A sit-down interview with Mapyx: the what, the where and the why!
We recently sat down with the Managing Director of Mapyx, Steve Wood, to find out more about their top tips for tracking, the level of support they offer with their tracking solutions, key risk factors affecting groups heading out on their expedition and much more!
Who are Mapyx and what do they offer?
Mapyx is the market leader for fully integrated mapping, search management, and tracking solutions.
Specialising in providing GIS solutions for education, personal and professional users, Mapyx enable schools and organisations to feel reassured and know their DofE groups are safe while they carry out their challenge.
We can probably say that we have the largest professional client base involved in search management and tracking in the UK, which started in 2008 and has steadily grown over the years. And of course, we do have a growing international client base as well. We have provided solutions and tracking to every continent in the world.
Known for being the chosen system of Mountain & Lowland Rescue, Maritime Coastguard Agency, the Ministry of Defence, various police forces and hundreds of educational organisations, both in the UK and abroad, it’s widely used due to its technical ability, background support, reliability, simplicity to use and flexible payment options.
Q. Why do you think it’s important for DofE groups to integrate a tracking system into their DofE expedition experience?
Our main priority is to ensure the safety of anyone taking part in all forms of outdoor activity, whilst enhancing their experience, education and protection. For this to be the case, we believe it’s important to recognise the nature of the risks involved with those heading outdoors, so that we can find useful ways to prevent such risks from occurring.
Our work with the rescue services has helped us better understand these risks and enabled us to detect 4 key ‘risk-associated areas’ when heading outdoors. These include:
Q. That’s very insightful, thank you! With these associated outdoor risks in mind, can you share a couple of examples of when groups have used your tracking solution and how it’s come into play?
- We once monitored a group who went off course by almost 2km, being monitored all the way, but realising their mistake, properly navigated back onto the correct route. No intervention necessary and a hand-clap on getting back on course by themselves. Of course, had the traditional checkpoints been used, then not having seen the group, would have led to the leaders scurrying around looking for them. In this case, there was no concern, just careful monitoring.
- Another example was a Gold practice group navigating the Devon footpaths before they hit Dartmoor, and incorrectly entering the wrong field, looking for a non-existent exit, before finally after a couple of laps of the field, getting back on track by themselves. In both cases no intervention was necessary, but each time the group were being monitored. The Devon group came back asking to be shown where they had gone wrong and that was easily remedied by showing the track of their movements.
- To sum it up, nothing is more satisfying than watching a group going off-course, then getting back on course by themselves.
Q. What are your top tips for Tracking?
We have a few ‘golden rules’ that we always use and suggest to Leaders. We use these ourselves since we have personnel that are DofE Leaders and volunteer with the rescue services.
- The best place for a tracker is on the back of a rucksack at the top, fixed horizontally with the logo facing upwards. This gives the best signal.
- Use cable ties to keep the tracker in position. We had a case of a Royal Marine using the solution and the tracker slipped between the day pack and his back, making signals very difficult to transmit.
- Turn the trackers on and make sure that you can ‘see’ the trackers appear on the tracking software BEFORE you let the group leave. There is nothing more embarrassing than sending a group off with a tracker on their rucksack, but not turned on properly, and trust me, it does happen!
Q. So the tracker is secured, facing in the right direction and switched on. What about when the groups are out in the field?
Once the groups are out in the field, we recommend the following, noting that this is a belt and braces approach, just to cover all eventualities:
- Make sure you locate ‘base control’ where you have an internet signal to collect the message and positional data, it’s not sensible to locate base in a steep sided valley. If you don’t get a signal, go up the hill, not down! We do an internet speed test to make sure all is good and if not, move location. Base control can be a campsite, van or even a coffee shop (if allowed). We recommend someone is always in base control with a watching brief on groups. For base camp, we recommend MX Map and Tracker, PC version.
- When Leaders go out in the field, we recommend they switch to our Apps MX Map and Tracker for Mobile (no map streaming limited data use). You get full GB mapping at all scales and see the trackers on your device. This allows Leaders to know where groups are and meet/intercept if needed.
- If Leaders have no signal, then we recommend the use of MX Track SMS, which allows a text to be sent to locate the trackers individually or on-mass. Texts usually get through even with virtually no signal, so in this way you can remain in touch with what’s going on before signal is restored.
How you use our solutions is a matter of choice; the important part is that you have access to the above suite of tools at your disposal to use as you wish.
Q. What level of support do Mapyx offer?
We offer a lot of support in terms of helping get you up and running. If you have a question, then either email or phone us – we will respond. If you have an out of hours emergency, then as part of the solution, we provide a 24-7-365 emergency number, which rings two of our directors in sequence. We also offer this service to our Emergency Services clients, so we treat it with the utmost respect – if the emergency phone number goes off, then someone somewhere needs our help and it can mean that there is an immediate threat to life, or could be as simple as “I cannot see my trackers on screen… help?” We strive to give you the support you need when you need it and know that the calls we get are usually at the beginning or end of the days at weekends, when groups are starting or returning from expeditions!
Q. What do you believe makes Mapyx the best in the business?
I guess what makes us stand out is not just our unique and developing suite of solutions used by the Emergency Services and other professionals to protect and save lives, but the fact that our owner directors and some staff have been involved in search management and tracking for decades; we are developers, designers and users of our systems. And today, we are still actively involved in our spare time in Mountain and Lowland Rescue!
Whilst much of what we do will never be publicised, there is no better feeling than knowing that the solutions we have designed and supported has taken the worry away, provided comfort, prevented the occurrence of a serious incident, saved a life (lives), or helped bring closure to an incident. We are very proud and passionate about what we do, since we know it has and continues to make a difference.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
Monitoring participants is not only a case of watching whether they are on track; useful data is direction of travel, speed and relating that to the topography via contours. A slow group may mean that they are experiencing some difficulty, an of course group may mean that they are facing navigational challenges.
By monitoring the tracking solution, these give clear indicators to the Leaders whether an intervention may be necessary. Knowing where the groups are is a matter of comfort and good risk management; tracking allows this in a safe but unrestrictive manner.
Q. Thank you again for your time. It’s been fantastic to understand a bit more about yourself and the work going on at Mapyx to help keep individuals safe when heading outdoors on their adventures!