Snow and Avalanche Center 2006 Avalanche News

PULSE Barryvox avalanche rescue beacon released

19 December 2006

Nordic Semiconductor ASA has released that the award-winning PULSE Barryvox avalanche rescue beacon from Ascom, sold by Mammut Sports Group AG, uses the Nordic Semiconductor nRF905 transceiver to detect and transmit vital signs data to other PULSE Barryvox equipped users in the vicinity after an avalanche.

An avalanche rescue transceiver cannot protect off-slope skiers, snowboarders and snowmobile users from avalanches, but it can mitigate the consequences of an avalanche burial by reducing the time spent buried under the snow. In avalanche rescues to date, there has always been the risk of recovering victims too late or recovering dead bodies while the living are left to perish.

In the unimaginable stress of an avalanche rescue mission the primary objective is to be led to the right spot of buried survivors easily and quickly because within 15 to 20 minutes their chances of survival dwindle rapidly. In order to meet such demanding requirements, rescuers need a device that they can rely on to operate easily, read clearly, and understand unambiguously.

Ascom, a Swiss electronics manufacturer with its own design centre, has bundled its vast experience and power of innovation to develop just such a device in the form of the brand new PULSE Barryvox.

The Nordic nRF905 multiband transceiver is part of the system used to transmit the vital signs data of a buried person to the searching device. The nRF905 transmits on either the European 868- or US 915-MHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) bands. The Barryvox device uses a patent-pending dual-band antenna that allows the wireless link to operate on both frequency bands with optimum impedance matching for the strongest possible signal response.

According to Ascom, they selected Nordic’s nRF905 because the chip is compact and needs only few additional components. This was in-line with the objective to make the 210 g, personal organiser-sized Barryvox the small and light avalanche transceiver to use both analogue (acoustic signal) and digital technology on the market.

The nRF905 operates at a low voltage and has low power consumption making it well suited to battery applications. Nordic products offer an good cost/performance ratio and are reliable. Ascom has used many Nordic chips over the years and have been impressed by their field reliability. And as a multiband device the nRF905 can operate on both frequencies they intend to use – 868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the US.

The Mammut PULSE Barryvox avalanche beacon will be available for purchase from the European 2006/07 winter season.

More about the PULSE Barryvox avalanche rescue beacon

Each member of a ski, snowboard or climbing party carries a Barryvox device that continually transmits a signal. If an avalanche buries one or more members, other members of the group switch their transceivers from transmit to receive mode, so that their unit scans for rescue beacon signals from other nearby Barryvox devices carried by any user buried under the snow.

The receiving unit can detect multiple signals on the 457 kHz frequency, together with a vital signs signal transmitted by the Nordic nRF905 on either the 868 kHz (in Europe) or 915 kHz bands (in the US). This allows rescuers to prioritise their rescue efforts to those victims that are still alive in the vital first 15 to 20 minutes after an avalanche.

The PULSE Barryvox is the first beacon that can detect and transmit vital signs. The PULSE Barryvox has a graphical LCD display that shows distance and direction (360-degrees) to lead rescuers quickly to buried survivors even in complex multiple burial situations. An overview list of all detected signals including their vital status is given. A full analogue mode with an amplified acoustic speaker is built in. The challenge to date has been that most devices require some expertise – not to mention a cool head – to operate effectively.

The Barryvox brand is four decades old, and all that experience has been added to the new beacon. The designers of the device have assumed that rescuers are likely to be suffering emotional distress, panic and even injury and have therefore designed the instrument with absolute simplicity in mind.

The Barryvox revolutionizes avalanche rescue search because the device is:


A full graphical display and multi-language user menus mean to operate the device users simply have to switch to search mode and follow a displayed arrow.


Permanent 360-degree direction indicator leads rescuers directly to the buried subject resulting in a short search time, even for novice users.

A unique, 3-antenna transceiver system provides both digital and analogue search modes that together provide both an increased primary search phase range and faster pinpointing once a signal is detected.


Due to extensive use of DSP technology and specially optimised algorithms that precisely separate signals and accurately associate them with each unique source, search speed and reliability in multiple burial situations is significantly enhanced.

The detection and transmission of vital data is made using a sensitive motion sensor and W-Link (Wireless Link), allowing effective pre-excavation triage (prioritised rescue) thus increasing the chances of survival.

Log in for an Ad-free visit - Contributors can log in for advertising-free pages.
Avalanche Institute


HTML 4.01 Transitional Compliant - Validate