Many in here are familiar, and some on here own, the Spot GPS Messenger. Since finding out about Personal Locator Beacons, which have some similarities with the SPOT, I have been conducting some research online the past few days as I have become more serious lately about laying down some cash on something that could make a difference for myself or people I am with in remote locations one day. The big thing for me is having something that is both reliable, but at the same time, if I can remove or reduce any ownership costs, that is a plus as well.
As you already may know, you must lay down an annual fee to the third party company that owns SPOT (on top of initial purchase price) to connect it to their network (and if you don't pay, it doesn't work!), where as most PLB's connect directly to the Search & Rescue network, you just have to register them after you purchase them. So over the course of ownership, a PLB is significantly cheaper by several hundred dollars despite the higher initial purchase price. Based on some research, it also sounds like depending on which PLB you get, it will probably be more reliable at sending out a signal that gets to the people you want it to. It also sounds like it will in most cases make Search & Rescues job easier in finding you due to the signals it transmits. What *most* PLB's don't offer however, are some of the features the SPOT which is a messenger feature, along with GPS tracking so you can see where you were, along with things like the ability to send out a non-SOS message for things like if you have a flat tire with no way to fix it, or things along those lines. So here are a couple links that will help you draw out your own conclusions that may or may not agree with mine but if you want to keep an open mind consider a PLB in your shopping if something to get you rescued in the back country interests you:
Here is a good link on how a well regarded PLB works (this is the one I am considering buying):
Backcountry Skiing Canada Page Unavialable: Backcountry Skiing Canada | Ski Touring Powder
A good comparison thread with some worthy info:
New ACR RESQLINK personal locator beacon (PLB)
Rescue devices: PLB and SPOT
One that maybe hits close to home (for myself anyways): North Vancouver woman rescued thanks to personal locator beacon - News - North Shore News
PLB, spot, etc, comparison (recent)
A few years old video:
And another (excellent) video:
Here is an OUTSTANDING blog post form a search and rescuer fairly local to me on an actual rescue that involved a PLB (excellent read, lots of good points): http://blog.oplopanax.ca/2011/08/per...s-perspective/
Keep in mind the bottom line was the PLB at the very least despite the crappy weather gave the search and rescue at least a rough idea where the people were.
And if you want more info search "PLB vs Spot"