Mountain Info Services Project launched to help reduce accidents

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 13/02/2012
Mountain Info Service is a free app that provides the essential planning tools for mountain walkers

With support from the BMC, the Mountain Info Services Project is being formally launched by Hywel Williams MP at the Snowdonia National Park Warden centre at Pen y Pass today.

It aims to give mountaineers and hill-walkers access to state-of-the-art information, as well as traditional safety advice and enable them to plan a journey or walk in the mountains of Snowdonia safely.

The number of calls for assistance to Mountain Rescue Teams in Snowdonia has significantly increased. However, this modern mobile technology and an awareness initiative will contribute towards reducing these calls and a safer enjoyment of the area.

During 2011, 411 calls for assistance to Mountain Rescue Teams were made as people ventured to North Wales to enjoy the beauty and special qualities of the area and this resulted in 291 Mountain Rescue team deployments. Recent research shows that a significant number of avoidable calls were made by young male adults who were not adequately prepared or did not have the required skills or equipment for their activity.   The “Reducing Mountain Accidents in Snowdonia” survey concluded that young male adults from urban areas were mainly responsible for these avoidable calls.

The Mountain Info Service Project aims to target this particular audience by using modern technology and today at the Pen y Pass cafe, a new app for the iPhone was launched by Hywel Williams MP.

Hywel Williams MP said:
“I am delighted to be launching this innovative Project. People are increasingly dependent on mobile phone technology – and mobile internet in particular – to access information.  By applying the latest technology to the field of mountain safety, which is such an important issue in areas such as Snowdonia, there is a greater chance of accident prevention and of promoting the safe enjoyment of our wonderful hills and mountains. In so doing, the strain on local Mountain Rescue Teams will also be eased. I congratulate everyone involved with the Mountain Info Service Project, and hope that all mountaineers and walkers, be they local residents or visitors, will take full advantage of the advice and information that is available.”

On behalf of Snowdonia National Park Authority, Director of Land Management, Emyr Williams said:
“We are extremely pleased to be part of this Mountain Info Service Project. As an Authority, we sincerely hope that this iPhone app will be a useful tool for visitors to Snowdonia and will not only contribute to their enjoyment of the area, but that they also enjoy their visit safely. The project also contributes towards the Welsh Government’s health and well being agenda, from the psychological and physical wellbeing of visitors, to the economic wellbeing of local communities in the National Park.”

Elfyn Jones, British Mountaineering Council (BMC) Officer for Wales, added:
“To help this particular audience, as well as the wider public in general, the Project was developed to help reduce the number of unnecessary emergency call outs and, more importantly, help walkers to enjoy the great outdoors safely and responsibly. Although visitors may have researched the area on the internet before coming, some may not have the required skills to read and use maps and have not prepared themselves for travelling safely in the mountain environment. This app provides the necessary information for visitors who are planning a trip to Snowdon and will help them make an informed judgement before they begin their journey.”

The partnership scheme is supported by the British Mountaineering Council, Mountain Leader Training (Wales), Snowdonia National Park Authority, the Met Office and Plas y Brenin (the National Mountain Centre), with funding from the Welsh Government , via Sport Wales.  Other organisations which have also contributed and supported the project include the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association, Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team and the North Wales Mounainsafe Group (which includes the North Wales Police and the RAF Search and Rescue 22 Squadron).

As a result of the Mountain Information Services project, in addition to the development of the new Mountain Info app which is available from iTunes, three additional tools have been developed which include:

  • A daily report by Snowdonia National Park Wardens on ground conditions and snow levels on the mountains during the winter months, including advice on the skills and equipment required to enjoy these conditions safely. These are provided for the Met Office’s Mountain area forecasts page and on Twitter by following @safesnowdonia or @eryridiogel.
     
  • A series of five short video clips narrated by Sian Lloyd, demonstrating the way to prepare for a journey in the mountains including hazard avoidance and what to do in an emergency. These are available on the Met Office and YouTube websites.
     
