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2012 Everest & K2 tech roundup: Q&A; with HumanEdgeTech

Posted: Feb 23, 2012 08:00 pm EST

"Some call it bad luck, I call it bad preparation," said Amundsen. "If climbers used the word 'beta' the way most software houses do, we'd all be dead," said someone else 100 years later.

Tom Sjogren at HumanEdgeTech says gear have sold out lately due to low inventory caused by the recent recession so ordering in time is a good bet. But what to get?

Because tech wilderness can be just as grueling as the slopes of Everest these days, here goes a chat with Tom about the basics of Himalaya comms in 2012, along with an exciting peek into the future.

ExplorersWeb: Hey Tom, Everest season is coming up, anything new in terms of comms?

Tom: The major price cuts on Thuraya satellite phones have been significant news. At HET the big thing has been the Windows pad, offering the best of PDAs and Netbooks in a nice middle solution.

PDA's seem to have got a renaissance lately though. We have got quite a few clients going with PDA and Thuraya SG2520.

The iPhone or the iPad don't connect to satellite and won't do the job, so the PDA version is used by climbers who need to do real comms media (dispatches, pictures and video clips) in an ultralight setup.

ExplorersWeb: What's the situation with the mobile networks on both sides of Everest?

Tom: Having talked to several climbers and guides from last year in short the deal is: bring your GSM phone (could be very expensive - check minute cost with your service provider) or buy Ncell card or phone in Kathmandu. Use it in the larger villages on the way up.

It will work in BC as long as it's not too crowded and the weather has been good enough to charge the solar powered base station.

The coverage deteriorates close to the icefall and becomes more or less non existent on the mountain. Some people reported they picked up China Mobile on the summit.

Don't have any good info from Tibet yet but China Mobile should work in BC and on the North Col. Will follow up on that.

Note that neither of the other 8000ers in Nepal, China or Pakistan have any mobile phone coverage. You must use a satellite phone.

ExplorersWeb: In the recent Poll at ExWeb a majority of almost 500 responders said they'd rather scrub FB and Twitter before emails and website for their expedition, why is that do you think?

Tom: Facebook and Twitter are not right for the job. Facebook is for chatting with friends and twitter is for firing short messages.

I often hear people say they don't "understand" Facebook, or they don't feel it's private enough, or it doesn't reach the people they want to reach.

Even at a generous estimate of 800 million or so users, the global population is 6.8 Billion so FB still has limited reach, not to mention among kids who are the ones climbers and adventurers often want to inspire.

A well designed personal website also offers a much more intense user experience.

ExplorersWeb: What would you recommend people to bring who:

a) just trek to BC

Tom: The average trekker is fine with a GSM mobile phone. Rent a satellite phone and computer if you really need to be reached or do frequent emails.

b) want to do the standard route on either side

Tom: A personal satellite phone is a must. Some experienced climbers think it should be mandatory for security reasons. I'm no fan of increased regulations but it is a cheap life insurance. A radio is not enough, as it's susceptible to shadows and limited in recipients.

Among the world's best 8000 meter mountaineers there is not one single climber who doesn't bring a satellite phone as far as I know. It's a safety issue that less experienced climbers should take to heart.

The rest depends on what you want to do - pretty much everything is possible today at reasonable cost. Pictures and videos from the summit as well as live video talks with schools back home. There is a package for every need, choose your level here.

c) want to do a new route?

Tom: PDA/Thuraya solution for sure.

ExplorersWeb: Finally, frostbite, would you use the foot warming system on Everest? Anything else you'd bring?

Tom: Absolutely. There's much more frostbite on Everest than gets reported. Some climbers feel bad about it, and most tour organizers don't think black toes are good marketing. But at least one well known Everest operator requires their clients to get a foot warming system.

I personally used it on Everest summit as well as both my unsupported South and North Pole expeditions. Here's how to: Jam the heat pad between sock and liner in your boot. Just before leaving for summit push, switch it on in the tent on the highest setting.

