Award will help professor attract investors to underwater wireless communications system

Professor Andrew Singer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who developed a high-speed underwater wireless communications system, was one of five recipients of awards from the 2014 Illinois Proof-of-Concept (I-POC) Fund. I-POC's goal is to enable further development of projects to highlight their market viability to potential investors and partners.

"The I-POC program supports university innovations by bridging the gap between research and business, with a goal of making important technologies visible to the marketplace," said Lesley Millar-Nicholson, director of the university's office of technology management, which announced the awards.

One of the other award winners was Heinrich Taube, from the university's college of fine and applied arts, who created Harmonia, which aims to replace paper-based music theory instruction with an app that allows musical content to be created, edited, searched, annotated and automatically graded.

Singer, who is the director of the university's Technology Entrepreneur Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, collaborated with other researchers on a 2009 paper about underwater communications that was published in IEEE Communications Magazine. The article noted that while underwater communications were once of interest primarily for military and deep-sea research applications, a 10,000-fold increase in achievable data rates over the past few decades has opened up more potential for the field.

Emerging applications include commercial fishing and oil exploration, where remotely controlled vehicles and equipment are used to probe, sense and actuate apparatus from a surface vehicle or station. In addition, there are potential uses in environmental sensing and wildlife monitoring and tracking, as well as continued exploration of the potential for research, commercial and scientific applications, the paper said.

The article looked at signal processing methods and advances in underwater acoustic communications, including single-carrier and emerging multicarrier methods, along with iterative decoding and spatial multiplexing methods.

It noted that electromagnetic waves used in radio-frequency communications (RF) do not propagate over long distances through the ocean because the water's salinity induces conductivity, resulting in rapid attenuation of electro-magnetic signals, especially at higher frequencies. Therefore, acoustic waves are required to carry information underwater over long distances.

At the time of the paper, Singer and his fellow researchers noted that systems employed to date included "state-of-the-art signal processing methods, including multichannel equalizers, with explicit embedded phase tracking and symbol timing, Doppler tracking and signal resampling, and spatial multiplexing methods in MIMO-turbo equalization transmitter/receiver systems."

Other researchers have made recent breakthroughs in underwater communications. Late last year researchers at New York's University at Buffalo announced an IP-compatible protocol stack that will enable deployment of deep-sea modems and creation of an underwater Internet accessible via laptops, smartphones and other wireless devices.

For more:
- see this university release

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