Tablets Working on Mount Everest

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — April 10, 2013

A Duke University research team is trekking up Mount Everest, in a quest to get a handle on acute mountain sickness (AMS). Also known as altitude sickness, the illness can affect individuals at all levels of health and fitness.  Using two MobileDemand xTablet T7200s to assist in monitoring blood oxygen levels, a team of three researchers and a dozen subjects are taking part in the study.


The team began their trek to base camp after flying in from Kathmandu and arriving in Lukla on March 31. Dr. Christopher Young, Department of Anesthesiology at Duke University, (in photo) corresponded by email with Mobile Enterprise from Namche Bazaar, a remote village in north-eastern Nepal where the team was spending time for rest and acclimatization.   

Daytime temperatures on Mount Everest at this time of year, he said, can fall in the 60-70 degree range if the sun is out. Clouds, rain and snow, however, tend to come in the afternoon with night temperatures dropping to -20 F. The base camp is at 17,598-foot altitude. Altitude sickness can be felt as low as 8,000 feet.

It goes without saying that researchers required a tablet that was impervious to extreme weather and possible drops. They initially considered iPads and other consumer devices, but the options were either not durable enough or incompatible with the necessary research devices.

The team chose the xTablet T7200 for its lightweight frame and rugged performance. Running Microsoft Windows 7 Pro., the device is MIL-STD 810G certified and is tested to withstand storage temperatures of -60 F, and operating temperatures of -4 F. With a seven-inch touchscreen, the tablet is used in various industries including food and beverage distribution, manufacturing, retail, field service, military and public sector.

While hiking, the research team’s two tablets are simply secured in a duffel bag, on the back of a yak.

Collecting Data
The purpose of the 10-day study is to measure blood oxygen levels of the researchers using a non-invasive device during sleep and while walking to base camp.

Each individual will be wearing a pulse oximeter which collects blood oxygen data continuously for 24-hours a day. Data is downloaded each day to proprietary software.

In addition to the pulse oximeters, the team created a data collection form so that the subjects can record daily AMS symptoms directly onto the tablet PC.

“We made the T7200 a server using APACHE and MySQL onXAMPP then installed a database collection program from REDCap,” Dr. Young said. “We are able to directly input Lake Louise Scores which will be analyzed after the trek.”

Following the trip, the researchers will then assess the presence of any AMS symptoms and compare them to the blood oxygen levels. The symptomology results along with the oxygen level data will help them determine if the amount of oxygen in blood at such a high elevation is related to the severity of AMS.

Going forward, if the results show that the amount of oxygen in the blood is related to the severity of AMS, what will future hikers be advised to do? “We may be able to individualize acclimatization protocols to minimize risk while maximizing time at altitude,” Dr. Young replied.

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