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Focus

May 27, 2016

Eurisy Conference: Where Space and Outdoor Sports Interact

Outdoor industry experts and enthusiasts met satellite technology experts at the Outdoor Sports and Satellite Solutions conference on 20th May at Bayonne, France to discuss how the two sectors could innovate together.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

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The event was organised by Eurisy, an NGO within the European Space Agency to promote satellite technology in different domains.

Last Friday, big and small names of outdoor sports industry – including brands like Rip Curl and Quiksilver – met with start-ups, public authorities, sports federations and experts in satellite applications in surfer haven Bayonne, France.

The event was co-organised by Eurisy — a non-profit association of space agencies,  the local council of the Pyréenées Atlantiques, and Capital High Tech, a space consultancy.

EuroSima, the association of European Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, was one of the high profile supporters of the event.

Ronen Bitan, of Trailze.com, showing off his company’s excellent crowdsourced hiking trail solution that allows users to select safe passages
Ronen Bitan, of Trailze.com, showing off his company’s excellent crowdsourced hiking trail solution that allows users to select safe passages

We were there, and not just for a surfing weekend. The association of satellite applications to outdoor sports was wonderfully intriguing.

The concept of satellite applications covers satellite images, satnav, and satcoms, and how these technologies can enhance the experience and the safety of people who enjoy the great outdoors.

The focus of this event was to talk about what technology works best for the user, not just how it works. This came to comfort Frédéric Basse, co-founder of Rip Curl, EuroSima President and an avid surfer himself, who welcomed the conference with a warning note: “These two communities  —the outdoors industry and space — they don’t speak the same language. Inspire us!” he challenged.

Misha Gopaul, of Fatmap.com, giving a very impressive demonstration of their outdoor mapping app which allows users to have high-resolution trail and ski maps even off line on their mobile device
Misha Gopaul, of Fatmap.com, giving a very impressive demonstration of their outdoor mapping app which allows users to have high-resolution trail and ski maps even off line on their mobile device

Among the many featured hands-on examples of applications, we were particularly inspired by FatMap. FatMap is a mobile app that relies on digital terrain models, 3D and GPS to turn ski slopes from non-descript empty areas to a virtual 3D map complete with safety warnings, instructions on the nearest pub and so on. Skiers can manipulate this virtual reality on their phone before hitting the slopes.

Since the event was also focused on professional users of satellite applications, it’s worth mentioning that EPSA, the public company that manages ski slopes in the area — uses satellite applications behind the scenes to improve skiers’ experience of the slopes. The satnav system Snowsat allows the company to measure snow height and to complement artificial snow only where needed. This means 8% less fuel for its snow trucks, 15% less artificial snow, 5% less work.

Gibus de Soultrait, Surfer's Journal France editor-in-chief asking the question “can technology have a human touch?” as well as extolling the virtues of the Pyrenees Atlantiques region as a “small California”
Gibus de Soultrait, Surfer’s Journal France editor-in-chief asking the question “can technology have a human touch?” as well as extolling the virtues of the Pyrenees Atlantiques region as a “small California”

Satellite applications, we gather, are not only a matter of having fun, they can help save time and money for outdoor sports companies.

Another example we liked showed a different kind of space application:  a small French company — Woo Outrigger — builds Hawaiian canoes using techniques and materials closer to the aeronautic sector than the nautical one: carbon and glass fibres, epoxy resin. Many materials initially developed for space have found their way to everyday uses: take the “memory foam”, initially developed by NASA to make aircraft seats more comfortable, nowadays used as protective pads in helmets; or UV filtering sunglasses, also an initial NASA invention. So, can such a canoe lose another 3 to 4 kilos, thanks to new materials spinning out from space? Aerospace Valley, an incubation centre funded by the European Space Agency, located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, may help Woo Outrigger find out.

Walter Milan, from the CNSAS (Italian National Alpine Cliff and Cave Rescue Corp , CNSAS.it ), delivering a very interesting presentation on the state of technology in Alpine rescue and how there is still much to be done
Walter Milan, from the CNSAS (Italian National Alpine Cliff and Cave Rescue Corp , CNSAS.it ), delivering a very interesting presentation on the state of technology in Alpine rescue and how there is still much to be done

Other applications showcased at the event included a vibration-guiding belt by Sensovo, a German start-up and its alternative, an acoustic-guiding system by Geko Navsat, useful when you want your hands free.

Other possibilities are monitoring performance, speed, and acceleration in real time (Space Exe), which can make it more fun for TV/computer viewers to literally watch every move of high performance sports men and women; mapping climbing trails (RAD) and cave subsidence, crowdsourced hiking trails (Trailze), sending alerts and location with a tap (Teleorbit) and terrain modeling in risky situations (National Rescue Centre, Italy).

Apoorva Prasad and Lorenzo Fornari from The Outdoor Journal covering the event
Apoorva Prasad and Lorenzo Fornari from The Outdoor Journal covering the event

So lots of exciting applications, and a question that was on everyone’s mind: do we want technology when we want to escape to the outdoors? Arne Strate, Head of Marketing & Communications for the European Outdoor Group (an outdoor interest group) quipped: “Many young people’s escape today is their computer, tablet and smartphone screen. If you want to get them moving, go meet them on their playing field.”

Checkout Eurisy’s website for more details.

 Images © Jean-Marc Decompte/le64


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