.

Another interesting feature worth mentioning of these devices is that they can be paired with your smartphone.

What Happens when you trigger a SOS?

Your emergency contacts will receive an email or text message with your GPS coordinates and a link to a tracking page where they can see your location in real-time. They will also be able to communicate with you through the two-way texting capability of the device. And, if help is on the way, they can follow your progress until you are in safety.

GEOS is the main emergency response monitoring service found on both Garmin inReach and ZOLEO. They have a team of highly trained professionals who are available 24/365 to coordinate emergency responders in your area.

If you’re ever lost, injured, or stranded and need assistance from GEOS, just push the SOS button on your device and help will be on the way.

Remember that an activated SOS is not only going to notify your emergency contacts, but GOES will also triage down to the local authorities.

Getting Weather Forecasts From inReach and ZOLEO

Both inReach and ZOLEO offer weather forecasts provided by DarkSky.

DarkSky is a weather forecasting service that provides hyper-localized forecasts for specific locations.

Their entire forecast system operates on an algorithm which calculates the local temperature, humidity levels, wind speeds and direction, pressure readings from multiple sources (including NOAA), cloud coverage percentages throughout the day, precipitation amounts/type over time as well as sun rise and an outlook over 3 to 5 days. DarkSky was purchased by Apple a dew years ago so it remains to be seen if they will continue to provide access to the API.

Sharing your location while hiking

Another feature of these devices is to allow your friends or family to track your progress by viewing your position on a map. This is done by sending an “I’m OK” message from the device which will include your location coordinates. You can also share your location with specific contacts for a period of time, or indefinitely. This can be helpful if you want someone to know where you are in case of an emergency.

Check Out Our Tutorials

Want to know more about inReach or ZOLEO? Just watch our short how-to tutorials.

By Jim Cyr

Exploring Nova Scotia with a constellation of satellites to guide me along the way. Producing hiking, outdoors, local drink & food videos, you can find Jim's contributions on novascotiablogs.com and a few other places. Jim carries a ZOLEO Satellite Communicator for all of his outdoor adventures.