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University Group Testing Underwater Sensor Network

State University of New York researchers in Buffalo are testing wireless acoustic devices that could use sound waves to broadcast sensor data and a unique identifier from as far as a mile away, underwater, making it easier to track conditions in a lake, river or ocean.
By Claire Swedberg

Researchers intend to conduct further testing in Lake Erie during the next six weeks, Melodia reports. "We hope to be able to do two more deployments before mid-November," he says, after which the cold conditions and ice would make it impossible to take a boat into the lake. During these deployments, the researchers will test the transmission of data received by the surface buoy to a server, via a 3G cellular connection. He says the team may use four or five underwater units, which could be spaced up to a mile apart.

Research team member and UB graduate student Hovannes Kulhandjian says he is also designing a mobile phone application that would enable phone users to receive regular updates and alerts from the Web site where data is stored.

UB's Tommaso Melodia
So far, the research has been focused on transmission capabilities rather than on underwater sensors, so no sensors have yet been tested. However, the researchers note, a variety of underwater sensors could be wired to—or be built into—the units, thereby sending data such as water flow or temperature changes.

In the long run, Melodia says, the group hopes to commercialize the technology for use in disaster prevention, pollution monitoring or oceanographic data collection. It could also be utilized to police waters, by detecting drug-smuggling submarines. However, he adds, there is no specific timeline for selling the system. "For now," he states, "we have concentrated on the research aspects."

At The 8th ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems conference, to be held in Taiwan on Nov. 11-13, the research group will present a paper describing its efforts, titled "The Internet Underwater: An IP-compatible Protocol Stack for Commercial Undersea Modems."

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