Garmin Chirp: Genius or Criminal?
The recent release of the Garmin Chirp has brought a whole new innovation to geocaching that lots of people are talking about. On first impression it looks to be a great new toy that will add to the geocaching experience. From the Garmin release:
Geocachers now have a new trick up their sleeves – and in their caches – as we’re introducing chirp, a unique wireless beacon designed specifically for the outdoor adventures of geocaching. Affordable, durable and waterproof, chirp can communicate with, and be programmed by, any compatible wireless-enabled Garmin handheld for a more interactive and enjoyable geocaching experience. Cache creators and seekers alike will enjoy the benefits as chirp stores hints, transmits multicache coordinates, counts visitors and confirms the cache is nearby.
It has even managed to get some good reviews very early on. The Chirp brings to they actual cache a level of technology that I think technology crazy geocachers crave. My first thought when I found out about the Chirp was “I want one”.
But my second thought on the Garmin Chirp is that it’s downright criminal.
Firstly it appears that they went ahead and released this new toy without letting Groundspeak know about it. In my experience there is only one reason you do this – you know the company won’t support it. But if the product is already in the marketplace the geocachers are buying it and beginning to use it then it forces Groundspeak into supporting the innovation or facing the wrath of the technology crazed cachers.
But the evil genius of the Chirp doesn’t stop there. The most criminal aspect of the Chirp is the reliance it creates on Garmin GPSr’s. In order to set up and place a Chirp you have to own a compatible Garmin GPSr: Garmin GPSMAP62/78, Oregon (300, 400 and x50) and the Dakota 20. And in order to find it you need to have one of these units. The beauty of this, from Garmin’s point of view, is that it creates an exclusivity within the traditionally caring and sharing Geocaching/Groundspeak community. As soon a Chirp is placed locally the geocachers in the area will want to find it and in order to do so they will need to have the appropriate Garmin. Automatic increase in Garmin sales.
Obviously many who want to find the Chirp cache may elect to borrow a compatible Garmin unit or go with someone who has one. Hopefully Chirp cache owners will be willing to supply information to non-Garmin owners if the chirp info is required to find the cache…but then that defeats the purpose of having the chirp doesn’t it? Being a resourceful bunch I’m sure geocachers will find a way around these things. My initial hope is that geocaching software, like Cachesense or Geocaching.com’s apps, will be able to add Chirp functionality, in the least for the finding side of things.
I’d also tend to think that there were some fairly grumpy people at Groundspeak when they found out about the Chirp and for two reasons. The cynical one is that Groundspeak have been fairly protective of their business and like to make sure that they have a slice of the action. Garmin have muscled their way in here and it’s unlikely Groundspeak get to cash in on it. The non-cynical reason is that Groundspeak have largely seemed to foster a community here and much of that is based around including everyone. They are trying to find the balance between ensuring they get to make a profit (and fair enough too) whilst providing geocachers with the best possible experience by allowing others to innovate. I would tend to think that Groundspeak would have insisted that the Chirp be accessible by any wireless device had they been involved in development.
Ultimately there is a good chance that the life of the Garmin Chirp is quite limited. With only a small portion of the geocaching community able to find and use them Garmin are relying on desire to drive people to buy more Garmin products. All that is required is for some person or company to take the Chirp and develop it further into something EVERYONE can use and the Chirp is dead in the water. Perhaps the wise thing for Garmin would have been to develop it this way to start with but add more functionality between the Chirp and the Garmin GPSr’s they wanted to push? Maybe this will be the way forward for Chirp 2.0?
Regardless of my gripes the Chirp is a great innovation and it will be interesting to see the ways in which geocachers use it to enhance the caching experience.
- Garmin chirp™ Brings Geocachers Even More Creativity, Connectivity (eon.businesswire.com)
- Garmin chirp is your pocket geocaching pebble (slashgear.com)
- Garmin Chirp: The Geocacher’s Aide-de-Camp (crunchgear.com)
- Garmin’s $23 Chirp wireless beacon brings geocaching thrills to Oregon, Dakota GPS units (engadget.com)
- Garmin chirp beacon gives a lift to geocaching (electronista.com)
- Get In The Ring (itsnotaboutthenumbers.wordpress.com)
- Chirps in the wild (itsnotaboutthenumbers.wordpress.com)
- Garmin vs Geocaching.com (itsnotaboutthenumbers.wordpress.com)