Jun 08, 2016

Sensum Crossing The Greenland Ice Cap


That was the opening gambit of an enquiry from Nathan Smith, a Lecturer in Sport Psychology at the University of Northampton.

Over the past couple of years Nathan has worked on a variety of projects related to human performance in extreme environments. Most of his work in this area is connected to understanding human performance in space.

Nathan was approached by Chris Lambert, Director of the Westminster Energy Forum, who was due to complete a self-supported crossing of Greenland and wanted to collect research during his expedition.

For this project Nathan was interested in how to collect situational data on stress, coping and emotion. In past studies they have used a crude daily written diary but the over-reliance on self-reports (which are burdensome to the participant) led to Nathan contacting Sensum to explore alternative ways to collect similar types of data, via wearable devices and video.


So we needed wearable sensors to capture how Chris’s biometrics were going to change, we needed a device to store that data as it was being captured, we needed a means of contextualizing what the data meant, and we needed it all to work in an extreme location.

We discussed the variables that were going to impact on this study, from sub-zero temperatures, to the impact of protective clothing, from battery life to data logging with as minimal a touch as possible.

The temperatures that Chris would be enduring on his 28 day trek across the Greenland Ice Cap could range between 0 to -20 °C.

src: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2706816

As a result of these extreme conditions the technology operating parameters were the main considerations, along with the ability to be able to charge the devices where you won’t have handy electricity sockets.

The operating temperature of batteries drops in cold conditions, so we suggested a warm case for the phone, and then that phone would be placed inside the pocket of Chris’s protective clothing.

In regards to the sensors, since they were going to be worn under all that clothing, against the skin, there were going to be several layers to protect them from the cold.

With these battery considerations we recommended that the wearable component of this study should be the Equivital EQ02 LifeMonitor. which can operate for up to 48hrs battery life continuous running, capturing ECG, Heart rate, R-R interval, Respiratory rate, Skin temperature & Accelerometer X,Y,Z .

At Sensum we’ve built the Equivital into our platform for when clients want the best of the best in terms of data robustness in extreme scenarios and this was most definitely one of those cases.

Alongside the biometric data capture, to the Sensum app, we also provided a lapel microphone to be able to record audio continuously every day, for 28 days of trekking.

This allows us to capture audio for assisting in analyzing context of any biometric changes, but also offers us the option to run emotional analysis on the voice that is recorded. Obviously in this study the weather conditions will determine how much of this audio context data is usable, but this is a pilot to help us understand what the in-the-field impacts of the environment are as well as a research project to determine the emotional challenges of such an extreme expedition.

And finally Chris is recording with a GoPro camera to provide us with video context, and a video diary of his time in Greenland.

We hope that for the duration of the trek the batteries are able to be charged from his solar panels and we very much look forward to sinking our teeth into the data on his safe return.

Good luck Chris and thanks for the introduction Nathan.


Chris Lambert is Director of the Westminster Energy Forum

The Westminster Energy Forum was established in 2004 and is now the UK’s leading industry association for the strategic analysis of challenges to UK’s energy policy and security. Chris works as a risk consultant on geopolitical issues and international affairs, as a political advisor to the global civil nuclear insurance pool, oversees projects on cyber security and nuclear new build and chairs workshops on the security implications of climate change before COP Climate Summits.

Nathan Smith is a Lecturer in Sport Psychology at the University of Northampton.

His specialist areas of research are

• Motivation in sport and exercise settings

• Psychology in extreme/isolated environments

• Role of sport and physical activity in the promotion of psychological health

With colleagues, he has carried out studies with different groups, including polar and desert expedition teams, Antarctic over-winterers, Mars simulation participants and military personnel.

The Greenland ice cap

The average January temperatures range from about −34 °C to 0 °C (−40 to +32 °F), and winter temperatures can drop below −50 °C (−58 °F) over large parts of the Arctic. The average July temperatures range from about −10 to +10 °C (14 to 50 °F), with some land areas occasionally exceeding 30 °C (86 °F) in summer.