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  1. #1
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    Default Design opportunity?

    Hey Hikers!

    My name is alex, and i am a product design student at virginia tech. I am looking for a senior thesis project topic.

    I have completed several shorter section hikes, and while the trail guidebook was extremely helpful, we still found ourselves questioning what was ahead of us. Would there be flowing water at the next source? Have any recent hikers encountered bears? What is the weather/snow like ahead? etc...

    I am considering designing a hiker communication system for long distance trails (maybe specifically for the PCT/JMT trails that receive less traffic). I want to propose a concept and get your feedback/thoughts!

    Here goes... What if you could download an app on your smart phone that would be able to connect (via cord) to a system of trail posts along a long distance hiking trail. There could be one trail post roughly every 10miles or so. Your phone could remain in "airplane mode" and would never need any cell reception. As you hike you, the app would allow you to record trail conditions, water sources, etc. Then, when you plug your phone into a post to sync, it uploads your data and downloads the previous few hiker's data about upcoming miles. You now have updated accurate info about what lies ahead. (Note: the posts would not be connected via wifi or satellites. You would only be able to download trail info that was saved to that particular post.)

    Thoughts? Comments? Would this be a useful system?
    Thanks
    Alex

  2. #2
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Default

    Seems like what you have just described is an electronic version of a trail journal often found in shelters.

    Such a "system" would come with many perils you would have to take into consideration:
    1. Damage/Misuse - People have a way of damaging stuff that doesn't belong to them.
    2. Vandalism - While there never seems to be a reason for it... it happens.
    3. Security - What you're basically describing is leaving a bunch of thumb drives lying around for anyone to use, and unless the device has some sort of electronic security, your app might not be the only one that "talks" to it (i.e. someone could write a program that basically leaves electronic viruses on these devices trying to infect everyone that plugs into it).

    Given that there are usually many places where people can get signals in the wilderness... or at least when they get into a trail town... I wonder if a better solution wouldn't be to just utilize available WiFi and a centralized database. Have the app collect data until it reaches a WiFi where it could upload the data that has been cached in the phone and then download synced data for the next segment ahead based on all the past uploads. You wouldn't have to worry about physical or logical damage to the equipment in the field (at the cost of maintaining a centralized DB).

  3. #3

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    personally i'd be reluctant to up/down load anything left out in the woods...as I hike me by. oh and to white blaze.

  4. #4
    Registered User HeartFire's Avatar
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    sounds to me like the Guthook apps

  5. #5
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    Default

    The eyesore of hundreds of posts would also be a problem. If it were built into shelters, it wouldn't be a problem, but that would limit it to the AT

  6. #6

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    I'm not sure how useful that would actually be (or who would pay for it and maintain it), but I'd use Bluetooth for the interface. It would have a reasonably low power requirement so solar power would keep it alive. The info kiosk software could limit the amount and type of data which could be loaded into it (text only) so the threat of virus would not be an issue.

    Maybe there could be a memory section for people to share ebooks. That could be fun
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