Tracking QR codes in the wild

July 5th, 2011 by Sandra Barron

Checking in?

Checking in?

People might climb mountains to get away from the distractions of  ubiquitous technology, but it could be the thing that saves them if things go awry. Yamanashi Prefecture is the most recent hiking spot to set up a system of QR codes at points along the way on popular climbing and hiking routes. Accessing these points from a keitai or smart phone with a QR-reader app can deliver static information like maps, elevation and amenities along the way as well as information that other hikers have updated recently, such as any problems with the trail and weather conditions up ahead. In the mountains, where storms can come in fast, this could be a lifesaver, for both the old folks who have always climbed in large numbers and the hip yama-girls who have recently started heading for the hills in droves.

The codes serve another function, too: By reading the codes, a hiker leaves a trail of where he or she has been. If hikers need to be rescued and have lost contact, search and rescue teams can follow their digital footprints and narrow down the location where they were last active. The service can be set to automatically send out emails to the folks back home telling them where you are along the hike.

The new system in Yamanashi is called “M-navi,” for Minami [southern] Alps. It was built in cooperation with a system that has been running in Kyushu since 2009 called “yama-aruki nabi,” or “mountain-walking navigation.” It started with the purpose of “making hiking safer and more comfortable, for even one person.” No surprise, they’ve got a Twitter account, with a curated list of people and organizations tweeting about hiking.

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