Planning outdoor activities is a complex undertaking and requires a broad set of skills, especially when users want to explore and discover new places where they have not been before. Accurate and reliable information ranging from detailed route descriptions to topographic maps and weather forecasts are critical for undertaking safe and enjoyable trips. However, these information are often difficult to find and many users have difficulties locating relevant content and combining and interpreting it correctly to fit with their skills and level of fitness. Although there are many tools in the market, there is no one-stop-shop that provides everything for outdoor enthusiasts in one place. The set of value-added weather services aims to fill this gap by providing a fully integrated tour planning solution for users based on the existing Outdooractive platform. It will include weather based recommendation and warning features, high resolution micro-local weather forecast information, snow coverage, outdoor routing and navigation guidance by combining maps, elevation profiles and route descriptions in novel ways. The services can be accessed on the web and through mobile applications for iOS and Android and will support the user during planning and on tour.
Users and their needs
Outdoor enthusiasts share a passion for actively and regularly spending time on outdoor activities, ranging from hiking and biking to mountain climbing and ski touring. In addition to end users in the Business to Consumer (B2C) market, the service offering also targets travel operators that organize outdoor trips and multi-day itineraries for people who prefer to receive assistance and be guided on tour. The consortium works closely together with the Alpine Clubs of Germany, Austria and South Tyrol as potential Business to Business (B2B) customers and distribution partners for the B2C target user community. Existing users of the Outdooractive community are included during the requirements analysis phase and as participants for the evaluation trial phase in the second half of the project.
Outdoor enthusiasts have the following user needs when planning and undertaking outdoor activities in complex terrains:
- Finding relevant information from different sources.
- Combing information and applying it in a personal context.
- Making spatial-temporal decisions on appropriate routes and suitable times.
The core challenges for the development and the operation of the proposed services will be to provide great usability and high quality information that meet users’ expectations on accuracy, reliability and relevance.
Service/ system concept
The set of value-added weather services is provided to outdoor enthusiasts and travel operators through the freemium business model of the Outdooractive platform. While basic services are offered for free to attract users, advanced value added services are only accessible with B2C membership subscriptions for end users or a Software as a Service (SaaS) licence for B2B customers.
In the background, MetGIS acts as a 24/7 service provider and delivers the required weather and snow cover information through APIs.
A snow processor module developed by DLR detects snow coverage and includes a reliability score.
Users access the weather-based route recommendation service through web based user interfaces and mobile applications for Android and iOS.
All information required to enable users to better understand the weather conditions along a route and the expected trend over a day or multiple days are visualised in a spatial-temporal context, using maps and elevation profiles of the selected routes. The powerful recommendation and decision support features will enable users to easily identify outdoor activities with suitable weather conditions in certain geographic regions and time frames and guide users on tour when unexpected weather changes occur along their route.
Space Added Value
Personalised and context-based decision support services for outdoor activities require knowledge about users’ current position along the route and the weather situation in their vicinity. Consequently, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) capabilities (GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou and Galileo) incorporated in a broad range of end user devices with Android or iOS operating systems are critical success factors for identifying where a user is located, especially considering the higher accuracy and reliability of satellite based positioning compared to mobile network based methods, which may not be accessible at all in remote rural or mountainous areas.
For the accurate and reliable micro-local weather forecasts that the added value of the proposed service is based upon, Earth observation data from meteorological satellites and services provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are used to obtain global weather data model parameters ranging from atmospheric pressure, cloud coverage and temperature to precipitation.
In combination with high resolution digital elevation models derived from ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) data, the effect of terrain and elevation on local weather conditions can be better modelled and predicted.
Snow cover information for large areas can be detected from Landsat and Sentinel-2 multispectral Earth Observation (EO) based data that provide higher resolution than offered by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor.
After the successful completion of the MiLoW-RRS Kick-start study under the theme ‘Outdoor Tourism’ in January 2018, Outdooractive took the lead of a consortium with MetGIS and DLR for developing the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of the proposed weather-based tour planning services in the framework of an Integrated Application Program (IAP) demonstration project.
The project was started on 1 July 2018 with a refined analysis of user needs in the B2C and B2B target markets. Following workshops with the Alpine Clubs of Germany (DAV) and Austria (ÖAV), the partners have specified system requirements for the development of an integrated set of services that will be evaluated with pilot B2B customers and B2C target users from autumn 2019 until spring 2020.
On 11 February 2019, a Design Review was held to prepare for the implementation phase until the Acceptance Test Review scheduled for the end of September 2019.
To support the freemium business model approach, the consortium partners are committed to make a limited selection of basic services available on operational systems as soon as they are implemented throughout the project. Advanced space-based services will be offered through a value-added subscription model.