An Internet Underwater

New Wave Media

October 15, 2013

1381760214985

1381760214985

 

credit: Douglas Levere

A team of researchers from the University of Buffalo, in collaboration with Teledyne Benthos, published a paper yesterday (PDF) that made sending an email from the deepest depths of the ocean seem just a little bit more feasible. 

To test their research, the team of researchers dropped two 40-pound sensors onto the bottom of Lake Erie and found that they were able to communicate with them from a laptop located onboard their vessel. 

"A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time," said Tommaso Melodia, an associate professor from University of Buffalo in a press release issued the other day. “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.”

Two years ago, an earthquake off the coast of Japan killed over 15,000 and left millions without homes. At an estimated cost of $235 billion, it's reputed to be the costliest natural disaster in world history. But if it wasn't for Japan's earthquake warning system, the death toll and economic impact would have been exponentially greater.

At the moment, one can't send a tweet, let alone an email, underwater because the radio waves necessary to relay the information would become bogged down by the density of water. 

Currently, NOAA's tsunami detection system (DART) consists of a series of bottom pressure recorders that send acoustic waves to moored surface buoys. The data is then sent to a satellite communicating with a control station. From there, the data is analyzed and sent to the public.

Melodia's system would eliminate some of the redundancy of this cumbersome system. His aim is to create one framework that could transmit all data collected underwater to the general populace in real time - a "deep sea internet", as his team has nicknamed it. 

"We could even use it to monitor fish and marine mammals, and find out how to best protect them from shipping traffic and other dangers," Melodia said. "An Internet underwater has so many possibilities."