The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is a small handheld safety and communication device that helps fishermen fill gaps in coverage while they’re on the water. Simple and compact, the device connects to smartphones via Bluetooth and uses available cellular or Wi-Fi networks for connectivity, then switches to the Iridium satellite network when out of range of other signals.

Zoleo president Morris Shawn said the Satellite Communicator’s versatility makes for faster, cheaper service.

“Obviously speed over cellular is quicker, but the satellite is there when you need it. So it’s sort of the best of both worlds,” Shawn said.

Zoleo plans range from $20 a month for 25 messages to unlimited plans for $50 a month.

“With the salmon fisheries in Alaska, a lot of these fishermen are away from their homes and families for six or eight weeks; so there’s the personal element where people are able to send fast, reliable, cost-effective messages home,” Shawn said.

The device is equipped with SOS, and has a check-in function that allows users to send a programmed “I’m OK” message along with their location to family and friends with just one touch. The Satellite Communicator comes with its own SMS number and email address, and people contacting from outside do not need the device, just the free Zoleo app, to get in touch.

Shawn added it can be shared among several devices onboard.

“On boats we often see several crew members using the same device and same subscription, so we made it easy to share. All crew members have to do is download the app and connect to the device via Bluetooth, much the way you would a connect to a digital speaker,” Shawn said.

The device can also handle messages up to 1,000 words, longer than similar devices.

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Brian Hagenbuch is National Fisherman's products editor, a contributing editor to SeafoodSource and a Bristol Bay fisherman. He is based in Seattle.

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