Keeping Track of the Environment

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CyberTracker on Arctic Expedition

The unique icon interface made CyberTracker the ideal data capture tool in the harsh weather conditions of an Arctic research expedition.

The staff members of the German mobile computing magazine Palmtop-Pro were asked by a group of scientists to suggest the most efficient data collecting tools for their trip to the Arctic.

The magazine proposed the Palm platform together with a handful of top Palm programs for the research expedition, including CyberTracker.

The expedition took place in June 2001 aboard the Polarstern, a large-scale floating laboratory considered to be the most important tool in Germany's polar research programme.

Boris von Luhovoy, publishing editor of Palmtop-Pro Magazine explained that: "We turned for data entering and management to very special freeware software, CyberTracker, developed for African national park troopers and Bushmen, enabling virtually illiterate people entering the most complex data by only typing on an icon. This seemed to us perfect also for university professors then."

Benefits of Icon Interface

"CyberTracker software enables anybody, no matter which nationality, literate or illiterate, to enter and manage even the most complex data, including automatic GPS data attachments to the data itself. "The Icon approach also helps a lot if you have a multi-language research team to service with a Palm. "In heavy gear with three thick gloves worn in a ice storm, dragging a sledge on a stiff towel and watching for hungry polar bears, a keyboard is unpractical... the icon approach is the only practical and simple solution given the environment." The Palmtop-pro consultants to the expedition were familiar with the software, having run a multi-part workshop on CyberTracker in their magazine. "On a expedition out of reach from any outside help you have to rely on working solutions which are proven and have
a perfect history."

Modifications for Arctic Conditions

To enable the scientists to use the handhelds in the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic environment, Palmtop-Pro consultants disassembled each of the devices and filled the interiors with special polymer fibres that can withstand 90 degrees (celsius) below zero, and also fitted an electrical and computer controlled heating inseam in a watertight "OtterBox" PDA case.

The Polarstern

The Polarstern is equipped for biological, geological, geophysical, glaciological, chemical, oceanographic and meteorological research and houses nine research laboratories. It spends almost 320 days a year at sea and has completed more than 25 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic since it was first commissioned in 1982. The ship has at most a crew of 44 and offers work facilities for an additional 50 scientists and technicians.

Reference: "Scientists To Use Palms on Arctic Expedition," www.palminfocenter.com, May 15, 2001.