Getting Smart about Sea Ice: Innovative sea ice thickness mapping leads to safer travel routes in the North

News Release

June 29, 2017 – Iqaluit, NU – Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor)

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for CanNor, announced an investment of $325,000 to fund SmartICE, an innovative system that measures ice thickness.

Northern activities like winter fisheries, shipping, tourism, and subsistence hunting depend on accurate sea ice information for safe travel and successful operations, particularly during the spring months. However, the lack of real-time information on ice conditions can lead to dangerous situations, thereby endangering those who work and travel on the ice. SmartICE uses sensors mounted on a qamutik (sled) to measure ice thickness. This information, combined with Inuit traditional knowledge, feeds into a community-developed map to assist in planning safer travel routes.

SmartICE adapts technology for use in temperatures of -30C or colder by hard wiring key elements, resulting in greater energy efficiency. The technology also includes insulation, heaters, and a simplified interface easily used with bulky gloves. Data will also be used to show how climate change is affecting the northern environment and how communities are adapting.


“Canada is a nation of innovators, creating solutions that matter. By adapting existing technology to arctic conditions, SmartICE will improve the safety of northerners. This innovative technology will help northern businesses in fisheries, tourism, and mining grow.”

Navdeep Bains
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and
Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

“SmartICE greatly appreciates the funding support of the Government of Canada in adapting our sensor technology for use in harsh northern environments. The organization helps build climate change adaptation tools to support local travel safety, while showcasing the innovation and sustainability of communities in a changing Arctic. SmartICE services are co-designed and operated with Inuit and incorporate Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit [Inuit traditional knowledge] about sea-ice environments.”

Dr. Trevor Bell
SmartICE Team Leader

Quick Facts

  • CanNor is investing $325,000 in the SmartICE project, with Memorial University of Newfoundland contributing $123,300 and C-CORE $17,300. Funding for the project is $465,600.

  • In December 2016, SmartICE was awarded an Arctic Inspiration Prize.

  • SmartICE is being used in Iqaluit, Pond Inlet, and Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut. It was also piloted in Nain, Nunatsiavut over the past two winters. Other Northern communities have expressed interest in the technology.

Associated Links


For further information, please contact:

Office of the Honourable Navdeep Bains
Karl W. Sasseville
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Craig Welsh
Communications Advisor, Nunavut Region

Nunavut Research Institute
Mary Ellen Thomas
Senior Research Officer

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