Down the slopes with space app in your pocket

Snowboarding
10 April 2013

Track your skiing, speed, altitude, slopes and lift kilometres with a nifty phone app from an ESA business incubation start-up. Compete against friends, win prizes and even donate to a children’s charity.

This is what German start-up company MapCase GmbH is offering with their MAPtoSNOW free app for mobile phones.

The company was supported by ESA Business Incubation Centre Darmstadt, Germany, to develop their application, based on satnav.

Available at over 190 ski resorts in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Bulgaria and Italy, the company has teamed up with local partners to offer vouchers for free drinks at huts, discounts in sports shops and other local reductions by collecting ‘Pins’ while skiing down the slopes.

Europe's satnav system Galileo

Compete against friends and other MAPtoSNOW users – more Pins mean more points, higher ranking, vouchers and the possibility of winning brand new winter sports gear or a ski trip to America.

“Start the MAPtoSNOW tracker, put your phone in your jacket and enjoy the ride,” says inventor Bastian Kneissl about his new app. “It’s easy, helps you on the slopes and adds fun to the skiing.

“Our system runs automatically on smartphones’ satnav functions. Distance, speed, location – all are tracked on local maps.

“Our business model is based on local retailers and restaurants paying us to distribute their vouchers offered to our users who collect our Pins. For example, ride 10 000 vertical metres to collect that Pin.”

MAPtoSNOW app

In every ski resort there are new Pins to discover –  hundreds of them in total, plus some hidden ones.  

“Finding and collecting them all is the challenge. Some are bundled with cool prizes like discounts and surprises by our partners,” adds Bastian.

“Our second source of income is that ski resorts pay to receive their own localised and branded app based on MAPtoSNOW. And, so far, nine resorts have done so.”

MapCase has also teamed up with the Right To Play international humanitarian organisation which uses sport and play to help underprivileged children.

Donate to charity with Michael Williams

MAPtoSNOW users have the opportunity to compete against Jamaican ski-newcomer Michael Williams, with donations going to the organisation.

ESA BIC Darmstadt kicked off the business

MAPtoSNOW is another of the myriad of products made possible by satellite technologies that become part of our daily lives, in this case sat nav. Space helps entrepreneurs to develop business cases, establish viable companies and create jobs.

“Like Bastian, inventors come to us with their ideas and we support them to turn them into viable businesses,” explains Frank Zimmermann, Managing Director for cesah GmbH Centrum für Satellitennavigation Hessen, the company contracted by the Agency to run ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Darmstadt.

“We provide financial support to get them started with office space and technical expertise from ESA engineers. We also help them put together a successful and realistic business plan as well as networking to find partners.”

MapCase ski app

Yearly, 60 start-ups like the new MapCase company are supported at the seven ESA BICs in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the UK and Belgium, totalling more than 180 to date.

Part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme, the BICs have been set up to spin off space technology to non-space applications and to foster new European business based on research and development in European space programmes.

“It was a great help to us both for the development of our system and also to get our business going, to be admitted to ESA BIC Darmstadt, with access to its industry contacts, technical expertise from ESA’s ESOC site in Darmstadt and being backed by the ESA image,” says Bastian.

Even if Bastian already has in mind to expand to the big American market, his focus at present is to consolidate the business in Europe.

This year, the company plan is to expand its number of employees from the current five to nine, and to extend the application to other sports like cycling and walking.

Happy though he is at how the business is going, passionate skier Bastian has to admit, “I rarely get time to go skiing nowadays, but at least I live with my hobby.”

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