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17.10.2013, 08:41:16 (GMT+1)

Developing a ‘deep sea internet’ to improve global communications

Scientists have made a technological breakthrough in developing a ‘deep sea internet’ – a computing network which could provide unprecedented opportunities to collect and analyse ocean data.

Research in New York is investigating the use of underwater sensors to create a common communication network in one of the last unconnected environments on earth.

Exploratory work at Buffalo, the state university of New York, could lead to major improvements in the detection of natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, monitoring pollution, offshore oil and natural gas exploration, surveillance and other oceanic activities across the world.

Details of the research team’s work to build a ‘deep sea internet’ using a framework of connected sensors are in a paper ‘The Internet Underwater: An IP-compatible Protocol Stack for Commercial Undersea Modems’ which they will present at the International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems in Taiwan on 11-13 November. It sets out the need for an underwater networking architectural framework to support a traditional TCP/IP – the suite of protocols used to communicate through the internet.

Buffalo University associate professor of electrical engineering and lead researcher, Tommaso Melodia said: “A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyse data from our oceans in real time. Making this information available to anyone with a smartphone or computer, especially when a tsunami or other type of disaster occurs, could help save lives.

“Land-based wireless networks rely on radio waves that transmit data via satellites and antennae. Unfortunately, radio waves work poorly underwater. This is why agencies like the Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use sound wave-based techniques to communicate underwater.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the research is investigating the deep sea implications for wireless communications and networking, communications in extreme environments, data hiding, multimedia systems, magnetic resonance and radar systems. The proposed framework would transmit data from existing and planned sensor networks to laptops, smartphones and other wireless devices.

“A deep sea internet has many applications, including linking together buoy networks that detect tsunamis,” said Melodia. “In these situations, it could deliver a more reliable warning thereby increasing the odds that coastal residents can evacuate. It may also help collect oceanographic data and monitor pollution. An internet underwater has so many possibilities.”

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