Interesting use for Proximity: Tracking fellow skiers

06 Jun


Not sure about you, but this is exactly how I look when I’m skiing. When I’m not bent over at 45 degrees and wrestling with the G-forces, I have another major problem: I have no idea where my friends are, or how I’m going to meet up with them. I often don’t ski the same slopes as they do, but I’d like to meet them at some point and perhaps ski a run or two, or eat lunch. In the past we’ve tried to do this by phone but it’s far from ideal – it’s hard to explain where you are exactly, and even once you’ve derived where they are it’s difficult to calculate when or where you ought to meet up. On big mountains it can take 40 minutes to get the chair up and ski down – if you mistime your meet-ups, someone is going to be left standing around for a while.

I was skiing with the wife at Crystal Mountain recently – she was skiing a run adjacent to mine, but we were hoping to meet up at some point and ski together a few times. It occurred to me that I could use Proximity to coordinate this. When we were at the bottom of the chairlift, I started up Proximity and told it to create a new trip, with the current GPS location as a destination.

I then set a trigger on the trip to text her when I was less than five minutes away from the chairlift (i.e. as I was skiing down the hill). Let’s call her Kiki, on account of that being her name. I also asked Proximity to vibrate when it texted her, so I’d be able to tell when it was doing it.

I left the settings screen open at that point – Proximity won’t trigger a trip while you’re editing the settings, and I didn’t want to text her there and then. I then hopped on the chairlift, and on the way up clicked okay on the settings to start the trip.

Now, when I skied down the run, Proximity sent Kiki a text message when I was five minutes from the chairlift again. I could then restart the app while I was on the chairlift going back up again, so that each time I was five minutes from the bottom she’d get a text message. Proximity learns your trips over time and averages them to improve arrival time estimates, so after a few runs it was texting her at pretty much exactly the same point on the slope – until I fell over catastrophically, and cause the “five minutes away” spot to move down the hill a little.

Because Kiki knew she’d be getting a text message each time I was getting near the chairlift, she didn’t actually bother reading the messages, and instead relied on hearing them arrive and feeling the phone vibrate. After three runs she realised that at the end of her fourth she’d be at the bottom at about the same time as I was, so she waited for me there. It all worked out pretty well and saved a lot of missed phone calls and confused directions.

It occurred to me once I got home that I could have been even cleverer with this one. Proximity can deal with trips which have multiple destinations (in no fixed order), so I could have entered the coordinates of several chairlifts, skied all over the mountain and then told Proximity to text Kiki which lift I was arriving at in five minutes. Or if I was starting at the very top and knew which chairlift I’d eventually be heading for, I could have set up a trip for each chairlift and loaded the appropriate one. This would be great if I had a few friends dotted around the mountain and wanted to let each of them know where I was so that they could meet me if they wanted.

One slightly annoyance was the fact that I had to restart the trip when I got back onto the lift each time – although it doesn’t sound like a great inconvenience, it’s a bit of a nuisance using the phone with ski gloves on. I might do some thinking into whether I can have a “keep running this trip forever” option or something similar.

The fact that I had to use my other app, Carlos, to locate where exactly I dropped my ski glove from the chairlift turned a day of skiing into something of a day of application testing. I wonder if I can expense it…


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  1. links for 2010-06-08

    June 8, 2010 at 00:02

    […] Interesting use for Proximity: Tracking fellow skiers « Beta Minus Chris Rae has his phone text his wife when he is near the bottom of the lift so they can meet up. A very cool and smart use of mobile software. Chris wrote this application for windows mobile called "Proximity" and it does stuff when you are getting close to a destination. He first wrote it to keep from missing his train stop, but here he uses it to solve the ski lift waiting problem… (tags: windowsmobile mobile gps skiing snow) This entry was posted in Links. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Automated Virtue […]

  2. Cornell Haddenham

    December 5, 2010 at 16:16

    Stunning article. Bookmarked it right now. Thanks.