  • A publicity and marketing campaign to publicise the project, made up of posters, banners, leaflets and commissioning articles in relevant magazines and periodicals

The Mountain Info app was rated as the best available app for mountain safety planning by novices by Trail magazine in autumn 2011 and, depending on funding, it is hoped that a Welsh version of the app will be produced in future.



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Anonymous User
13/02/2012
Pity there isnt an android version
Anonymous User
13/02/2012
shocking there isn't an android version. this is not a smartphone app it's an iphone app. do your research properly and find out how many more people it would help to have an android version
Elfyn Jones(author comment)
13/02/2012
Hi
Thanks for your comments. We are very aware that the app is currently limited to i-phones, but at the time of the development all the available research demonstrated that i-phones were the most popular smart phones in use by the target audience. As with most of this develpoment technology and tastes race ahead of the available information. We are aware of a number of shortcomings in the app (not least its limited availability to i-phones only) and the sheer size of the app to download. This was very much a case of a completely new developemnt when first commissoned, and being totally funded by a limited grant from Sport Wales/Welsh Government we were constrained in what we could produce. Given the interest in and the success of this app (over 3000 downloads in the first few months, before the offical launch), we are hoping that this will encourage Sports Wales/ Welsh Government to look favourably at funding further developments.

Anonymous User
14/02/2012
what a load of rubbish Elfyn. it was developed as an Iphone app because whoever did it had one. if this is meant to be an app to help as many people as possible then it should have been developed on the biggest platform. currently android has 50% share of all smart phones where iOS is around 18% share. in fact it is in third place as RIM (blackberry) has more share than iOS. Time and time again "developers " are making iOS applications as it suits them. They should be making applications to reach the highest number of users and if they don't know how to make android or RIM apps they should be sacked.
I would love to see your data regarding your target audience. As a BMC member I did not see any request of information of what platform to develop this on???
Unless that is you have received "help" from apple on developing the app with certain rules regarding its uniqueness on a particular device. hmmm shall I go and buy an Iphone so I can get this app....... errrr no!
Anonymous User
14/02/2012
Just wanted to voice some support for the choices you must have been forced to make when developing this app. You need serious resources to target all platforms (and figures quoted elsewhere in these comments presumably relate to OS usage across all audiences, not specifically the target of this app, so aren't necessarily valid). Regardless of the OS etc., it's great to see technology being put to good use - a hearty well done!
Anonymous User
15/02/2012
The problem is that the research was probably done 12-18 months ago when iOS was the leading platform - even then though, there was a definite and obvious trend towards Android. At this point Android is far ahead due to the wide range of price-points for handsets - iOS targets purely the most affluent of individuals.
Elfyn Jones(author comment)
17/02/2012
Re: the I-phone vs Android debate - This was all very new to the project team at the time (it was over 2 years ago that work started on this project). Rest assured that the whole project was externally funded - no BMC cash or funds were directly used. The BMC is a key partner in the scheme, but not by any means the only partner and other organisations and bodies also had a substantial say in the project development. The repsonse from my colleague Bryn Williams from Mountain Training Wales may better explain the decion to go with i-phones initally:-

"We did look into the demographics quiet considerably and it was a difficult decision to make. The initial build process for this happens quite a while ago, and at the time, the developer showed that despite Android having more handsets, that Apple users were much more interested in downloading apps (and it was significant amount more), so the decision was made to go with that platform. Also as this was based on Snowdon as the target, the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team web stats showed a significant amount more people visiting the site for information via Apple Itouch, Ipad and Iphone over the Android handset. We really hope that further funding can be sought to develop for Android".

This has all to be taken in context of a very small budget for the whole project. The app is only one part of a larger project, aimed primarily at a key identified audience of relativley inexperienced young males from urban areas, not your usual well informed BMC member.
And to put it into context I don't have an i-phone - I have an Android, and can't actually use the app myself!
This was very much an inovative experiment, and the response has confirmed that there is a need and a demand for such apps. We hope that responses such as these will help to gain further funding to expand the project to other platforms.

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