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TracMe: Curiouser and Curiouser

The FCC Weighs In

For background, please see the original TracMe article, “That’s No Personal Locator Beacon! – When is a Personal Locator Beacon not a PLB?

TracMe FCC EmailOn Wednesday of this week, just as I was getting ready to leave for Salt Lake City to attend Outdoor Retailer, I received an email that included the latest posting to the TracMe file on the FCC’s web site. This was an email to TracMe from the FCC, as well as copies to both the test lab and American TCB, the Telecommunication Certification Body (TCB) that actually issued the TracMe FCC certification (for many lower powerd equipment such as FRS radios, the FCC farms out the approval process to TCBs that do all the work and the FCC just accepts it unless a challenge is raised by someone.)

Well, it seems that the U.S Coast Guard convinced the FCC that TracMe’s use of “Personal Locator Beacon” to describe their device was inappropiate. The FCC wrote:

“Subject: This is a Part 95B device – Not a Personal Locator Beacon (95K)

The US Coast Guard has requested that the applicant change the Description field from Personal Locator Beacon to a description of the applicants choosing that is more representative of the device. The description, “Personal Locator Beacon” (PLB), is an equipment class for Part 95K devices. This is a Part 95B device. The US Coast Guard and the FCC feel that this is a misrepresentation of the device and could result in confusion with safety-of-life Part 95K PLBs. Please modify the description to something other than Personal Locator Beacon.”

Note that the date on this email is July 10, fully 2 1/2 weeks prior to my email exchange with Joe Rainczuk, CEO of TracMe, when he defended their use of the term even though he already was advised by the FCC that they too had finally determined that its use was a misrepresentation (read Joe Raiczuk’s email).

It takes approximately 30 days for items to be posted on the FCC site, which is why we didn’t find it until the last minute, but they surely knew.
The FCC goes on the say:

The items indicated above must be submitted before processing can continue on the above referenced application. Failure to provide the requested information within 30 days of the original e-mail date may result in application dismissal pursuant to Section 2.917(c).

In other words, get this fixed and don’t be slow about it.

With the delayed posting, their response won’t be known for potentially another 30 days, if they waited to the last minute to do so…or unless they let us know what is the new name they have chosen. Or, perhaps they are going to contest the issue in court. Typically, going up against the FCC is a fool’s errand, and a very expensive one at that.

I wanted to see how TracMe reacted to this FCC action at Outdoor Retailer before commenting. Fast forward to OR where Friday is the 30th day and where they have made not the slightest effort to do anything about the issue. Everywhere you look it was “TracMe Personal Locator Beacon.” Being fair, you’d not expect that on short notice they could change everything, but you would think they would at least make some effort. Apparently not…

Update: TracMe to FCC: You Can’t Make Us

The ETS evaluation of the TracMe is now available: www.equipped.org/tracme_eval.htm

TracMe’s Next Act…

TracMe Web PageGiven the forces arrayed against them, you’d think they’d get the message and do the right thing instead of being so difficult, but to top it off, he’s decided to misrepresent my position regarding his product. Since I posted my blog entry and issued press releases, he has posted on the TracMe web site News page a photo of he and I shaking hands when he was here with an early prototype of the unit to demonstrate it to me (link to TracMe News page).

His posting of this photo is an obvious effort to somehow counter my efforts to critisize his misuse of the PLB nomenclature for his homing beacon by implying some sort of endorsement by me of the TracMe beacon. He falsely exaggerates the results of that very cursory demonstration and takes my comments made that day out of context.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I have not endorsed this beacon. I haven’t published anything negative either. I haven’t even completed our evaluation or published the results. The only thing I have done is related to his misrepresentation of the beacon as a PLB. I took this action because of their marketing push, so as to ensure that consumers and journalists are aware of the issue. My associates are this weekend conducting some additional testing to determine maximum range under optimum conditons and in various orientations, which previous testing suggests may be critical.

Bottom line is we have demanded that TracMe remove my name and photo from the site (read the lawyer’s demand letter).

We’ll keep you apprised of developments.

The ETS evaluation of the TracMe is now available: www.equipped.org/tracme_eval.htm

UPDATE: Friday, August 24, 2007: TracMe has removed the image and text.