"A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time," said Tommaso Melodia, associate professor of electrical engineering at the University at Buffalo and the project's lead researcher. (Agencies)
"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," said Melodia.
Land-based wireless networks rely on radio waves that transmit data through satellites and antennae.
Unfortunately, radio waves work poorly underwater – which is why agencies like the Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in US use sound wave-based techniques to communicate underwater, researchers said.
Many systems worldwide employ this paradigm, said that Melodia, but sharing data between them is difficult because each system often has a different infrastructure.
The new framework will solve that problem by transmitting data from existing and planned underwater sensor networks to laptops, smartphones, and other wireless devices in real time.
Melodia tested the system recently in Lake Erie, a few miles south of downtown Buffalo. Hovannes Kulhandjian and Zahed Hossain, both doctoral candidates in his lab, dropped two 18kg sensors into the water. Kulhandjian typed a command into a laptop. Seconds later, a series of high-pitched chirps ricocheted off a nearby concrete wall, an indication that the test worked.
A deep-sea internet has many applications, Melodia said, including linking together buoy networks that detect tsunamis.
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 monitoring pollution. The framework will encourage collaboration among researchers and, potentially, eliminate the duplicative deployments of sensors and other equipment. There are also military and law enforcement applications.
"A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time," said Tommaso Melodia, associate professor of electrical engineering at the University at Buffalo and the project's lead researcher.