Photo/IllutrationYamareco Inc. CEO Kazumine Matoba, left, and Yamap Inc. President Yoshihiko Haruyama show mountain trail data gathered by members of their websites in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. (Shinichi Mishima)

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) will provide a more accurate topographic map for constantly changing mountain trails thanks largely to the hikers themselves.

The GSI, based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Dec. 12 signed cooperation agreements with two mountain information website operators to use global positioning system (GPS) data from the smartphones of hikers to correct information on major mountain trails by the end of next fiscal year.

It will start with popular peaks, such as Mount Hotakadake, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures.

Although GSI officials previously visited mountains to locate altered routes, collapsed trails and roads blocked by construction work, it has become increasingly difficult for the agency alone to survey all mountains.

Under the agreements with Yamareco Inc., based in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and Fukuoka-based Yamap Inc., the GSI will receive--anonymously and free of charge--the latest GPS data for trails hiked by their registered members.

Yamareco has 300,000 members, while Yamap boasts 550,000.

Hiroshi Murakami, director-general of the GSI, said working with the companies will enable the agency to promptly collect accurate information.

“Even when mountain trail data from each hiker is not precise, gathering information from hundreds of hikers will significantly improve accuracy,” Murakami said.

The chiefs of the mountain information websites also welcomed the move.

“We could run our website thanks to free topographic data from the GSI,” said Yamap President Yoshihiko Haruyama. “I can return a favor this time.”

Yamareco CEO Kazumine Matoba said his company will be able to offer more support than simply providing GPS data.

“If it (the GSI) wants to correct data on specific mountains especially quickly, it would be a good idea to call on our members to hike on such peaks together,” Matoba said.