Yesterday Groundspeak announced that they will approve chirp-enabled geocaches on geocaching.com, putting to rest a several day long chirp thread on the geocaching forums. While Groundspeak prefers that cache hiders provide an alternate means of finding the cache, a chirp cache can be listed as a mystery cache with a new “wireless beacon attribute” if chirp is the only means to locate the cache.
Groundspeak’s guidelines for chirp approval are as follows:
- A new attribute for a “beacon” will be added soon. Any caches that use a Chirp (or any future similar device) should use this attribute.
- If a cache owner puts a beacon in a traditional cache and geocachers have an alternative method to find it without using the beacon, then OK. I remind you to use the coming attribute.
- If the cache owner insists on not providing an alternative means of finding the geocache, it must be listed as a mystery with the beacon attribute.
- Cache descriptions may mention the “Chirp” as long as the text doesn’t go on and on with “overtones of advertising, marketing, or promotion” as per our long-standing commercial guidelines.
- We do not plan to add a new cache type just for this.
This is a very fair (and quick) decision especially considering, as Groundspeak is claiming, they only found out about chirp two days before the public release.
The next question is whether non-Garmin ANT+ devices will be able communicate with a chirp. According to this post by DC Rainmaker, the answer is yes. Chirp reportedly is based on a new (pending?) ANT+ Geocache Node Device Profile. ANT+ profiles specify the protocols which ANT devices use to communicate so it is possible that an iPhone with an ANT+ transmitter combined with the right application could talk with a chirp. While time will tell if this standard is actually approved and whether an application will be developed I’m guessing this went a long way when Groundspeak was considering approval for the device.
As I anticipated in my original post I’ve also heard some interesting ideas about how these devices might be used:
- Orienteering or adventure racing check point
- Travel bug “tag” transmitter
- Personal “hello” beacon
- Lost key chain or another valuable finder
- Endurance sport timing and competitor validation
- Other geocaching uses
- @gpstracklog suggests putting them in geocaches as “I’m not a bomb beacons” (my favorite!)
Some of these suggestions may not work since there seems to be an issue when two or more chirps are within proximity of the same GPS. The first chirp discovered is the one visible. If you have a chirp on the key chain you are carrying you may not be able to see other chirps that you pass by, say, as you are looking for a chirp-enabled geocache.
REI had a bunch in store when I was there this weekend although I’ve heard that some stores are already out of stock. You can get them online at REI for $19.95.
There’s still one nagging issue that remains out of all of this. When Garmin released its new chirp software many people noticed that the geocaching icon changed from the official Groundspeak icon to the more generic “geocache treasure box”. While this is a minor change the press releases for chirp were also noticeably void of any references to geocaching.com and Groundspeak as well. And why would Garmin have not told Groundspeak about chirp until two days before its release? Honestly, I’m not one for conspiracy theories but I sense there is something else going on here that may play out over the coming weeks and months.