Tracking Quests, Ensuring Safety, Racing To Security

700km of rough terrain, minimal connectivity, and reduced visibility demanded technology that ensured participant safety and security

The Namib Quest is an iconic mountain bike quest that spans six days and 700km across the Namibian desert. Alongside the participants of the Namib Quest race those who undertake the Namib Ultra, a 100km trail run through the Fish River Canyon. It is the second-largest canyon in the world, behind the Grand Canyon, and it puts the racers under immense physical and mental pressure to make it to the end. Both races are ultra, long, and in isolated areas that are home to dry and rough terrain, wildlife and absolutely no GSM signal. The organisers of the race, Namibian Breweries, needed a solution that would give them constant visibility over the race and its participants to ensure that the event was safe and efficient.

“Namibian Breweries needed a solution that would provide individual safety and tracking for participants,” says Rene Winter, Sales Manager Africa of Globalstar Africa. “It also needed to provide insight into their locations and health so that event management and followers could respond efficiently to any emergencies. Tracking and emergency messaging had to be communicated from the participants to race operations and management using a device that was not reliant on GSM networks – the lack of coverage was incredibly limiting.”

The Globalstar Spot Gen3 and Spot X were the right fit for the race, the devices offering the insights and technology that the organiser needed to ensure the safety of sporting enthusiasts in one of the most remote areas of the world.  The Spot Gen 3 provides satellite coverage across seven continents and has a simple user interface that makes it easy for users to submit information or manage the platform with ease. The size and design ensure that battery life lasts for long periods of time, and the built-in motion sensor doesn’t transmit to the satellites when the device isn’t moving to further reduce the drain on battery.

The Spot Gen3 is designed to be used by cyclists and runners to submit information to race management. The information is provided on an ongoing basis was fed to a viewing platform where any Help or SOS messages were then directed to the Spot X units that were used by management, operations, and race support.

Of course, for spectators and race supporters, the technology provided them with a bird’s eye view of the races, giving them the chance to enjoy the experience as much as the participants.

“This constant stream of information allowed for the organisers to keep a tight track on all those taking part in the race,” says Winter. “They could use the information to triangulate positions, check last known position, communicate with the participants, and move into action in case of an emergency. This completely bypassed the need for traditional communication networks and devices as they didn’t work in the area and provided an unreliable link between participant and race organisers.”

Thanks to the instant and accurate dissemination of information, management could react to user locations on time, sending help the moment it was needed. It alleviated a lot of pressure for the event organisers and the participants alike, both knew that they would be able to help someone if required.  The Spot Gen3 and Spot X ensured that the organisers also adhered to compliance regulations around race safety and did due diligence in terms of ensuring that their extreme events met safety requirements. The solution was not only a success at Namib Quest and Namib Ultra but has also been used in 1Zambia, Salt Pans, Munga, Freedom Challenge, Wines 2 Whales and the Absa Cape Epic.

“Thanks to this solution, we had the peace of mind we needed to allow our extreme events to be carried out in these remote and exclusive areas,” concludes Nico Gerike, Sponsorships and Events Manager, Namibia Breweries. “We could concentrate on managing the event, knowing that the participants were safeguarded using the best technology available for this environment. Spectators could follow the event which changed the dynamic to one that’s even more interactive, and we have already seen increased interest for next year’s event. It has added massive marketing value to the event and our brand.”

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