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A new app ensures you won’t get lost in the wilderness

Kyle Corry, a Rhode Island-based hiking enthusiast, is the founder behind the app “Trail Sense”

Kyle Corry, an inventor and hiking enthusiast in Rhode Island, is the founder of Trail Sense.HANDOUT

GLOCESTER, R.I. — A new app developed in Rhode Island may help some brave hikers navigate in — or out of — the woods.

Kyle Corry, an inventor and hiking enthusiast in Glocester, founded Trail Sense, a free app that uses a phone’s sensors to provide navigation, astronomy, tidal patterns, weather forecasts, and even estimates other climate risks for those venturing out into the wilderness.

A screenshot of the tide tool, showing estimated tides, on the Trail Sense app.Trail Sense

Q: What is Trail Sense and how does it work?

Corry: Trail Sense is an Android app designed for hiking, backpacking, camping, and geocaching. It offers a variety of offline hiking tools, such as a compass, sunrise and sunset times, backtrack — to retrace your steps if you get lost, weather prediction, and other features. The app also includes an experimental tool that can convert a photo of a map into a full-featured digital map.


What made you come up with this idea?

I was playing the sci-fi survival game “Subnautica.” In the game, there’s a device that allows you to place beacons and provides storm alerts using its onboard sensors. As someone who practices wilderness survival techniques, I thought it would be great to have a real-world equivalent of this device. My original idea was for an offline app that featured a compass to navigate to beacons and offline weather prediction using the phone’s barometer.

How does Trail Sense fit into your background?

I work as a software engineer and also have experience in sensor processing. But I grew up going on hikes, backpacking trips, and learning about surviving outdoors. Trail Sense was created as a fun project that leveraged my skills. I’ve been building it since December 2019.

Who is your target audience at this point?

Hikers, backpackers, campers, and geocachers. I don’t plan on expanding that as I prefer to keep the application’s use cases focused on an audience of which I’m already a member of. But I have received feedback from many users who find the app useful beyond my target audience — such as for home improvement, search and rescue operations, and mapping.


What is Trail Sense’s business model?

Trail Sense was created as a free, open-source application. I have publicly stated that Trail Sense will never have ads or be a paid app. I make no profit from Trail Sense; it is simply a passion project of mine.

Kyle Corry, an inventor and hiking enthusiast in Rhode Island, founded Trail Sense, a free app for hikers, bikers, and others venturing out into the wilderness.Kyle Corry

Do you want to keep it that way?

For the main Trail Sense application, I intend to keep it free and without ads. I believe that charging for the app may create more stress for users and make it less enjoyable to work on. But I do plan to experiment with an Android Wear version of Trail Sense, which would require me to purchase a smartwatch. At that point, I may consider selling it as an add-on, but I have not given it much thought yet.

Who are your direct competitors? And how do you think you are different from them?

There are several direct competitors, such as Gaia GPS and numerous compass applications. But my competitors aren’t free or they have advertising. Trail Sense combines a variety of tools into a lightweight application.

What other features does this app have that make it unique to its competitors?

Most apps rely on the Internet to obtain weather predictions, making Trail Sense’s approach to offline weather prediction quite unique. By utilizing a combination of on-device barometer readings, location-based historical temperatures, and even cloud photos, it provides short-term weather predictions and alerts you if a storm may be approaching.


Also, the variety of tools offered by Trail Sense is different as it aims to cater to any hiking situation. For example, it includes tide prediction, a ruler that can convert printed map distances to real-world distances, a solar panel aligner, and packing lists.

What are your goals for the next year? What about the next five years?

Over the next year, I’d like to release the experimental photo maps feature and improve the usability of existing features. Over the next five years, I’d like to make Trail Sense more advanced by utilizing machine learning and computer vision techniques to enhance features such as weather prediction, cloud identification, distance measurement, augmented reality for navigation, tracking sun and moon positions, and photo map auto-calibration.

What challenges do you have, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Due to not having Internet access, Trail Sense requires out-of-the-box solutions for several features related to weather, tides, and maps, which may sometimes come at the cost of usability, accuracy, and implementation effort. I’m planning on leveraging beta testing to gather feedback on the tools prior to releasing them, ensuring they work well for the majority of users. In fact, a lot of the features in the app were created as a result of user suggestions.


The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at alexa.gagosz@globe.com.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.