The benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) to a number of industries are obvious – chiefly the ability to remotely monitor machines in real-time while ensuring safety and anticipating breakdowns. However, there are technical challenges available which include monitoring and communicating underwater. This is where underwater Internet of Things enters the fray.

Internet of Things Underwater

Internet of Things Underwater (IoT Underwater) is a system made of unmanned vehicles that scour the sea while communicating with underwater sensors and sending the information to networks atop the surface. This will be done at a regular internet speed. This information can be used to effectively manage the planet’s resources. Also, it can be used for a large number of varying tasks that include:

  • Detecting early signs of tsunamis.
  • Monitoring the health of animals.
  • Surveying shipwrecks and crashes.
  • Establishing interactive real-time aquatic education, ecological monitoring applications, and archaeological expeditions.

This kind of IoT that senses and transmits data through water would be important in the protection or oceans and lakes. These oceans and lakes cover almost three-quarters of the planet’s surface and act as a support to the life of almost half of its species. With the help of an underwater IoT, these vital marine environments can be managed by monitoring offshore oil and gas pipelines – while also scouring the seabed for pollutants.

Challenges

Even with the major potential it has, there are some problems that Internet of Things face underwater. The established concepts of IoT cannot be simply applied underwater because the conditions there are greatly different from those on land. Among others, this is a serious challenge hindering scientists and engineers looking to make IoT underwater a reality. Some of these practical challenges are as follows:

  • While underwater, signal transmission is limited and it is not as effective as signal transmission in the air. For instance, radio waves utilized by regular Wi-Fi networks have a meager maximum travel time of only a few meters underwater.
  • Waves, background noise from marine life and passing ships or boats could interfere with the signal.
  • There’s the small matter of trying to achieve a reliable response to the ever-changing environment. These changes range from salinity to the temperature of the water.
  • Sensors and Submarine AUVs have high implementation costs.
  • Unlike in-home devices, chemical and UV radiation resistance of IoT underwater clients has to be stronger.

The Future

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The future of IoT underwater is bright and this is shown by the SUNRISE project. This EU-supported project has already developed and tested prototypes of underwater robots. These robots mimic marine animals to communicate. They use reduced-power acoustic signals and wave frequencies that do not bother the animals.

The team at SUNRISE has already proven that underwater drones can relay data in real-time – as well as communicate and acknowledge basic instructions. These drones communicate with each other using an Esperanto-esque language known as “Janus”. The prototype drones that were given a test run in the Mediterranean Sea have already assisted in the location of a lost cargo container in the port of Porto, Portugal.

Conclusion

Even if it’s still in its adolescent years, underwater IoT has shown a lot of promise. At the moment, it is in the “R&D phase” and is being supported by state-funded organizations. It won’t be too long before the communication between the underwater things becomes stable and the software is fully established.