The blood will flow to your central organs once you start walking and that's when you get the numb toes. After a while the blood distributes to every corner of your body and the heat pad can be turned down, to save battery.

Bring 6 AA lithium batteries for the summit push and 6 spares. They should be Energizer Ultimate Lithium - not Advanced Lithium.

ExplorersWeb: What has been the biggest change in extreme comms in the past 5 years do you figure?

Tom: Price and weight are down, data speed is up. But the biggest gains have been in software and that's why we keep developing CONTACT.

The latest upgrade allows you to call in dispatches and have them automatically transcribed to your website. Your positions can be posted automatically on 3D maps. You can upload pictures to the internet or broadcast quality video to a TV station all on your own, without bringing a tech person.

ExplorersWeb: So what will be the next big thing in adventure comms?

Tom: Creativity. We have had thousands of years to hone our writing and illustration skills, but only a century to develop photography and a few decades in the digital world. Technology today can bring people pictures from the summit of Everest but only creative images and stories can truly touch their hearts.

Artificial Intelligence is the other big thing, bringing explorers exactly the information they need when they need it. We will climb, ski and sail with head mounted displays of one sort or another feeding us live data about our body and surroundings.

Imagine a beep when sensors detect the peripheral temperature in your feet falling into the danger zone, or your body getting dehydrated. Imagine live weather streams pushing accurate micro climate forecasts (you only get the big picture today) and the route digitally marked on the slope right before your eyes. You may like it or not, but it's going to happen and sooner than most think.

Tina and I used similar tech already ten years ago on our first SP trip and now we see it returning but a lot more robust this time.

ExplorersWeb: Anything we forgot to ask?

After outfitting more than 3000 expeditions with technology I think the most important question is "how do I get it to work?" It's actually very simple if you follow a few rules:

1. Practice: at least 3 dispatches from the gear while still in civilization, where support calls are easy and spare parts are close.

2. Protect: Keep phones and PDA's in zip lock bags, tucked inside your clothes on climbing, and in a down jacket with a hot water bottle during the night.

3. Support. If something happens - get support from HumanEdgeTech.

4. Backup. From spilling coffee on the keyboard to the phone slipping into a crevasse: things go wrong. If you have a really important sponsor, get backup equipment.

ExplorersWeb: How soon do I need to place the order? What is the delivery time?

Everybody went low on inventory during the recession and now that times are picking up something is always out of stock. This past year solar panels, batteries and phones have often sold out. Ordering in time is a good bet right now.

Co-founder of HumanEdgeTech Tom Sjogren climbed Mount Everest and other peaks, skied to both poles back to back and unsupported, and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to South America.

HumanEdgeTech is a unique, no-nonsense virtual expedition tech warehouse for satellite communications and edge technology. Created by explorers for explorers, the store is user-friendly with no-hassle pricing, expedition-tested gear, expedition-ready hardware, fast delivery and payments. HumanEdgeTech.com accepts most international credit cards, and delivers worldwide within 72 hours. Contact Tom and the Human Edge Tech Team at +1 212 966 1928 or by email team@humanedgetech.com
#Mountaineering #Tech #topstory #interview

Rare bird in software universe: Tom tests Everest hardware for a Silicon Valley client.
Image by Tina Sjogren courtesy Explo, SOURCE
The PDA version is used by climbers who need to do real comms media (dispatches, pictures and video clips) in an ultralight setup.
The latest Contact upgrade allows you to call in dispatches and have them automatically transcribed to your website...
courtesy Explorersweb, SOURCE
...your positions can be posted automatically on 3D maps.
courtesy Explorersweb, SOURCE
Everest Lhotse wall, dispatch and pic insert from your location, viewers fly in on 3 D map to find you. No need for tech staff, bulky gear, or huge budget. Telling your story is easier than ever.
courtesy Explorersweb, SOURCE