Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Adventure Tech: Iridium Announces New Voice And Data Device - the Iridium Go

Earlier today, satellite communication company Iridium announced a great new product that has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate while in the remote places of the planet. The new device is called the Iridium Go, and the tiny gadget will give you the ability to make voice calls, send text messages, share social media updates, and more, all from the smartphone that you already own.

The Go somewhat resembles a mobile WiFi hotspot that are commonly used to connect laptops and other gadgets to cellular data networks. In this case however, the device actually connects to Iridium's satellite network instead. It then appears as a WiFi base station to your smartphone, allowing it to connect and use the Go's satellite signal to send and receive messages, connect to the web, post updates to Facebook and Twitter, share photos and of course make phone calls.

The Go will allow up to five devices, such as tablets, laptops, and smartphones, to connect at any given time. It also enables GPS location services for those devices, and has a built in SOS service to call for aid should the need arise. It puts all of those features into a small, compact package that won't take up a lot of room in a pack or add much in the way of weight either.

Iridium's approach of creating a device that allows us to use our own smartphones has a number of great advantages. For instance, you can use what ever phone you currently own at any given time, which means you'll be able to upgrade to new technology, while still being able to use the Go. It also means that your favorite apps can operate over the device too. And since it has a range of more than 100 feet, the Go can be set outside, in a location with a clear view of the sky, while you sit comfortably inside your tent, fully connected from your device.

The ruggedized Go is built to withstand the elements. It is water and dust proof, and is designed to withstand the shock of being dropped or jostled about. The device is designed to be taken to the remote corners of the world, and Iridium has built it to withstand the harshest environments, including the Himalaya and Antarctica.

At the moment, Iridium is planning on releasing Go apps for iOS and Android devices. That app will handle most of the communication between your smartphone and the satellite communications device. Those apps will be fully optimized to take advantage of the satellite data connection, compressing photos and messages down for more efficient sharing. The app will also be used to make phone calls, although it will have full access to the contacts you have stored on your device.

I'm told that using the Iridium Go will be simple to use. All you need to do is flip up its built in antenna and power the it on. After it establishes a connection to the satellites overhead, your smartphone will begin using it as its data source. The Go is also built to take advantage of Iridium Next, which is the company's second generation satellite network. Next is still a few years away from going into service, but it will provide much faster data options moving forward.

Iridium has also been working hard to develop an API for the GO, giving app developers the tools they need to make their programs compatible with the device. Those tools are said to have been well received so far, which means we could see some very cool integration with the Go and other apps in the future.

The Iridium Go is scheduled for a second quarter release this year, although no firm date has been set yet. The price is still in fluctuation as the engineers work on the final design and focus on getting battery life fine tuned. I'm told to expect it to be roughly around $800, although that could change before release. Service plans are also being tested at the moment, but Iridium promise that they will be more cost effective than past plans, especially considering the device can be shared with numerous people.

Look for more information on this product in the near future. I personally think that it has a ton of great potential, and I can't wait to hear how it works in the field.

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