In 2013, climber Mariusz Malkowski was pushing for the summit of Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world. Almost 27,000 feet above sea level, he wasn’t feeling very well. He’d lost about 25 pounds over the past 40-odd days and had only eaten four power bars in the last three. And even those he’d vomited up. The howling wind didn’t do anything to make the subzero temperature more bearable. Still, he had to get to the top and try to lock the door to his home in New Jersey.
A few days earlier, he’d successfully controlled a few smart-home devices at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association from his snowy camp at 22,000 feet. The point? To show that you can connect to your Z-Wave-powered home from anywhere. “Hopefully that proved it,” Malkowski tells Digital Trends.
As for when he finally reached the top of Cho Oyu, the battery on his satellite phone died. “It was minus 40 degrees,” says the Poland native. “It was pretty chilly.”
Z-Wave is a radio frequency (RF) control protocol that lets connected devices speak the same language. That means a variety of smart lights, outlets, thermostats, security systems, and door locks can all play together, even if they’re made by different manufacturers. Some of the companies that use Z-Wave include Honeywell, Belkin, Kwikset, Yale, GE, and Leviton. The more devices you have, the better Z-Wave’s “mesh” network operates, because it acquires more pathway options along which it can send data. If the smart blinds aren’t cooperating to send the message along, the mesh self-adjusts to a different pathway.
This is just one protocol that runs the Internet of Things, of course, though it is more than that for Malkowski, who has been involved with Z-Wave since its infancy. Now the Technical Services Manager at Sigma Designs, he figured out in 2011 how to combine his passion for the protocol and his love of scaling mountains. That year, he tested Z-Wave from 22,349-foot Ama Dablam. Two years later, he took on Cho Oyu, and on March 31, he’ll start a journey to control his home from the summit of Mount Everest.
When he’s at sea level in New Jersey, Malkowski likes to use his smart-home devices to make sure everything’s secure. When he reaches the peak of Everest, he will control devices from his sponsors, including Vivint, Fibaro, Kwikset, and Yale. Provided his iPhone with satellite attachment works, that should be the easy part, despite the mid-90s-dial-up-like speeds he’s expecting to use for the task. “There is about one percent of the people that do it without support and without oxygen,” he says of the ascent, “but that’s what I will try to do.”
To prepare, the engineer has been mountain biking and doing CrossFit to get in shape. But the challenge is more mental than physical, he says, explaining his habit of waking up at 2:00 a.m. to go hiking for two hours in the rain. “Just to prove that I’m more crazy,” he says.
Malkowski won’t be doing his push for the summit until late May. Before then, he’ll be acclimating himself, carrying gear up the mountain to four different camps, and then descending back down. Then for eight days, it will just be him and his 30-pound pack. But he says he’ll have one more thing: “I can bring the home with me,” Malkowski says. “I can bring the peace of mind.”
Update 3/26/2015: This post was updated to correct a misspelling of Vivint and to reflect that Black & Decker is not a sponsor.