Scientists develop underwater Internet

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | October 16, 2013

Scientists develop underwater Internet

A deep-sea Internet has numerous applications, including linking buoy networks that detect tsunamis.

According to an October 14 news release from the University at Buffalo (UB), the long-hydrophobic Internet may soon get its sea legs.  Researchers at UB are currently developing a deep-sea Internet, which could lead to drastic improvements in tsunami detection, oil and natural gas exploration offshore, undersea surveillance, pollution monitoring, and other contributions.

“A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time,” said Tommaso Melodia, UB associate professor of electrical engineering, as well as the project’s lead researcher.  “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.”

Melodia and his research team will present a paper entitled, “The Internet Underwater: An IP-compatible Protocol Stack for Commercial Undersea Modems,” at the 8th annual International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems, which will occur from November 11-13 in Taiwan.

Wireless networks on land rely on radio waves that transmit data via satellites and antennae; however, radio waves poorly transmit through the water.  Because of this, the United States Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use sonar techniques to communicate underwater.

Melodia recently tested the deep-sea Internet in Lake Erie, just a few miles south of downtown Buffalo, where UB’s main campus is located.  Melodia’s two doctoral candidates, Hovannes Kulhandjian and Zahed Hossain, dropped two, 40-pound sensors into the water.  Then, Kulhandjian typed a command into a laptop, and within seconds, a series of high-pitched chirps echoed off a nearby concrete wall, indicating that the test succeeded.

The research effort is funded by the National Science Foundation, and includes UB researchers Stella N. Batalama and Dimitris A. Pados, professors of electrical engineering; Weifeng Su, associate professor of electrical engineering; and Joseph Atkinson, professor of environmental engineering.  Melodia, Batalama, Pados, and Su are associates of the Signals, Communications and Networking Research Group in UB’s Department of Electrical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The group conducts research in wireless communications and networking, cognitive radios, extreme environment communications, secure communications, data hiding, information theory and coding, adaptive signal processing, compressed sensing,  multimedia systems, magnetic resonance imaging and radar systems.

According to Melodia, a deep-sea Internet has numerous applications, including linking buoy networks that detect tsunamis – which could deliver a more reliable warning to coastal residents in evacuation zones.  In addition, this capability could also assist in the connection of oceanographic data and monitoring pollution.

“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.”

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