Outfitting thousands of remote expeditions and re-located from New York to California's Silicon Valley, Tom from HumanEdgeTech shares thoughts with co-founding ExplorersWeb.
Image by ExplorersWeb courtesy ExplorersWeb.com, SOURCE
When push comes to shove, shove comes to Tom. The only new 8000 meter route so far in 2012, the Mazeno Ridge team used Contact5, Ultralight high altitude package and automated tracking. The climbers switched from text to voice on the most difficult stretches.
courtesy HumanEdgeTech, SOURCE
Record kayaker Christian Bodegren used Feather Solar Panels, P50 battery, solid state laptop and a Wideye BGAN to update along the Amazon river. He used a SPOT tracker that plotted direct through CONTACT5.
It takes one to know one. Image of Tom in his North Pole Sunday best (note the yellow handles customized for easier zipper pulling) for size comparison of expedition tech.
Image by Tom Sjogren courtesy Explorersweb.com, SOURCE
Interview: expedition tech outlook 2012/13

Posted: Aug 17, 2012 08:34 am EDT
Smartphones, Instagram, trackers: what's next in adventure tech? Outfitting thousands of remote expeditions, ExplorersWeb caught up with Tom Sjogren of HumanEdgeTech (HET) to find out.

ExplorersWeb: Hey Tom, where are you and what is HET up to?

Tom: We are in Silicon Valley, building a new foundation for tech that we think will dominate adventure in the next decade.

ExplorersWeb: Such as?

Tom: Software for new ways to collaborate and get inspired. Hardware for the way internet of things and smartphones supported by new satellite systems will revolutionize the way we travel and accomplish.

ExplorersWeb: Any examples?

Tom: Can't get into any more details at this point but after talking about the Mosaic adventure-portal for a few years, the new beta of the phone app Pythom at least gives an idea where we're headed.

ExplorersWeb: Any cool innovations in expedition tech near term?

Tom: Not really. There are some new updates in sat comm tech from Thuraya and Iridium but we see no major speed upgrades until 2014/15.

Biggest innovations are in solar. The thin film panels that had 8% efficiency 5 years ago and 11% 2 years ago have now reached 16%.

iPads, Androids and iPhones are still not there when it comes to expedition tech for difficulties of connecting to satellite systems. Expeditions face two worlds: iPhones and iPads as long as GSM supports it but when off the beaten track they still need the Thuraya/Iridium/Inmarsat and solid state netbooks.

ExplorersWeb: What gear to bring next season then?

Tom: Pretty much the same as previous. This past spring some climbers on Everest hoped to send home pictures and videos from their iPhones but were bummed to find coverage only in BC.

Most veterans and guiding outfits use smartphones on treks but rely on proven sat comm gear for actual expedition coverage. What that is can be a bit of a puzzle to figure out.

The easiest way to shop for it (we think) are the packages we've compiled exactly for that reason, tailored to destination and tech needs as they are.

ExplorersWeb: With all the noise today, what's the best way for an expedition to be discovered?

Tom: Some years ago outlets were limited but now the world has become fragmented making self-promotion much harder. Facebook is falling out of grace because most folks get a few hundred followers at best. And all expeditions look the same.

This year some big expeditions went all out on Instagram but then fell silent during actual action because Instagram didn't work over satellite.

In our experience the most successful explorers in terms of media buzz view themselves as a brand and the expedition as an event. They work everything, are everywhere, use verticals such as ExplorersWeb, and spread their bets. There are many ways to become visible.

ExplorersWeb: How do I maintain people's interest?

Tom: "People don't know what they want until you show it to them," Steve Jobs used to say, quoting Ford who said that if asked people would say they wanted a faster horse.

You'll have to be creative and position yourself where creativity is an option to begin with. Then keep the story flowing through the entire experience, not just the beginning and end. People want to participate.

50% of all websites today are built in word press. In my opinion, an internet platform should start with a word press website with your own domain address, and the next step should involve getting the right tools for updates from the expedition.

Those involve the right hardware and software such as Contact that accepts voice dispatches, pictures, videos, mapping, tracking and more over satellite. I think most people don't know that since we started Contact, extreme expeditions have done more than 60 thousand updates from it.

For communication with family and friends a sat phone is plenty. If you want to give your project a chance to be discovered though there are no shortcuts. Competition for eyeballs is too big these days.

ExplorersWeb: Any ideas on how to get sponsorship?

Tom: Do the leg work. Skip the low hanging fruit of world's firsts (where there are so few competitors you're immortalized just for showing up) and start thinking business: namely how investing in you can end up in hard cash for your sponsors. Remember that big companies sponsor local hockey teams and community projects all the time, they do it for a reason.

By the way, National Geographic are hiring explorers for waged assignments. We see more of that emerging as media scramble for content.

ExplorersWeb: If I want people to follow my project on a smartphone but don't have my own app, can I get my dispatches to show on Pythom?

Tom: It will happen automatically when you use Contact unless the content is out of context or you choose to opt out.

ExplorersWeb: Do I have to use Contact?

Tom: Absolutely not. Contact is the best tool (we think) for expeditions but Pythom is all about the right content and supports whatever tools you use. Just email us your page and we'll let you know if it qualifies.

ExplorersWeb: Anything new with the Contact software?

Tom: Yes. We have increased tracking and mapping functionalities. This past spring we also added a voice dispatch service in case the weather is bad and you need to call in. Your message is instantly transcribed and posted in a text format.

ExplorersWeb: Why the streams on ExplorersWeb?

Tom: People and specialized blogs have a hard time getting word out about their expeditions and content. We have a million people visiting ExplorersWeb in a typical year, out of which most are adventurers themselves. We introduced the streams at ExplorersWeb because we wanted to offer this natural meetup place to any expedition, not just those covered by our editorial staff.

ExplorersWeb: How can I get mine to show there?

Tom: Right now just email Newsdesk.

ExplorersWeb: Where are you guys when it comes to video?

Tom: Connected TV, cheaper production costs, online editing tools, content verticals, micro payments and micro ads are all "democratizing" television media. Video will be a big part of the new ExplorersWeb and we are forming collaborations with exciting startups around the world in this area.

ExplorersWeb: Any expeditions planned for you and Tina?

Tom: Still working on alpine style interplanetary space travel.

Co-founder of HumanEdgeTech and ExplorersWeb Tom Sjogren climbed Mount Everest and other peaks, skied back to back to both poles 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
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Related:

Tech week: Rugged Thuraya and Iridium, handhelds overview

Summits on Everest? Be there with Pythom, the world's first Adventure News Aggregator App

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

Iridium global recall of all 9575 extreme satellite phones
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