Reason #256 for why I never leave the house without my Garmin InReach Mini: things always go wrong at the most inconvenient times. You know, like when you're mid-air in a small aircraft that decides it's finished flying for the day.
When Matt Lehtinen’s single-engine Cirrus crashed into the asshole end of Quebec's vast wilderness, he was packed and ready for the worst, with a satellite communications device, first aid kit and a few essential survival sundries. Having made it out of the hard landing that left his aircraft a write-off, he immediate fired off an SOS and started a fire. As if starting a survival fire and keeping an eye out for search and rescue personnel weren't enough to do, while he waited to be retrieved, Lehtinen also took the time to make a vlog of his ordeal. It's a great idea: if you get out in one piece, you've got a testament to the fact that staying calm and being properly equipped for an emergency situation can save your life. Alternatively, if he was eaten by a bear while waiting for a SAR flight to pop by, at least folks would know what happened to him. Read the rest
If you spend your life in cities or on the interstates that connect them to one another, it’s easy to forget that there are parts of the world where cellular connectivity simply doesn’t exist. Right now, I’m 45 minutes from the nearest town, sitting in a motorhome, surrounded by nothing but trees. Out here, a busy day consists of seeing a few logging trucks or maybe some elk wander by. It’s remote, but I’m still able to connect to the Internet and do my job over my cellphone’s cellular connection. I can amplify my connection to cell towers using a cellular booster that I installed on our rig, earlier this year. But there have been instances where we’ve found ourselves far enough out in the sticks that I couldn’t find a cell signal to save my life. That’s why a device like Garmin’s InReach Mini is so cool. It’s a tiny satellite-connected communications device that lets me stay in touch with the outside world even when the outside world is too far away to connect to.
At 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03” in size and weighing less than four ounces, this thing is designed for the backpacking crowd. It has an IPX7 rating, so it’s OK to clip it to your belt or a backpack without fear of it being fried in a downpour while you’re out and about. That’s good news, as the Mini needs a clear view of the sky for it to connect to Iridium satellite network in order to do its thing. Read the rest
We’ve known for a while that military personnel using GPS-enabled health tracking apps and accessories in sensitive operational areas was kind of a problem, from an intelligence standpoint. Such appliances make it wicked easy for someone to check in on the wearer’s daily routine, whereabouts or, should enough people in an operational area use the same service like Strava, figure out where personnel congregate at certain times of the day, no satellite surveillance or human intelligence assets required. Well, it looks like the Department of Defense has finally decided to do something about it: As of right now, DoD employees are no longer allowed to wear or use a wide variety of health tracking hardware.
The ban was first announced in an August 3 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. It follows a months-long investigation into the use of location-tracking apps after the fitness app Strava published a global heat map that accidentally revealed the locations of several United States military bases. The Pentagon’s response also comes after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress calling for “enhanced assessments and guidance … to address security risks in DoD” posed by internet of things devices.
How the United States military will enforce this ban is anyone’s guess, at this point. According to Stars & Stripes, it’s not immediately clear what the punishment for accidentally tracking your run with your smartphone might be, or what consequences a solider might face for intentionally wearing their Fitbit into a war zone (what time was it and what was your heart rate when you were being shot at? Read the rest