Sunday, June 3, 2012

Installing the Spot Hug

This was my first adventure in playing with a Spot Hug. This is a clever system. It lets your friends and family see where you are. It tracks your progress, you can send an SOS message to the Spot monitoring center, and if the boat was stolen, Spot Hug will let you know, and tell you where it is.

I'm going to just deal with the installation of the system, and I will put some specific links to Panbo at the end of this missive where you can read what Ben Ellison has to say about the system.

The contents of the box are below with the exception of the user instructions, and the quick start guide. However what's missing from the box is instructions on how to install the Spot Hug. I have been informed they are working hard on this. So in the interim, you get me, and I will provide a link for a You Tube video by Spot talking a about this.

All three of the Spot Hug pieces of gear require batteries to operate. The key fob, and the keypad both use quarter sized CR2032 batteries. The tracker (GPS) uses Energizer AA non-rechargeable lithium cell batteries, although you can use regular AA cells, albeit it with a much shorter life. Spot does advise that rechargeable lithium cell batteries will damage the unit. The AA cells in the tracker unit take over if ships power is lost.

The Spot Hug comes with a tiny screw driver, but I found it easier to use a real screw driver. Starting with the key fob, remove the four screws from the back, and open the unit. The screws are tiny, so take care not to lose them.

Check the four screw mounting studs for any damage. If one or more of them are broken, this will affect the performance of the gasket. The fob is paired with the system, and if damaged you should return the entire system, and swap it out for a brand new one. Insert the battery, and put the unit back together taking care the gasket is in the right place. When installing the screws take care not to over tighten them.

Now do the same thing for the keypad. The device is sturdier, and the screws are a little larger, but again don't over tighten them.

You will now need your writing apparatus, so stop now, and find your inkwell and goose quill pen. Open the tracker and write down the ESN number and authorization code in your user manual. You will need these numeric runes when you activate it.

With the lithium batteries installed, look at the LED's. One of them should blink green once every ten seconds. No blinky, double check you have the lithium batteries installed correctly. Blinky? You're done. Carefully put the case back together. With the batteries in all of the devices set them together, and press "Check OK" one at a time on all three. What you should see is the red LED's doing a momentary lighting in clockwise pattern. 

Where to put the tracker unit requires a bit of touchy-feely. Unlike pure anti-theft systems, you will need to access the tracker from time to time for either potential firmware updates, or battery change outs. It's also nice to be able to see the LED's and the units status. So if its located in an impossible place to access, it makes the periodic maintenance difficult. If it's out in the open, a savvy thief can quickly disable it.

The tracker also has to have a view of the GPS satellites. The system can see through fiberglass, so on this boat it was located in a inconspicuous upper corner of the console. You can't see it unless you climb in, look back, and then up. I also did a good job of making the wiring disappear. You just have to use your best judgement here.

The ship's power hook up is straight forward. the wire harness is about 6' long, and has a series of happy colored wires for external contacts that can be used for high water, low voltage, door opening alarms, and the ilk. There is also a red, and black wire. 

You attach the included fuse holder (1 amp) to the red wire, and connect it to the positive lead of one of the batteries, and attach the black lead to the same battery's negative post. To check if all is well, look at the power LED on the tracker. It should now be blinking every 3 seconds now indicating it is using ships power instead of its internal batteries. Now fasten the keypad in a convenient, but sheltered dry location. At this point, it's installed, and I'm done. If I hadn't been taking pictures, and asking Spot's tech support staff a zillion question, this would have taken about an hour to do.

This is a clever, and affordable way to provide your boat contact with the outside world.  The Spot installation video assumes you will assemble the system, register it, check whether it up-links, and sends your smart phone/computer an e-mail. Then you install it.

In my case, I'm given a box, and told to make it work. I know it did because right, because I didn't have an anxious owner calling me forthwith advising me of my failure. So I have a box, no owner's smart phone, and no access to an account that hasn't been activated, and it still all worked out fine.

I would advise that a spare full set of batteries be on hand at all times.  The low battery alarm is a red LED that blinks for 60 seconds, and you could easily miss that.

The boat's movement alarm automatically activates when the key fob is more than about 60' away from the boat, and disarms the system when the key fob is present. You can also use the key pad for this function. Keep this in mind. You leave the boat at the dock with your keys in your pocket at the marina. The kids pick the boat up with the fork truck, and trundle it over to the high dry facility, over 1500' away. Oops, the boat has been stolen, and you get an e-mail. Just remember this when you take the key fob away from the boat.

Very nice product, but Spot does need to work on the documentation soonest.

Panbo's "Adventure Zone, and more Spot Hug details."
Panbo's "DeLorme communicator & Hug
Spot Hug Quick start guide, and specs.
Spot You Tube installation video.


  1. Bill, I commend you on your in depth installation instructions. You are absolutely correct about Spot Hug documentation on their product. Very, Very, vague and incomplete on their directions.
    Are there schematics available that show what each wire of the cable (7 additional connectors)are supposed to control?

  2. Anon, look at this link.

    It's kind of a wonky way to show, and describe it, but to start the Spot Hug only senses a contact changing state. For example if you had a normally open switch and you want to know it has closed, you would use either the green or blue pairs. What the diagram is showing is what state of contact sense creates the alarm, ie open, or closed. So when it says open on the diagram, what you want is a contact that is normally closed. When it shows closed you want a switch that is normally open. It is a bit confusing, and it would have been clearer if they had just said the purple pair is for a normally closed switch, and the green pair is for a normally open switch. Hopes this helps.