Climbing walls are joining the digitally-connected sports movement that has been building up in other sports such as running and cycling. Volx Climbing, a French supplier of climbing wall holds, has developed an interesting system to trace the preferred or available routes on the wall through a touch-screen panel, marking the holds with electro-magnetically powered colored lights.

The system, called Luxov, allows the gym operator to offer a larger number of alternative climbing routes on his indoor wall to his customers, who can visualize more easily their choices through the use of different colors on the touch screen and on the wall. Different colors can be chosen by the climber himself. The degree of difficulty is shown and can be selected on the touch screen.

Unlike the “e-wall” system developed by Walltopia in Bulgaria, the patent-pending Luxov system uses electro-magnetic induction to switch the colored lights on the holds. Furthermore, the climber can check his or her performance through the RFID chip embedded in his or her bracelet, which will follow every movement along the wall, communicating with each hold and with a computer.

The speed of the ascent and other performance data are stored in the computer. As in many current fitness apps, the individual climbing data can be shared with other members of a community inside the gym and with those of other gyms, making it possible to organize competitions on a national or international scale. The database of the participating climbers can be used for a variety of events and promotions.

Luxov received the first prize in the collective equipment category at Inosport, an innovation forum for sports-related products held in the French town of Voiron in June. Along with another French company, Cimalp (see the related story in this issue), Luxov also received one of the two prizes for French innovation at Camp de Base, a collective exhibition of 15 French firms organized by Outdoor Sports Valley at the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen in July.

Noting that the digital connection concept can be especially appealing for youngsters, Denis Garnier, president of Volx, told us that his company is in the process of developing a dedicated app and a website to form a community of Luxov users. The system may also be used at a later stage to help professional climbers to improve their training routine, with or without the supervision of a remotely located coach.

Volx, a company founded in 1996 in Savigny, decided to launch the development of its electronic no-contact climbing wall system in reaction to the competition from lower-priced suppliers of climbing holds. It decided to present it at the OutDoor show after testing it at a climbing gym in Dijon since April.

Voilx has already made the first offers to some climbing gyms for the installation of its Luxov system. Garnier said he wants to concentrate on the French market before offering the system in other countries, where it may be licensed out to manufacturers to minimize investments. Foreign suppliers of climbing holds would be potential licensees, as they would then be able to make their products compatible with Luxov.

The new product is expected to lift Volx' turnover by more than 60 percent to nearly €1 million this year. The number of employees working on the project will grow from three to seven before the end of 2015. It should work up to a team of about 30 people in due time.