Industrial Sector

Research app: frozen in the Arctic Ocean

Zühlke supported the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI)’s Polarstern Arctic expedition, which provided fundamental insights for a better understanding of climate change.


  • Zühlke and the AWI perfected an app to enable navigation and equipment location on drifting ice floes.

  • The solution involved combining development expertise and geographical know-how in record time and under extreme conditions.

  • The latest development and test methods allowed a solution to be reached without direct access to the system in the Arctic Ocean, where it was being used.

The challenge: limited connectivity in the Arctic

The MOSAiC expedition saw the German research icebreaker Polarstern drift for a year in the frozen Arctic Ocean, taking measurements to provide a better understanding of the influence of the Arctic on the global climate. The problem: the FloeNavi app that the researchers needed to navigate and to locate measuring equipment on the drifting ice was not working properly at the start of the expedition. The big question facing the team was: how do we repair a digital system thousands of miles away when extremely limited connectivity and contact with the users means we can only transfer a few megabytes of data a day? The AWI called on Zühlke to come up with a solution because the complex combination of software and hardware components was essential to the research work on the pack ice.


The approach: updates via Arctic supply ship

Zühlke and the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) formed agile project groups that identified and prioritised the key issues before setting out to fix them step by step. In this phase, the team also assessed the overall state of the application and used the resulting documentation to specify requirements for the next phase of the project.

The updates for the FloeNavi app were sent to the Arctic via satellite in small data packets or physically taken there by supply ship on storage media. In addition to the technical implementation, Zühlke was also responsible for project management methodology.

two team members of Polarstern

Benefits: FloeNavi remains a building block for future expeditions

The close collaboration with the project team bore fruit: the app was perfected step by step. It enabled the researchers to navigate and to locate measuring equipment on moving ice floes. Data such as the location and time of the measurements was also recorded automatically in the app and transferred on board to a central data network. The FloeNavi app was so successful that the AWI continued to use individual features – such as data capture – as a separate app for other types of field research after the Polarstern expedition had ended.

Thorsten Knauf
Contact person for Germany

Thorsten Knauf

Director Business Development

Thorsten Knauf is a Senior Manager who has been working for almost 30 years in the international consulting services industry. He has gained broad experiences from several mission critical and innovative IT and engineering projects across industries. As a partner for business innovation with an agile mind set his current focus is primarily on digital business models, products and services.

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