Building custom SMS apps with the Garmin Inreach Explorer

jeegro

Adventurer
As a software developer, I had a cool idea to fool the InReach in being able to communicate with the internet.

The way the Inreach works, is: 1) Inreach must initiate communication with a phone number. 2) phone number can then reply back to the Inreach.

In other words, you can't randomly text an inreach device, the inreach must establish communication first. So you have to integrate a trusted intermediary to forward messages.

I made a simple proof of concept where I bought a phone number on Twilio, sent a text to it from the Inreach, and replied back to the inreach. It works.

Now comes the fun part... what functionality to build into it? I could program preset commands, e.g. send text: "weather" and it would reply back with the weather.

Some ideas:
  • Make sure my business web server is up and reboot it if needed
  • Some sort of vehicle breakdown SOS.. help needed here. How could it work? Would be cool to post to a regional Expo forum such as OverlandBound or here, asking if anyone is available to recover a vehicle, but I don't think I can do automated forum posts
  • See if I've received any email with "URGENT" in the subject line
  • For business, Gmail autoresponder that includes a link to a portal to escalate request, they'd fill out a message, and the web server would SMS my inreach.
 
Last edited:

greg.potter

Adventurer
This is something that I have been looking for and talking to InReach (Garmin), InReach resellers, weather forecast providers, and avalanche forecast providers for some time. My particular application is forwarding avalanche forecasts when spending extended periods in backcountry areas which won't have cell coverage (most of the mountain regions of western Canada). I will PM you and if you are interested I'd like to set up a conversation with one of the avalanche forecast providers in western Canada.
 

Airmapper

Explorer
What about using MapShare to monitor your location pings, (possibly accessible, but I woulden't know if it has any API or the like to allow it to be interpreted by automation) and have this automated service send a message to your inReach if a severe weather watch or warning applies to the area your last location ping sent was, perhaps based on how recent the ping was. I'm sure there would need to be several rules in place to prevent irrelevant messages being sent.

It may not be particularly timely for a warning if you are moving, given the lag time of all the things that must happen, (location pings anywhere from 10min-1hour, plus check for message send/receive is on at least 10 min intervals) but a severe weather watch alert might give you a heads up to pay closer attention to the weather when you are out of service, you would then know you should monitor NOAA radio to get more details.

Just an idea on how you might could use the information accessible from MapShare to give location based feedback. I wouldne't know if it's even feasible.
 

greg.potter

Adventurer
I think what Jeepgro was thinking of was more of data broker server that responded to very specific queries from an InReach and responded to the InReach with the requested information. All of the queries would have to be pre-configured on the server. The problem is there is currently no way to send unsolicited communication to an InReach, you can only respond to queries sent by the InReach. If you could set up unsolicited communication you could target RSS feeds or automated emails to the InReach.

Some of the newer InReach models support a weather reporting function, so Garmin has implemented in some limited manner. They probably just don't want to have to maintain a library of query functions at their end.
 

Airmapper

Explorer
The problem is there is currently no way to send unsolicited communication to an InReach, you can only respond to queries sent by the InReach. If you could set up unsolicited communication you could target RSS feeds or automated emails to the InReach.
Once a link is recently active, someone (or something) can send unsolicited messages TO an inReach. I think this just times out so if a link is abused, in time it goes dead and severs the ability to communicate. Say someone you wish would rather not bug you has a link, eventually they won't be able to send from it.

Even outside that, in MapShare you can compose and send messages from the web interface. That is able to be protected by a user defined password.
 

jeegro

Adventurer
You're both right, Airmapper is talking more about "push", whereas greg is talking about "pull". Both can work hand in hand. Pulling is simpler, whereas pushing requires smarter algorithms to determine what's relevant, as Airmapper mentioned.

Both are easily doable, the key is the intermediary trusted phone number - "the bot". As long as you send a message to the "bot" every now and then, that's enough to keep the line open and let you push and pull messages at any time, to the Inreach.

Weather is a great suggestion. Also thanks for the tip on the Mapshare, I didn't know that was possible. I'll probably still build my own interface to have people contact me - as this is for business use.

The primary things I want to solve are 1) maintaining my business on the road (handling urgent requests, making sure the web application is working), and 2) vehicle recovery.

I have a good plan for #1, but #2 is tough. I think the key is to tap into regional forum networks somehow. The idea is to try and get someone to help before shelling out 3 grand for a recovery.

I've also been looking into Satellite internet options, and the only somewhat promising one I can find is the Isathub, but it's spendy and slow. Commerical grade solutions are tens of thousands.
 
Top