Reverse Geocoding
Routes to Hiking Trail Names and Energy Expended

By Robert Bennett, Pickatrail.com

This document concerns reverse geocoding route data to hiking trail names and the total energy expended hiking each trail segment using a multitudinous, highly accurate geospatial data set and a proprietary API. The foundation of the data set was acquired using a custom backpack equipped with geospatial technology.

The following image is a Google map with a route (in red) collected by a wearable device at an urban area in San Francisco. Notice the route does not exactly follow the trail. This problem is even more prevalent on rural hiking trails where GPS provides the only available signals to approximate location.

Lands End Trail

If a wearable device uses this route data to estimate calories, elevation or distance then the results will be false.

Accurate Routes

With an accurate data set of hiking trails and some algorithm engineering, we can take an inaccurate route and precisely overlap it with the trails in the data set to build an accurate route, at least where the route overlaps the trails in the data set. With the accurate route we can accurately determine distance and elevation. We can then reverse geocode the route to determine the names of all the trails hiked on the route, the percentage of each trail hiked on the route, and with the hiker's gross weight, the number of calories expended on each trail along the route. I built an API that solves this problem; input and output is described below.

Input: A hiker's gross weight and geofenced route data.
Output: The application returns a list of trail names and their location names that are either partially hiked or completely hiked, the total length of each trail hiked, and the total energy expended on each trail. The application can also return an interpolated route that includes all of the points forming the full-trail geometry along the route.

  1. Automated posts to social media pages can announce accomplishments: "Robert hiked 8.7 miles in Grand Canyon National Park... 5.2 miles of the Bright Angel Trail (1,600 calories)... 2.3 miles of the Rim Trail (620 calories)... 1.2 miles of the Tonto Trail (235 calories)...
  2. Data repositories that store personal health information (e.g., Apple Health Kit and Microsoft Health) can build lists of trail names that their user's hike, along with total calories expended on each trail, latitude, longitude and other attributes. If the user's permission settings allow it, search engines can use the data to target advertising based on hiking experiences. The data could be used in third-party apps, in search engines, and to improve product reviews.
  3. As wearable devices that use accelerometers, heart rate monitors and altimeters have difficulty accurately calculating the caloric cost of hiking, especially on steep and shifting gradients, post-processing route data may be used to improve the accuracy of energy expenditure calculations reported online by wearable devices.

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