An avalanche beacon on your iPhone?

By meteomorris on 21 May 2013 · 6

With technology moving forward that fast, it was about time that someone came up with an idea to create an alternative to the common avalanche beacon. There are already some applications that are trying to (for example the Snøg Avalanche Buddy app and for iPhone the Snowhere app, but their reviews are both positive and negative and the lack the support of one of the leading names in the market.

This new application has an approval of such a leading name. With the ISIS-app you can both send and search based on you geo location.

Anena and PHGM are in!

Two leading names in France are participating in the project. The Anena (the French version of the Swiss SLF) and the PHGM (maybe the best rescue service in the world) are cooperating in this project.

First impression

We didn't have time to test the app yet, so this is just a first impression. The specs:

*Tested by PHGM

*Anena participates in the project

*Reach by bluetooth: 45 meters

*Reach by using the web: 100 meters

Search for an avalanche victim based on geo location
Search for an avalanche victim based on geo location

Automic alert to friends, rescue service and the resort in case of an avalanche

ISIS claims that it can automatically or manually send out an alert. Let's forget about the manual alert, because everybody who has ever been in an avalanche (and was lucky enough to survive) knows that you just can't manually send out a signal onxe your caught by the rage of moving snow or the tightness of concrete. The automatic alert is more interesting. How does the app know that it's the right time to send out an alert? This is what the developer is saying:

Une fois l'application téléchargée, l'iPhone fonctionne en autonomie. À chaque arrêt du skieur, il analyse le parcours précédant l'arrêt. Si celui-ci correspond à une avalanche ou à une chute, il envoie lui-même un SOS aux secours. Idéal si la victime est inconsciente, quand on sait qu'en cas d'avalanche, les quinze premières minutes sont vitales. Si elle est consciente, elle peut aussi déclencher l'alerte manuellement.

“Avec mon application, même si le skieur ne sait pas où il se trouve, son téléphone, lui, le sait. Et fini la barrière de la langue : le portable transmet directement les coordonnées GPS aux secours”.

If your French just doesn't get better than ‘soixante-neuf', it's something like this. Every time the skier stops, the app is analyzing the line of the skier. When this line indicates a fall or an avalanche an alert is send out. Still pretty vague right? The proof of the pudding must be in the eating.

And what If your smart phone has no reception? It will send out a signal using Bluetooth.

L'iPhone passe en mode Bluetooth et envoie un SOS à tous les iPhones équipés de l'application situés dans un rayon de 100 mètres.


- subscription for a week: Euro 5,99

- subscription for a year: Euro 79,99

Check out the French promo

Questions that immediately come up

-Does it work without internet connection? Or, will it still work using only Bluetooth?

-What are the consequences when there is a lot of mobile traffic?

-Will bad weather or local geography (for example, ridges or canyons) have a bad influence on the reach?


*Only works when your friends you're riding with have a subscription as well

*Will price be a challenge? Just 5,99 for a week is not too bad.

*It's only working on the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5.

*Battery life of a smartphone (mine is always empty after a day in the mountains with cold temperatures)

What are we missing?

This looks like some promissing progress. Of course, it won't replace the reliable avalanche beacons just like that, but it's interesting to see what technology can add to the backcountry. Let's hope they use and market the technology wisely, so it will save and won't cost any lives. We will start testing it with other iPhone users later!

SOS signal through your iPhone
SOS signal through your iPhone


  • BartFriederichs
    BartFriederichs op 29 June 2013 · 21:56
    Hi Meteomorris!

    This is Bart Friederichs from the Snøg Avalanche Buddy. Of course we are pleased to hear our app is being picked up in the media like here in your blog.

    But I do want to point out a few things on what you mention here. Most of the negative reviews on our app are from people that didn't read the manual. We have no negative reviews from people that actually tested it for what it is made for.

    Before next season, Snøg will launch the Snøg Pro app that will also use GPS and possibly Bluetooth for extra rough and precise pinpoint localisation options. This will be a paid version (but don't worry, it will be *way* cheaper than 5,99 per week!).

    I also have a few remarks about the iSis app. For one thing, we specifically decided *not* to rely on internet, because you can never guarantee it to be available. There is the roaming thing for foreigners, and there is the fact that many freeriders ride on remote places that might not even have phone connectivity (that's the whole point of freeriding after all).

    In the end, the only thing that our app lacks is the "approved by Anena of PHGM" stamp.

    If you test this new app, don't forget to do a decent comparison with the competition, both ours and Snowhere (or any other you might find).

    Again, thanks for mentioning our app. Let's all keep an eye on developments and hope it will increase security for all skiing people, beginners and advanced freeriders alike.

    Bart Friederichs
  • haggis_trap
    haggis_trap op 4 July 2013 · 00:16
    5 simple reasons not to use a smart phone application for avalanche rescue.
    A repsonsible organisation like WePowder should not promote this item!

    1. Not compatible with existing international 457kHZ standards for avalanche beacons. Rescue services have no idea what system you are running.
    2. Mobile phones can interfere with normal avalanche beacons.
    3. Smart phone battery life is poor, especially in the cold with WIFI or GPS running all day.
    4. Best to keep your mobile phone on a separate battery (so you can always call for help in emergency if required)
    5. Every group member would need to be running the same application. Application therefore clearly encourages punters to ski off piste without a beacon.

    Also the owner of Snøg Avalanche Buddy (Bart Friederichs) bloked my comments from their you tube page! Hopefully anyone googling them will find this comment!
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 8 July 2013 · 10:52
    Thanks for your additions.

    We fully agree with your comments. We are not promoting this app and certainly don't see this app as a replacement of the avalanche beacon. But we will stay closely with the new techniques to see what is happening.

    Enjoy summer!
    May the powder be with you.
  • Koots65
    Koots65 op 26 October 2013 · 16:51
    Mr. Friederichs should check out (Canadian Avalanche Centre) re their recent study of his app as well as the other currently on the market...makes for interesting reading and I'll be curious as to what his thoughts are after reading the careful out there!
  • brollySSJ
    brollySSJ op 23 May 2018 · 22:20
    So why can't my phone also serve as an avalanche beacon? ... Signal strength display helps determine the distance between iPhones with greater accuracy
  • Frats
    Frats op 28 May 2018 · 13:11
    love it or hate it, this is most likely going to be the future of avalanche beacons.
    By no means does this replace a traditional beacon but i'm a firm believer that we will eventually transfer to apps like this...
    might just give it a try next season just to see how it works in the field ...


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