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The revolution of climbing—Innovation from Hungary

Clift Climbing takes the climbing experience to a new level for amateur and professional climbers alike. Sensors that can be built into existing climbing walls and the associated app allow you to record and analyze climbs, create new routes and maximize progress and community building.

The mastermind behind the Hungarian startup is András Kókai, designer and enthusiastic climber. He wanted to take the sport to the next level while staying true to the roots of mountaineering. Nothing proves the timeliness of the idea more than the debut of wall climbing as an Olympic sport this summer.

“The climbing tradition can be passed on by sharing the complex knowledge behind it, with mentors with years of knowledge and outdoor experience as essential figures. The sport is rapidly growing in popularity, but the number of mentors stays the same, constantly widening the gap between professional and novice. What makes this even more difficult is that the metrics associated with the movement are either not available at all or are difficult and imprecise. Furthermore, climbing is a sport with limits, even for the most skilled people. Thus, in the field of competitive climbing, subtle differences are slowly becoming huge competitive advantages. Very few tools and services are available on the market that addresses the issues that arise,”—András told us. Part of the problem is that for other forms of exercise such as running, horse riding and fitness activities, performance is much easier to measure and analyze. During climbing, a phone or even a watch can cause discomfort and can be easily damaged. Moreover, these devices are not able to detect the differences in difficulty between routes.

As a problem- and solution-oriented professional, András dreamed up a revolutionary technology that would make climbing widely accessible. “Clift is an all-in-one upgrade for climbing gyms, adding touch-sensitive Clift sensors to the existing holds on the walls. By replacing the holds on the climbing walls with Clift sensors mounted on the back of the wall, we digitize climbing routes and collect climbing data using a central system, giving climbers a tool to track their progress,”—says András. With Clift Climbing, any climbing wall can be upgraded, so gyms don’t have to replace their previous equipment. The free downloadable IoT Platform can optimize climbing room operations by capturing and analyzing climbing data, helping beginner athletes get started and supporting advanced climbers to improve their performance.

“Climbing is a unique movement based on quantitative metrics, where performance is influenced not only by strength but also by mental state, dedication and confidence. As climbers, we know that climbing is as much about the experience and community as it is about the physical training,”—András continued. For this reason, motivation and community building are important aspects of the development. According to Dr Scott Nicholson, American game design and development professor, loss of motivation most often occurs due to a lack of positive feedback or rewards. The app can be used to build and maintain relationships with climbing buddies. It can be used to create different sponsored routes, games and challenges, and to offer digital or even physical rewards.

“It was important to me as a designer to make the entire user experience simple, easy to understand and clear. We strive to harmonize the design, marketing, and manufacturing processes to create our hallmark of complete unity from the smallest sensor to the largest event. After several years of research, fine-tuning and development, it was an amazing experience when the design became a reality and we showed the system to climbers for the first time. To my great pleasure, the feedback has been positive, from the youngest to the oldest generation, people are happy to use the climbing walls equipped with Clift,”said András. Plus, the LED lights gave color-blind climbers unlimited climbing possibilities. Currently, there are six Clift walls in operation in Hungary and Europe, and the team of András is working on expanding the market and making continuous improvements.

Photos: Fanni Jurik

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