A demonstration of the home automation capabilities of Z-Wave wireless transmission – controlling a coffee maker from the Mt. Everest base camp – came off without a hitch at ISC West. A few days later, however, the veteran climber involved in the stunt got a first-hand look at the deadly 7.8 earthquake in Katmandu and the resulting avalanche.

The adventurer, Mariusz Malkowski, began his love of climbing in his native Poland while in early high school. “I would go on an 8-hour train ride alone,” he says, “sometimes not telling my parents that I was climbing a mountain.” 

Z-Wave wireless transmission technology

That independent spirit took courage and persistence, qualities that Malkowski has carried into his day job, too, where he is an engineer at Sigma Designs, the creators of Z-Wave, a wireless transmission technology that is taking the world by storm. Z-Wave is a battery-friendly, easy-to-use and cost-effective wireless transmission technology. Z-Wave runs on a different frequency and needs less power than Wi-Fi.

Z-Wave is Malkowski’s baby, and mountains are his passion. This year, FIBARO, a global company specialising in home automation, decided to send him to Mt. Everest, where he was going to climb—alone and without oxygen—to illustrate how, as the company puts it, “everything is connected, and [I] can control [my] smart home even from the top of the world.”

It was a great promotional idea, one that had gone off flawlessly in 2013 when another company, Kwikset, had sponsored him to climb Mt. Cho Oyu, the sixth-tallest mountain in the world and about 30 miles away from Everest. While there, he remotely controlled home-automation devices, including a Kwikset lock.

Controlling Z-Wave powered devices from the top of the world

"Everything is connected, and
[I] can control [my] smart
home even from the top of
the world"

This year’s challenge was to summit Mount Everest—Earth’s highest mountain at more than 29,000 feet above sea-level—and control a number of Z-Wave powered devices located on the other side of the world. “FIBARO is one of my customers,” says Malkowski. “Once they saw the potential of the idea, they thought it was great.”

And it was great! FIBARO spent about $40,000 for the expedition, with the goal (successfully achieved) of remotely making a fresh cup of coffee from Mt. Everest’s base camp using the FIBARO app. This was done as a live demonstration for ISC West in Las Vegas. To do this transmission, the world-class climber used a SatSleeve, which is a cradle about the size of an oversized case that transforms the iPhone into a satellite phone. “It’s about $800 and it lets me get a bit of a charge on the phone, too,” Malkowski says. This extra charge would prove most helpful in the days to come.

Devastating 7.8 earthquake

The demonstration came off without a hitch, but a few days later the climb ended tragically when a deadly 7.8 earthquake hit Katmandu and started an avalanche at Everest’s base camp. Malkowski, luckily, was on the north side of the camp and was relatively safe. He was able to help other survivors.

Malkowski has climbed a number of mountains over the past 20 years, but no one is prepared for a disaster like the Nepal earthquake.

“It was like a big jump,” he recalls, “and then 30 or 40 seconds later the snow came. I wish we had gotten to the top, but the situation made us do our best.”

“I do extremely well in high mountains,” says Malkowski . “You need a persistent person. Every step, you think ‘maybe I should just be done with it.’ Your body is screaming for it and you’re gasping for breath. Lots of it is mental. Being persistent.  Being cold. I don’t care about cold much, I deal with it.”

FIBARO spent $40,000 for the
expedition, with the goal
(successfully achieved) of
remotely making a fresh cup
of coffee from Mt. Everest’s
base camp using the FIBARO app

Mental strength and persistence works in his profession, too. “You don’t want to settle for half-way solutions as an engineer,” he says.

Malkowski's next attempt

FIBARO spent another $10,000 to $15,000 to rescue Malkowski, but he says he’s ready to go again. “It was going really, really well and the ISC West demonstration worked flawlessly,” he says. Undoubtedly, another company will sponsor him. “I’d be ready next year, but I don’t know if my family would be ready for me to go,” he says. “If it’s not next year it will be the year after. I’m 42; for mountains, 40s are a pretty good age. I’ve got another 10 years in me.” He and his eight-year-old son are already planning to climb.

Z-Wave and Malkowski will be on Mt. Everest again, next time at the top.

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Vicki Contavespi Washington Correspondent, SecurityInformed.com

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