The Power of University Projects, students, tech & a good cause – Band to the North Pole




James Redden is a former soldier turned technology consultant. A keen runner with a taste for the extreme, his travels have taken him around the world and to some of the arduous destinations on Earth including the Sahara desert, the jungles of South East Asia, the frigid seas of the South Atlantic and the North Pole.

James combines his love of trekking with a keen interest in technology, in particular how partnerships with vendors can bring truly wild places to those who are have experienced a less fortunate life.

In March/April 2016, James skied the last two degrees to the North Pole and took the Microsoft Band 2 along for the ride.

A team of developers from UCL were instrumental in developing software to help visualise every stage of the journey. Not only were the metrics made available for analysis by Microsoft partners, but the data and visualations helped James craft a story that could be told to the many children he has since spoken to as part of an education campaign in schools.



There are small moments in life; there are big moments in life. For me, crossing the 89th degree was both: symbolic yet a small step on the way to the North Pole.

James Redden

The Impact of Student Projects on real world problems

Project work:
The apps development project begins at the start of term in September, and continues through to early January when the final submission is made. 

Group formation: Students are split into project groups with around 2-3 members, each group being allocated a client who provides the requirements for the app to be developed. Project groups are selected by the module organisers, who also provide the clients.. Project groups are responsible for organising themselves, submitting regular progress reports and working with the client. Lecturers and teaching assistants monitor progress and provide feedback.

Group deliverables: Regularly bi-weekly progress reports and three milestone submissions are made during the course of the project. The final submission includes the working version of the client’s application, video of the application and project report documentation for both the client and for examination. 


So what were James requirements



The key personas were the Explorer and Potential Donors who would sponsor the Explorer adventure.

Climbing twelve foot high pressure ridges and dragging a pulka over the same obstacle is physically demanding and many of those ice formations have been crossed to reach the 89th degree. And there in lies the symbolism – an acknowledgement of all we have achieved so far.

James Redden


A key goal was to develop a responsive web site which would cater for both the explorer and the donors and engage in the event via social media.




Its all about the data



The Explorer would wear the durable wearable device to monitor the following statistics Heart Rate, Calories, Distance travelled and stream this data over very low bandwidth services during the journey to the North Pole using Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft Band application. with the ability to then directly show these statistics and provide accurate GPS tracking of their journey to the web site and backend support services.



Crossing from one time zone to another is a small step along the way. There will be many more pressure ridges. Vast plains of thin ice lie ahead and will be given a wide berth (an act that will possibly add miles to the journey). Open stretches of water will cut from left to right and may require us to swim across the gap and set up a pulley system for our pulkas. And then there are the fields of ice rubble that force constant changes in direction, adding miles to the trek! Now you understand why the 89th is also only a small step.

James Redden


Using the Scale of the Cloud



Key Priorities for User interface

Mobile First

Responsive UI

Windows UI Design Patterns

Simple to use by the Explorer in sub 0 degree and the Donor/Event followers

Interactive and stimulating

Content that had to be displayed

Maps with Daily Locations to track the explorer progress

Charts with Health Data

Social Media

Donation Links


Data Data Everywhere

The data collected via the IOT Stream services and Microsoft Health/Band services are then visualised on the website and Explorer/Support team Dashboard




The power of DevOPS



For more details on DevOps see my post 

The Journey to the North Pole







How does it feel?

Amazing and, above all else, a privilege. Out of around seven billion people in this planet only a few hundred have visited this place. Less have skied any significant distance to stand at the top of the world. I am one of a few who now have experienced the serenity and perfection of this barren and beautiful region.

Soon I will ski away from this thing that has for so long been just a dream. I will be picked up by a Russian helicopter and flown to Barneo ice station and then on to Svalbard. The Pole may be behind me, but the memories and images will remain with me until my final day.

James Redden


Thanks to UCL and Microsoft Azure, many children and young people now have an amazing insight into what it takes to travel to the furthest reaches of the Earth. James hopes this will inspire a new generation of explorers.

So what’s next

As clearly demonstrated Marco, Lukmaan and Chantal develop an amazing product and got hands on with IOT, Azure, data and application development providing a vital service which helped James create awareness of his challenge and raised funds for charities. The team provided vital dashboard back to those supporting James journey to the North Pole. The team can share this as a real project and have completed work for a real client which demonstrate proven results and experience of their skills.

In November 2017 James will attempt to walk 683 miles in under 30 days to reach the South Pole. As part of training he will be walking 350 miles through Norway. This will allow James to test gear, prove the technology, work on skiing skills and validate his fitness levels for his Adventure. Hear how You can follow his adventure at and

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