It's a dilemma that most every skier or snowboarder has faced: leave your ride unattended outside the lodge and risk walking out to an empty space where it used to be, skip lunch/après ski drinks, or obsessively look out the window to make sure you don't become a theft victim. You could use one of those compact cable locks, but that's one extra thing in your pocket and a thin cable isn't all that secure, anyway. The AlpineHawk, the first product from Norwegian company AlpineTec, provides a fourth option: an electronic anti-theft system that sounds an alarm and sends you a smartphone alert if someone tries to make off with your equipment.
The AlpineHawk lets you keep an eye on your skis or snowboard even when they're out of eyesight range. The accelerometer-based motion detector comes in a pair for skis and a single unit for snowboards. You simply secure each unit to the deck of your equipment with its adhesive base and arm it with the accompanying app. It will detect even slight movements, sounding a ~100-dB alarm and sending an alert to your phone. AlpineTec says that, while the device is sensitive enough to pick up small movements, it only sounds the alarm when such motions are prolonged, preventing false alarms if your skis just get bumped. It will also sound if anyone attempts to tamper with the device.
Nearly everyone has grown so immune to the car alarm that they're more likely to curse the car owner than investigate why the alarm is going off. However, a loud ski alarm is unexpected enough that it should get the attention of every skier and rider within earshot, assuming that it's loud and distinctive enough. And each one of them should turn and stare a burning hole right through the perp, enough so that he drops the skis and scampers away like a coward – at least that's what AlpineHawk designers (and future customers) are certainly hoping will happen.
Assuming your phone isn't stifled to inaudible by multiple layers of fleece, down and wool, the smartphone alert serves as "part two" of the anti-theft system. You can drop your chicken wing and beer mug and take off after the thief, tracking him or her down by way of the audible alarm.
The AlpineHawk can also serve as a simpler alternative to products like the Ski Retriever system for finding lost skis. Say your skis go flying off on a fall and get buried in the powder, you can activate the "ski locator" function to fire off the alarm and help you find them. You can also pre-activate the feature so that the alarm goes off automatically should you become separated from the skis.
There are no ski lockers at the ski resorts I frequent, and I don't really have faith in compact cable locks. Anything larger is just too much trouble to carry around, so I regularly leave my board unattended. I've never had it stolen, but it's always in the back of my mind, especially when the board is brand new.
The peace of mind brought by the Alpine Hawk could make it worthwhile in itself. You could just eat, drink and be merry without the pressing suspicion that your snow sport gear is being carried off by the local resort bandit. The alarm/smartphone alert combo also seems like a solid anti-theft package, particularly in crowded resort situations.
In the minus column, the unit should really be smaller and less conspicuous. Its designers say you can choose whether to keep it visible or hide it, but with its big size and few options of where you can effectively mount it, it's likely to stick out. Unless the thief mistakes it for part of the binding or otherwise misses it, the big, egg-shaped housing popping against the top sheet graphic will just dare him to leave the blaring alarm smashed to pieces at the site of the theft. Maybe you'll get the smartphone alert and run him down, but if not, you're out a pair of skis and an AlpineHawk. If he couldn't immediately identify the alarm unit, there's a better chance he'd drop the ski at the moment the alarm started and move on. A lot of AlpineTec's work has been spent slimming the design down, but we think it still has work to do on that front.
The AlpineHawk is still a prototype, but the company has released projected nuts and bolts. The final unit will be a three-piece design with the adhesive base, central electronics with waterproof seal and impact-resistant polycarbonate housing secured via a central screw. It will be built to withstand temperatures down to -40º C and up to 100º C (-40º F to 212º F). We're guessing you won't ever need to boil it, but the resistance to cold temperatures is sure to come in handy.
AlpineTec is aiming for a weight just under 50 g (1.8 oz) and size of around 7 x 3 x 3 cm (2.75 x 1.2 x 1.2 in), which it says will make it small enough not to affect your balance or performance. The hardware package will include a Bluetooth Low Energy chip, accelerometer and 100 dB buzzer powered by a coin-cell battery with life loosely estimated at three ski seasons.
AlpineTec tells us that the Bluetooth range will be about 30 m (98 ft), but that's an outdoor-only range that will drop if the owner goes inside. We'll have to wait to get a more useful range figure that pertains to the owner going into the lodge, which is the figure that is likely to pertain more to actual usage. The onboard alarm will sound regardless of whether the owner is in range or not, so there will be a layer of anti-theft protection even if the device loses communication with the owner's phone.
We have one more outstanding issue with the design, and it's an important one. The beep featured in AlpineTec's Kickstarter video comes off as kind of weak, sounding more like a watch alarm than a car alarm. We're not sure it will be effective at deterring criminals or attracting attention quickly enough. The company tells us that it plans to make the alarm louder and more potent in the production version, but if we were considering buying such a device, we'd really want to hear the finalized alarm before putting money down.
AlpineTec, which was founded by students from the University of Oslo, along with a New Zealand member for good measure, is trying to raise NOK600,000 (about US$91,500) in Kickstarter funding to bring their design from prototype to product. Their plan calls for offering both Android and iOS free apps and shipping the first units in October 2015. A pledge of kr200 (US$30.50) is required to secure a future snowboard model, while the ski pair slides in at the kr350 mark.
The krone figures made us wonder if AlpineTec was focusing the campaign solely on Norway, but it told us that it is shipping internationally, with major skiing markets like the European Alps and United States in its sights.
More information is available in the following pitch video.
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