Wyssen Avalanche Case Study

Introduction: A real and Present Threat

For communities living in snowy mountainous regions of the world, avalanches represent a real and significant danger, threatening transport links, settlements and vital revenue from winter sport enthusiasts, and taking approximately 100 lives annually in the European alps alone.

The use of explosive charges to trigger small avalanches has become the norm, using rocket and mortar launches, which is widely forbidden, or by dropping charges from a helicopter, which is near impossible in adverse conditions. The risks of physically deploying charges is obvious, so remotely operated systems from Wyssen Avalanche Control offer the perfect solution.

Wyssen Avalanche Control is a family business established nearly a century ago in an idyllic Swiss valley, and thanks to their flagship Wyssen Avalanche Tower they are now the market leader in Switzerland, Austria and Norway.

The Application: World leading avalanche control system

Wyssen´s avalanche control system offers a full range of avalanche surveillance and provocation technology. Doppler radar beacons, the ‘eyes’ of the system, monitor one or multiple neighboring avalanche zones, detect ultrasound from avalanches, and provide early warning of avalanche activity.

Powered by solar panels, the short range SARAs have a range of 300-500m and are only active when the tower is in operation, mainly providing instant feedback upon triggering an avalanche. The LARA system has a greater range of up to 2000m, making them particularly effective in sounding the alarm and monitoring avalanche flow. Often avalanches happen in poor visibility, so Wyssen’s radar based and thermal imaging system, PETRA, ensures there is no human activity around before triggering.

Helicopter lifts 600kg deployment box onto a tower; A loaded deployment box awaits transport

Pioneered in the popular Zermatt ski area, Wyssen’s remotely controlled avalanche towers are considered state-of-the-art. A 600kg deployment box is guided onto the 8m high LS12-5 G3-3 towers at the start of the season, and once fitted, the box orientates itself and automatically becomes operational. The deployment box holds 12 explosive charges, or the smaller LS6-5 tower is available, which holds 6.

The WAC.3 interface, viewable on a variety of devices

Feedback from weather stations, radar installations, cameras, sensors and more are all transferred to Wyssen’s WAC.3 software system, where the data can be viewed, analyzed and acted upon from desktop and mobile devices. Should action be required, an explosive charge can be detonated from one or multiple towers once the area is considered secure.

The Problem: Critical System relies on PodM2M’s SIM card

Looking for constant coverage for their world-leading technology, Wyssen found PodM2M’s robust M2M connectivity. PodM2M differs from other MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) as we manufacture our own SIM cards so our clients control their connectivity, and our agreements with international operators to include their IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) on each SIM means that clients only pay one flat rate globally.

With PodM2M’s SIM cards we can connect our entire control system to our web-application,’ explains Benjamin Meier, engineer at Wyssen. ‘This gives the user a very flexible interface which can be accessed from any device wherever it may be located.’

By nature, avalanche towers must function independently, in all weathers and in remote, difficult to access locations. PodM2M’s Multi-IMSI technology allows the SIM card to change IMSIs automatically should there be an issue on one of the networks, ensuring maximum coverage and constant data flow to the WAC.3 system, vital in a situation where lives and infrastructure depend on reliable network coverage.

In addition to providing access to over 600 networks in over 185 countries on one SIM card, PodM2M’s platform can send instructions remotely OTA (Over the Air) to the SIM card, vital for mission-critical applications that cannot be without connectivity.

‘The flexibility of the PodM2M SIM card was paramount. We wanted a single SIM card, interchangeable for each device that makes up our system’, says Benjamin, ‘This way, management of the SIMs becomes simple and straightforward.’

Wyssen avalanche towers in situ on the slopes of the Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland

The Solution: Collaborative success based on sound principles

As they place such value on customer service and reliability, it was important to Wyssen to work with a company of similar gold standards. ‘Quality and durability have been standards Wyssen have adhered to since their foundation nearly one hundred years ago,’ comments Sam Wyssen.

PodM2M foster long term customer relationships, and cooperate to provide the perfect connectivity for each application. Alongside this commitment, Wyssen recognized the importance of the round-the-clock support that PodM2M offers. ‘We love PodM2M’s flexibility and the personality of their customer service’, adds Benjamin, ‘it was an important factor in our choice of provider.’

Sam Wyssen is justifiably proud of his company’s achievements: ‘Wyssen Avalanche Control is a trailblazer in this field and offers optimal solutions from the planning phase through to delivery and up to operating the installations,’ he comments.

With the lives and economic viability of numerous mountain communities in their hands, Wyssen cannot afford to take chances. In PodM2M they have found a partner able to provide unfailing connectivity, enabling them, regardless of adverse conditions, to continuously deliver the world-leading standard they themselves set.