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    “increase your searchability”

    u/ BarfoBaggins recently asked this on r/whatisthisthing (a subreddit “For the identification of mysterious objects”):

    My many-years-old rain jacket has a smooth, somewhat flexible, seemingly plastic object sewn into the upper arm of the right sleeve only. What is it?

    u/BooleansearchXORdie answered the question, now marked solved:

    Radar reflector for avalanche rescue purposes

    Edit: like this

    The link provided is to a line of products from RECCO, a company that makes technology and products for search & rescue. The blurb at the top of the page says:

    Not all your outdoor apparel and gear comes equipped with integrated RECCO® reflectors. We offer additional reflectors that you can attach to helmets, backpacks and belts. Wearing more RECCO® reflectors does increase your searchability. [emphasis added]

    The company’s tagline is: Be Searchable.

    Recco tagline: Be Searchable

    I’ve long mused on connections between search & rescue and searching. Now here is a connection between search & rescue and search engine optimization (SEO).

    Assorted Asides

    It may be more appropriate to call this findability (ability to be found; ability to be successfully searched-for) rather than searchability (ability to be searched; ability to find out about), though the distinction is not at all consistent.

    See: “What is the equivalent of SEO, but for navigating the physical built environment?”

    Here is Wikipedia: RECCO

    There is follow-on discussion about the actual use of the devices in emergency situations, with some commentators asserting it is more a body recovery tool than a rescue tool. These particular devices are passive, meant to reflect radar. These are distinct from avalanche transceivers (or avalanche beacons), which send and receive radio signals.

    The comments on Reddit include assertions that the passive reflectors can interfere with avalanche beacons (this makes me think of interference in web search: search noise or search pollution, where some topics are particularly difficult to disambiguate in web search).

    Avalanche search & recovery is an instance where energy is also focused on avoiding the need for a particular search in the first place. This energy may be exerted by various parties, and includes: public education to increase awareness of risks and resources, searching in advance of venturing out in order to avoid areas of heightened danger, techniques to reduce the danger through avalanche blasting or barriers, and avalanche airbags.

    The passive radar reflectors can be grouped alongside similar tools or practices for finding or identifying things and people in physical environments (including for avoidance). Here is an incomplete list, for example: Emergency locator beacons (inclusive of the avalanche beacons); tools in warfare for avoiding “friendly fire” (like an IR flag); a bright safety flag I attach to my running stroller; reflectors on bicycles (u/a-nonie-muz: “They allow vehicle drivers to track the presence and movements of cyclists in their immediate surroundings.”) and cars; “location monitoring devices” (including Apple AirTags, Tile trackers, Lojack systems, and GPS trackers; along with user interfaces like Find My Phone & Find My Friends1); whistles; signalling mirrors; flares “used for distress signaling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications”; blazes, including the dragons used in trail running (and urine marks); QR codes; safety color coding; social searching like on r/whatisthisthing; and making noise for “keeping the mountain lions away”. (Other techniques for deconfliction or finding include conveying information prior to a search or search-for-not—verify the absence—(“defining areas of operation” or meeting points) or changing the built environment for signalling or friction (signage and sidewalks).)


    1. See this May 13, 2021 opinion piece in Wired from Albert Fox Cahn (website | Twitter) & Eva Galperin (website | Twitter): “Apple’s AirTags Are a Gift to Stalkers”; relevant terminology includes: stalkerware, nonconsensual tracking, technology-facilitated abuse, and digital abuse; see also Freed et al. (2018) and Levy & Schneier (2020).↩︎


    Freed, D., Palmer, J., Minchala, D., Levy, K., Ristenpart, T., & Dell, N. (2018). “A stalker’s paradise”: How intimate partner abusers exploit technology. Proceedings of the 2018 Chi Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3174241

    Levy, K., & Schneier, B. (2020). Privacy threats in intimate relationships. Journal of Cybersecurity, 6(1), tyaa006. https://doi.org/10.1093/cybsec/tyaa006