Tiny GPS Beacon

An old coffee can filled with knickknacks or a screw-shut piece of PVC pipe stashed full of plastic toys often stands in as the checkpoint cache for participants in the activity of geocaching. This week, Garmin International Inc. offers a tech item that could stand in to significantly upgrade the caching part of the geocache game. The Chirp device is a wireless beacon about the size of a quarter. It is compatible with any wireless-enabled Garmin handheld GPS device, and its functions include the ability to load and store geocache hints, transmit coordinates, and count the number of visitors that have found your digital cache in the woods.

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Garmin Chirp GPS beacon

Chirp modules cost about $23 apiece. They are durable and waterproof, and they come with a replaceable battery that Garmin says can last for up to one year of use. Says the Garmin press material on the Chirp, “when geocachers arrive near a cache, they’ll be alerted that the cache is nearby, and then they’ll be able to access the hints you’ve loaded into chirp.” In other words, hints on other caches nearby or additional information will appear on the screen of the geocacher’s handheld GPS.

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Onscreen: Data transmits wirelessly from the Chirp to a handheld GPS

My thought: Beyond geocaching, could the Chirp be used as a “checkpoint” in the sport of orienteering or adventure racing? Seems like a Garmin digital cache — as opposed to old-school pin-stamp punches or esoteric “e-punches” from the likes of SPORTident — might open up the possibilities of what a race director could do during any number of navigation-based outdoor events. Better than old toys in a coffee can, to be sure.

—Stephen Regenold

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