Showing posts with label GPS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GPS. Show all posts

Nepal Will Use GPS Tracking to Verify Summit Claims

Another interesting development occurred in Nepal while I was away visiting The Falklands and South Georgia. Just as the spring climbing season inched closer to its start, the government in the Himalayan country announced that it would use GPS tracking devices to improve safety and verify summits on Everest this year, a move that comes amidst increasing scrutiny of the world's highest peak. 

2017 is expected to be a record year for climbers on Everest with dozens already on their way to Base Camp and hundreds more to soon follow. A few of those climbers will be required to wear a GPS tracking device – such as a SPOT Satellite Messenger or DeLorme InReach – while they make their climb. Those devices have the ability to send an SOS signal should the climber – or anyone else that he or she is climbing with – gets into trouble on the mountain. Both devices also are equipped with tracking capabilities that will allow Nepali officials to follow a climber's path to the summit and quickly discover if they actually made it to the top or not. 

Last year, a high profile fake summit case took place when an Indian couple claimed to have topped out on Everest when in fact they never went much higher than Base Camp itself. These GPS devices will help to prevent those kinds of frauds from happening, although not every climber will be carrying one, so the impact is likely to be minimal, at least for now. 

Similarly, the safety features of the device aren't likely to help much either. Most of the time the issue on Everest isn't locating someone who is injured or in trouble, it's getting them down safely. Carrying a device such as these won't help in those situations, although it could potentially improve the reaction time for search and rescue squads by signaling potential rescuers much more quickly. 

All of that said, there isn't much of a reason to be against carrying the trackers either. They are lightweight, fairly unobtrusive, and they do serve a positive function. 2017 is likely to be a test bed for using the devices, with more climbers potentially having to wear them in future seasons to come. The biggest challenge is likely to be keeping them charged and operating while higher up on the mountain, as battery life can be short and they don't do much without power. 

It will be interesting to see how this program plays out. Just having a few climbers carry them isn't likely to change the culture much on Everest, but at least it is a start. False summit claims aren't rampant, but they do happen, and any attempts to prevent that is a good thing. The same goes for any efforts to help make climbing in the Himalaya safer too. If this technology can achieve those goals, than it is a positive step in my opinion. 

Adventure Tech: Beartooth is a New Communication Device for the Backcountry

Looking for a new way to communicate while traveling in remote places? Then check out the newly revealed Beartooth, a device that creates its own cell phone network, allowing users to stay in contact in place where coverage is normally impossible.

Much like the goTenna, which we reviewed back in January, the Beartooth connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology. A special app is then installed on your device that allows the user to send text messages to other  Beartooth users who are within range. But unlike the goTenna, this device can actually transmit voice messages as well using a push-to-talk option that is part of the app too. There is even group messaging for both text and voice as well.

Other nice features include GPS tracking that allows the user to share his or her location with others. That point shows up on detailed maps that can be downloaded prior to departure for use offline. The Beartooth even has the capability to serve as a USB battery pack for your smartphone too, providing an extra charge via its 3000 mAh battery.

The Beartooth has a range of 2 miles, which is about half that off the goTenna, but the device is smaller and doesn't need to be dangled from your pack or tent via a carabiner. Instead, you simply activate it and put it inside your backpack. From there, you can pretty much forget about it, using just your smartphone to communicate.

When Beartooth begins shipping later in the year, it'll come with two devices, one for you and one for the person you need to communicate with in the backcountry. The MSRP is expected to be $399, but those who preorder now can get the device for just $249. That seems like a small price to pay for what could be the future of communications in the backcountry.


Adventure Tech: Three New Fitness Watches From Garmin

This week, the annual Consumer Electronics Show will kick-off in Las Vegas, where hundreds of tech companies will show off their latest gadgets and devices. This year, the hottest trend seems to be wearables, with smartwatches, fitness trackers, and a variety of other gear taking center stage. Over the next few days, there will be hundreds of press releases sent out announcing all kinds of interesting and exciting innovations in technology, and not to be left out, Garmin has already announced three new fitness-oriented smart watches as well.

Perhaps the most exciting of these new products is the Fēnix 3, the latest update to one of Garmin's flagship products. The Fēnix has been an outstanding product for outdoor athletes and mountaineers for the past couple of years, but the latest version adds elements that have become common in fitness trackers such as the Fitbit. For instance, the Fēnix 3 now tracks your steps throughout the day, alerts you when it is time to be more active, and estimates the number of calories burned too. It can also track your VO2 max, recovery times post-workout, and can even count the strokes of swimmers too. The new model features faster GPS tracking, an improved display, and the ability to connect with friends to share workout and performance data. Garmin went back to the drawing board with the Fēnix 3 to give it a more refined look as well. As a result, the watch now resembles something you could wear all day long, as opposed to something designed specifically for working out. The Fēnix 3 will have an MSRP that starts at $499, and will begin shipping in the first quarter of 2015.

Garmin has also revealed a new GPS watch called the Epix which features 1.4-inch color touch screen that is capable of displaying maps used for navigation. The device comes with a world-wide base map, and has 8GB of storage to add more detailed maps for specific regions as well. It includes a digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and is water resistant down to 50 meters. It fill start at $549 when it begins shipping this quarter.

Finally, Garmin has also introduced the Vivoactive, a more scaled back an affordable fitness watch, that will meet the needs of those more focused on their workouts, and less on exploring the backcountry. It'll track pace, distance, and duration of your workouts, and comes with a color touch screen and a more subdued design. The Vivoactive will start at $249, and will be available soon as well.

This is just a taste of the new wearable devices that will be shown off at CES this week. Other companies are also rushing to get their latest gadgets out to the public as well, so expect to see a deluge of similar products. The difference is that Garmin has been making fitness and GPS watches for some time, and they bring a solid heritage to these new products as well.