IoT as we are all aware has been making waves in various industries, from smart cities to healthcare, but there’s one realm where its potential remains largely untapped: underwater. In recent developments, one IoT companies, WSense has raised €9 million to explore the issue of connectivity under sea.
Dubbed the Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT), the goal of this sector is to create a worldwide network of smart interconnected underwater objects and to digitally link oceans, streams, and lakes. With WSense taking a deep dive for IoT, we will too, and look at IoT under the sea, its advancements; implementation challenges, and the benefits this sector promises for the future.
A sea of possibilities
Italian IoT startup, WSense, brought the concept into focus with its ground-breaking underwater Wi-Fi technology. With patented technology, they use devices like their W. Node, an advanced underwater multi-sensor node equipped with an acoustic modem, with underwater localisation which can communicate to other devices and facilitate underwater wireless networking capabilities.
Although the limit for such a device is for depths of up to 300 meters, it shows wireless communication can be a possibility beneath the waves, opening up a number of use cases. Their recent funding secured by a plethora of investors will see it expand their solutions perhaps beyond this capability.
This question of depth could see the utilisation of one of the most promising applications of this innovation: critical infrastructure monitoring. WSense’s technology allows real-time monitoring of underwater structures, ensuring their integrity and safety and giving significant implications addressing maintenance issues and therefore the longevity of underwater assets.
Another crucial area is environmental protection. With the ability to collect underwater data in real-time, WSense plays a pivotal role in understanding and preserving ecosystems beneath the surface.
Despite these positive, its not all smooth sailing for IoUT, and it’s these additional sets of challenges that make it tougher to implement over the more terrestrial systems.
Challenges in realising IoUT
Signal transmission: unlike terrestrial environments, signal transmission underwater is limited and less effective. Conventional Wi-Fi signals, for example, can only travel a short distance underwater.
Signal interference: underwater environments are rife with signal interference from waves, passing ships, and marine life, making reliable communication a challenge.
Adaptation to rapid environmental changes: underwater IoT devices must adapt to rapidly changing conditions, from salinity levels to water temperature.
Cost: the implementation of sensors and underwater autonomous vehicles (AUVs) in aquatic environments is costly.
Resistance: IoT devices designed for underwater use must withstand chemical exposure and UV radiation, making them more robust than their land-based counterparts.
The future of underwater IoT
Yet the fact WSense and other IoT pioneers are embarking on their journey in underwater IoT, it’s evident that this field is poised for significant growth. While challenges exist, the rewards are there for those who see.
Further development of IoUT has the potential to revolutionise critical infrastructure monitoring, expanding AUVs for things like undersea cable inspection; environmental protection, allowing governments information to take area specific action like changing a shipping lane to stop depopulation of endangered fish, and offer additional data to make decisions for various industries like maritime, a major global polluter.
In the coming years, we can expect to witness more innovations, collaborations, and advancements in underwater IoT. Although WSense is currently a Startup, don’t be disheartened into thinking there is still a huge way to go. Recent developments in the field of underwater connectivity and communications can all contribute to the collective development of this new IoT frontier.
IoUT research, for all the reasons listed above, is currently being driven by state-funded organisations, highlighting the seriousness in which the sector is viewed. The SUNRISE project for instance, is supported by the EU and has developed and tested prototypes of underwater robots that communicate using acoustic signals, mimicking marine animals. Additionally, experiments with optical signals are underway to enable high-bandwidth communication in different bodies of water.
IoT is experiencing growth all round, and its underwater iteration is no different. Despite the technical hurdles, the immense potential makes it an attractive industry. As communication between underwater devices becomes more stable and software architectures are established, IoUT’s promise of offering things like real-time updates can lead to a layer of safety on global critical infrastructure, answer questions on the mysteries of the deep and facilitate the push for a more sustainable world both above and below the water’s surface.