Airbag trigger challenge

How might we create new ways to trigger the airbag’s inflation to not depend on the rider pulling the handle?


About ABS

ABS Protection GmbH, a medium-sized company from Munich, specializes in innovative sports equipment that saves lives and supports mountain sportspeople in creating inspiring nature experiences. As early as 1985, ABS developed the first avalanche backpack, a groundbreaking product that protects winter sports enthusiasts. Since then, the company has pioneered safety equipment for snow sports enthusiasts. The company was purchased in 2018 under Spin Capital’s leadership and had since operated under ABS Protection GmbH. The well-known former ski professional Felix Neureuther is also a co-partner. Last winter, we created a new face for the brand along with the new design, products, and new brand identity. Still, our DNA remains the same: offering “Protection in Adventure”, but introducing the new slogan: “Enjoy your wild”. Upon winter 2021-22, we will expand our playfields targeting new customers, providing products for the ambitious mountaineer, the resort skier, and the winter hiker, meaning that ABS will become a holistic partner for responsible mountain adventures.  Furthermore, we, at ABS, are going digital with the new A.WAY app and a Beacon as a connectivity solution supporting ski tourers and freeriders in their planning and adventures. Besides, ABS presents an inflatable snowshoe as well as product updates and detail improvements.

ABS is co-owned with PYUA, the Freeride Filmfestival, and the Freeride Experience by Spin Capital. The headquarter is in Munich, and its Austrian office is based in Wattens, Innsbruck – around 35 employees are working in both locations.

Since the invention of the avalanche airbag by Peter Aschauer, founder of ABS, this product has saved many lives. While ABS is currently one of the safest airbag systems on the market, we constantly strive to make our products better and are excited to shape the future of mountain safety with you.


The problem to solve

The benefits of avalanche airbags have been demonstrated in a scientific investigation of serious avalanche accidents between 1994 and 2012 in several countries titled “The effectiveness of avalanche airbags”. Out of 100 people WITHOUT an Avalanche Airbag System, 22 people died and 78 survived. In comparison, out of 100 people WITH an Avalanche Airbag System, only 11 people died, demonstrating the benefit of carrying Avalanche Airbag Systems. While the study proves Avalanche Airbag Systems’ effectiveness in reducing mortality risk, the authors emphasize that failure to inflate airbags remains a severe problem in avalanche situations: Out of 307 people with an avalanche airbag system, 61 airbags were not inflated in an avalanche situation. Reasons range from technical issues, service issues, or mechanical damage to the airbag. The biggest reason with 60% is human error. If we can avoid human error through innovation, we can significantly improve survival chances in avalanche situations for 6 out of 10 people.

Improving safety is especially important as freeriding, off-piste skiing, and ski touring are becoming increasingly popular. More people are at risk of getting caught in an avalanche. Concurrently, more people without backcountry safety training are buying and using Avalanche Safety gear, like avalanche airbag backpacks, which increases human error risk.


Our challenge

How might we create new ways to trigger the airbag’s inflation to not depend on the rider pulling the handle?  You may consider the following directions imaging a better solution:

Sensors & Data: Can we leverage sensors to detect situations where the airbag must be released? What if the ABS-system is connected to sensors in your clothing? How might we use data and algorithms to recognize avalanche situations automatically?

Interface: What if you could release your airbag only with your voice? What if the airbag wouldn’t need any information from you at all, because it senses all the required information?

Group system: What if you could get small add-on, which links all avalanche backpacks in a group of skiers/snowboarders, where each group member could release one or all backpacks?

Note that With the P.RIDE System, ABS is the only brand on the market tackling the problem described above. This product works well in guided groups with one well-trained ski guide. However, the ABS P.RIDE system has limitations regarding the ease-of-use and is coupled with a specific backpack.

What are entirely new ways to ensure that an Avalanche Airbag System releases easily and reliably to give the 60% of people who don’t pull the handle a higher chance to survive?

We are looking for innovative and feasible ideas to tackle the airbaig trigger problem. The solutions should be affordable for average ABS customers. It should be easy to use for a broad range of customers, regardless of extensive safety training or mountain experience. We are ready to revolutionize the airbag market to give even more people the chance to survive in an avalanche accident.

Help us to make backcountry skiing safer!


Collaboration incentive

We invite the three teams with the most innovative and best implementable ideas to join our ABS team in Wattens (Tirol) for a workshop to pitch their idea and discuss it further before taking part in a team event, including networking opportunities.  The winning team will be offered paid internships in the sales + marketing department at ABS.


Sign up to tackle the challenge