Next generation smartphone navigation is to be developed by Augmentra, the team behind ViewRanger, as part of a new European collaborative project known as DOSSy (Digital Outdoors and Safety System).
The project aims to help facilitate enjoyment of mountain pursuits regardless of age by developing an app that includes intelligent navigation, location and context-triggered safety features.
Craig Wareham, co-founder of Cambridge-based Augmentra explains: “The DOSSy project is a step change in mobile navigation, it will enable information about the terrain, weather and fitness of the individual to help guide the user. This offers the potential to reduce the risks involved in outdoor activities.
“Many apps provide simple positioning - they basically locate you on a map. Our ViewRanger GPS app is more advanced in that it provides active navigation.
"It uses predetermined waypoints to direct the users on the right course, with alerts if you go off track. DOSSy will offer next generation intelligent navigation, using information about the evolving situation to pre-empt issues and advise both the user and the rescue services as appropriate.”
Conditions change rapidly in the mountains and 90% of incidents occur during foul weather or after night fall.
The less fit and elderly are particularly vulnerable to falls or becoming disorientated. The new app would use predictive information to provide an alert if the walker or skier failed to reach the next way point.
Craig explains the app will interface with a wealth of context information.
“You can’t prevent the weather, but it can now be predicted with greater accuracy. For example, it would be possible to inform the user that wind conditions on the summit have worsened and that it would be advisable to take a lower route. Likewise information about heart rate can be captured by biosensors and this type of fitness information could also be accessed."
The DOSSy consortium includes the German Red Cross and the Swiss Alpine Club to provide expert input.
Kevin Knowles, of the Kendal Mountain Rescue Team, has been using ViewRanger for operations over the last four years and believes mobile navigation has an important role in mountain safety.
“A typical scenario would be the call out last Sunday. I was out with the family when the pager went off I was asked to go direct to the rendezvous (RV) point. While travelling I got the grid reference, I set this in ViewRanger as a point of interest (POI) and could look at the area around for access and then use ViewRanger to navigate from there to the RV point.
“Mobile navigation enhances and supports more traditional methods, particularly when you are working out of your own area. With ViewRanger I have all the maps I need already on the phone and use GPS for navigation."
Kevin sees one benefit of DOSSy as allowing the type of information currently only available via laptop in the control vehicle to be available to teams on the ground.
“It would allow you to see the complete picture of the operation not just your little piece of the jigsaw as you can now,” he says.
DOSSy will also provide a new dimension for rescue teams as it will allow much richer information to be accessed about the lost or injured person.
The DOSSy project is not just about safety, enjoyment is also a major feature. Bergverlag Rother, publishers of Alpine Club guidebooks is also part of the consortium and its excellent content will be available to enhance the experience.
Craig explains that features already available in ViewRanger, such as adding photographs and tweets tagged to the route will be enhanced within the DOSSy application to improve the usability for older people. This will enable them to share experiences with family and friends.
“The community aspect is important. Having routes recommended to you increases confidence when exploring the outdoors. Many people aspire to have a ‘gap year’ when they retire to do the things they have only dreamt about. The developments we are planning will hopefully make this more accessible,” he says.