New GPS service tracks hikers on city's trails

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 4:44am

A new GPS-tracking service that helps police locate lost hikers was launched yesterday.

The free GPS Hiker Tracker Service automatically sends details of hikers' locations to the service provider, the Communications Association of Hong Kong, via mobile or Wi-fi networks. In cases of emergency, family or friends can report a missing hiker to the police and the association will e-mail the location data.

The service can be accessed via the updated Enjoy Hiking mobile application, which contains maps of hiking trails in Hong Kong and was developed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

The city is known for its hiking trails, but Raymond Lo, a member of Hong Kong Hiking Meetup, said every year there were three to five hiker deaths and 20 to 30 rescues. Two deaths have been reported so far this year.

"We've been waiting some time for an app like this," said Phillip Forsyth, a meetup organiser. "The app has all the major trails in Hong Kong, [but now] you can use the GPS to find your way. It uses very, very little data."

Hikers must open the app and manually activate the tracking service, which stays active for 24 hours or until it is turned off. Data is encrypted, deleted after seven days and only available on request.

The association said the GPS service would not replace the 50222 SMS Hiking Tracking Service, which tracks hikers' distance along trails via text.

The Enjoy Hiking app is available in English and Chinese, and for Android and iOS systems.

Forsyth told hikers to take the following precautions: "Don't hike alone. Hike with a group or some friends that know the route. Make sure you have enough water and food. If you're going on a longer hike, make sure you have a torch. And make sure you tell your friends and family what time you're expected to be back home."