Feds Spend $300K to Develop ‘Underwater Internet’

By Melanie Arter | October 23, 2014 | 12:36 PM EDT

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, participants Nancy Barta, left, Samantha Langsdale center, and Fernando Barta pretend to play mock musical instruments and enjoy the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, at Looe Key Reef near Big Pine Key, Fla. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Bob Care)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Science Foundation has awarded $300,000 to the State University of New York at Buffalo to develop “underwater internet” or “real-time video streaming in the Internet of underwater things.”

The four-year project is not about “trying to stream Netflix to scuba divers,” according to the principal investigator for the project, Tommaso Melodia.

“Underwater sensor networks (or underwater internet)” have applications in “national security, border protection, anti-submarine warfare, environmental monitoring, tsunami detection, more accurate weather forecasting, and in the oil and gas industry, among others,” Melodia told CNSNews.com.

“The prospect of an ‘Underwater Internet’ has raised significant interest among the general public because of its potential in facilitating many commercial, scientific, and military activities at sea. Still, in spite of the increased attention by the research community in the last few years, underwater networks are still in their infancy,” the grant abstract said.

According to the grant, “current state-of-the art underwater acoustic technology can support mostly point-to-point, low-data-rate, and delay-tolerant applications.”

“This project is attempting to advance the state of the art in underwater networking by investigating two fundamental issues. First, it is developing technology to communicate over short-range links at higher transmission rates than available today. Second, it is developing technology to integrate the newly-designed acoustic communication technology with the Internet to guarantee interoperability with existing networks,” it said.

The project – and others the researchers are involved in - will create “technology that maintains our technological edge in networked maritime systems and contributes to the training of a new generation of engineers with unique skills in this field,” Melodia said.

“Our work on underwater sensor networks (or Internet underwater) is based on 10 years of research that was supported by the US Navy during my Ph.D. and then by the National Science Foundation. It has contributed to laying the technological basis of a new generation of underwater acoustic networks that will be faster, more reliable, and more secure,” Melodia added.

According to Melodia, underwater sensing technology might have prevented the Gulf of Mexico oil spill four years ago.

“Underwater networks are at the base of many military operations and can be crucial in operations with robotic underwater vehicles operating underwater equipment. Smart wireless underwater sensing systems on underwater equipment could have potentially prevented the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred a few years ago with more accurate real-time monitoring of underwater equipment,” he said.

“The new capabilities will be demonstrated by focusing on video streaming application scenarios for underwater surveillance. The project will integrate research and education by establishing cross-listed graduate/undergraduate courses on acoustic networking and its applications, activities to reach out to underrepresented communities, and pursuit of technology transfer activities in this field,” the grant said.

“We are developing technology to increase our ability to monitor the aquatic physical environment, and to connect these underwater monitoring devices (including video cameras and other sensors) to the Internet,” Melodia said.

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