A few days ago Garmin released a new little Geocaching product called the “Chirp”. This is a little wireless beacon that runs on their ANT wireless protocol, meaning it can communicate with any other Garmin ANT-enabled devices.
The basic idea of this is that you place this little device in your cache. When a GeoCacher with an ANT-enabled Garmin device comes within 10m they can then pick up the signal it is transmitting. This signal can push additional hints, or coordinates and can confirm that the cache is nearby.
The little battery in the device can last up to a year, so there’s no worries about that, however it can’t broadcast signal through metal, meaning if it’s in a ammo can then it will only really be usable when you open the lid. The device is also waterproof, but like most waterproof devices this means don’t submerge it, but it will cope if the cache leaks.
They are retailing in the US at around $20 at the moment. My initial thought was what if someone steals it? However there’s a fair bit of security and after the Chrip is programmed it is then locked to the device that you programmed it with unless you know the last 5 digits of the unit ID that you programmed it with. After entering this you can then use a different device to control it. This owning device can also erase the chirp for re-use.
It seems that this little device is only available in the US at the moment. However I’m sure it won’t be long before we see it. I however won’t be buying one as in my opinion it’s pretty pointless. It means that not only do you limit the finders to Garmin devices, but only Garmin devices that have ANT (Wireless) enabled. That knocks my Dakota 10 and anyone with older Garmins or iPhones, Droids, etc. out of the game . The only supported devices are: Dakota 20, GPSMAP 62s, 62st and 78s and Oregon 300, 400t, 450, 450t, 550, 550t. What a massive limitation.
It’s an interesting way to go though and would be brilliant if there was a shared wireless protocol among all (or most) Geocaching-capable devices, which I’m sure (or hope) one day there will be. Wi-fi is the obvious one, however nowadays in these little devices would probably draw too much battery power hence the reason for other wireless protocols like ANT, Zigbee, and Wibree. In my opinion, it’s just a bit ahead of it’s time.
What do you think? Can you think of a cache you could lay using the Chirp? Or would you not bother due to the compatibility restrictions?