With the Internet of Things covering the whole Earth and connecting everything under the sun — it’s time for the seven seas to join in. In the recent news, a defence agency of the United States, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), intended to take the connected device technology, IoT, into the oceans with their new Oceans-of-Things (OoT) initiative. The ocean 2.0 program is aimed at gaining a situational awareness over oceans using small, commercially available IoT devices and sensor systems.
Considering the vastness, with approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, it seems a little impractical for DARPA to succeed with OoT. However, one can take into account the environmental limitations such as absurd weather conditions, and find a workaround before actually deploying IoT devices. DARPA, therefore, increasing the coverage area to account for the missing data from obstructed sensors by using nearby functional units to offer a better view of the situation.
This Ocean-of-Things initiative is a part of DARPA’s ongoing initiative of ‘mosaic warfare’ — a way of war that uses the power of advanced intelligence and information networks — where the sensors would contribute to the data that collected from oceans.
Behind The Scenes
Oceans of Things was first announced in 2017, where it was planned to use a network of small, low cost, floating enabled sensors that will collect the data from the oceans and then transmit and analyse it to real-time monitor marine time activity. This program was aimed at monitoring and track the temperature of the sea surface, the state of the sea, ambient acoustic noise, wind speed, location and activity of marine vehicles, wave dynamics, multi-spectral vessel signatures, and vessel behaviour, and aircraft whereabouts along with keeping a check on the marine animals. This data was supposed to transmit periodically on a real-time basis to a cloud network via satellite and later used for analysis.
The OoT technology was designed to use advanced analytics to predict and track the whereabouts of the floating sensors. The materials used for the technology relied on low-cost commercial hardware which allowed the government to cover a large area with several sensors to receive robust data. Efficient signal processing will help these environmentally friendly sensors in conserving a considerable amount of energy and are also designed to reduce the use of plastics.
John Waterston, a program manager at DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, said to the media that they are trying to process at the edge, which is the real hard challenge for DARPA. And for that, Amazon is creating a DevOps environment in AWS GovCloud. Considering the OoT initiative is using edge software along with IoT management platform from Numerus, these will produce a full-spectrum sensor-to-cloud solution which would be able to detect even the minor changes in the environment. While processing, the software reduces the megabytes of sensor data into kilobytes of information at the collection source and then transmits that analysis through iridium satellites to a secure firewalled cloud infrastructure.
Benefits With A Twist
The oceans are believed to hold crucial oceanographic information and a vast amount of meteorological data, but the Pentagon research arm’s interest is much more than just environmental welfare. It is looking for systems and tools built with inexpensive, distributed sensor networks to detect, track, identify and analyse nearby military and commercial vessels and activity autonomously.
According to experts, such a program will face some significant technical challenges — firstly related to the hardware built of the sensor floats that needs to survive in harsh ocean environments for at least a year, and should also be built with environment-friendly materials. The hardware should be designed to envelop safety procedures for marine animals as well as for vessels. Secondly, making sense of such a vast amount of data coming from those floats will be a task for the research agency. It is therefore required to develop cloud-based software and innovative analytical techniques to collect, transmit and process those data. Thus, DARPA is aiming to advance these solutions with the help of float development and data analysis to have a dynamic display of float locations, vessel health, and mission performance.
IoT has always been a gateway technology for transforming digitally. And similar to other technologies, IoT also relies heavily on data to function effectively. So to change the ocean sector of the country, usage of IoT to collect the data and process it to get the right insight is exceptionally crucial. Vessel tracking, vessel maintenance, emission control, supply chain visibility, crew safety and welfare or any physical operation can be automated and improved with the help of IoT.
However, India is heavily lagging in terms of involving IoT beneath the earth’s surface. Currently, with a thriving fishing industry, India is primarily using IoT to help fishermen with IoT-based sonar devices, that assist them with information to catch fish. According to a report, the industry employs 14 million people, with the total fish production during 2017-18 estimated to be 12.60 million metric tonnes and contributing to around 6.3% of the global catch.
Such systems give an underwater 360-degree view, which reduces human intervention, along with saving fuel cost and time and also improves the quality of the catch. InCEve Electronics, based out of Bengaluru, is one such company helping Indian fishermen to improve their score.
With an ocean to its name, experts believe that India could achieve a lot with the help of IoT — from real-time monitoring of the seawater quality with the help of sensors connected to a buoy sending information via the GPRS network, to monitoring goods that are being shipped around the world. Along with that, smart power grids that create conditions for more rational production planning and consumption can also be achieved through implanted microchips within connected devices that communicate with each other.
Also Read: India’s First Internet Of Things Policy
In the wake of surviving these harsh ocean environments, the engineers are creating advanced floats with a passive sensor suite that is aimed at posing no danger to marine vessels. These sensors are also designed to comply with all federal laws, legalities, orders and regulations provided by the government. Although the program announced by DARPA is still in its nascent stages of development, it has plans to go a long way with a dynamic display of all float locations, health, and mission performance.
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Sejuti currently works as Senior Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine (AIM). Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org