IT experts face uphill battle in Everest expedition

Researchers and IT industry experts are setting their sites on the highest peak in the world where they will test new technologies in one of the world’s harshest and unpredictable climates.

A crew of roughly 60 people from Ryerson University,

the University of Ottawa and IT experts will unite and join forces to climb to Mount Everest’s Base Camp starting Mar 25. The trip take roughly three weeks, where the team will set up a wireless Internet system, study how computers respond in the harsh climate, research the level of data recovery possible and Internet usage with restricted access.

At a cost of $10,000 a person, the expedition will be led by Dr. Sean Egan, a mountaineer and professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the U of O, and Peter Luk, director, School of Business Management, Ryerson University. The trip is sponsored by Kanatek Technologies, an Ottawa based storage systems integrator, HP’s ProCurve unit and SkyWave Mobile Communications.

At 5360 m. high, base camp, the researches believe, is an ideal testing ground, because of its elevation, harsh climate and unpredictable weather.

Egan is travelling back from climbing Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and was unavailable by press time to comment. He and some other researchers will continue on to the summit of Everest, while the majority will remain at Base Camp. Another lead researcher, Tarun Dewan, associate professor School of Business at Ryerson, said he will be focusing on how the hikers use the Internet with the restricted access they will encounter.

“We will be monitoring all of their keystrokes, so we know what they are doing and how using their computers,” he told ITBusiness.ca, adding that roughly 22 people will be hooked up by monitors.

Dewan said the way someone uses the Internet, such as limited e-mail use, can influence how a company prices their unlimited access packages. He said that if high users don’t change their access with restrictions – likes the ones faced in Nepal – it might make sense to charge more for usage, but, he said, if usage does change significantly you might need to charge less.

Ryerson University professor Norm O’Reilly has been fundraising for five years to head to Everest. He said the diverse crew will set up a wireless base camp and test a number of software products, including handhelds, to see if the batteries can survive in harsh climates.

“We will be using technology in remote environments and see who we can apply it here,” O’Reilly said. “There is nowhere you can go in North America where you find these conditions.”

Kanatek president Terry Kell said the company is using the expedition as the trigger for a mass marketing campaign. Its Web site already uses words such as assault and has slogans such as: “Having conquered mountains of data.”

“Everyone has had to cut back. There hasn’t been many exciting marketing initiatives in some time and it’s time to stick our neck out,” said Kell.

Kell is one of several Kanatek employees on the expedition.

“We want to put Canadian IT solutions on top of the world. We will be using the latest in communications technology to demonstrate data recovery in a hostile environment,” he said.

Brent Winsor, marketing manager for Skywave, said his company isn’t sending anyone on the expedition, but the firm will be providing the expedition with a DMR 200 satellite terminal to track where the climbers are on the mountain.

HP’s ProCurve product group will be testing the durability of its network equipment and will provide the connectivity using both wireless and wired technology.

In an e-mail, Peter Luk, the director of School of Business Management, said he is excited for the trip and is looking forward to the publication of a number of peer-reviewed articles in various academic journals.

In true Canadian spirit, the group plans on playing a shinny hockey game around the Khumbu glacier on Mount Everest.

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