Researchers at New York's University at Buffalo say they have developed 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.
Researchers test an acoustic-based radio system on Lake Erie.(Photo by Douglas Levere / Univ. at Buffalo)
"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 and 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."
Because radio waves work poorly underwater, acoustic techniques are often used for deep-sea communications. But before data collected beneath an ocean can be used by land-based computers, acoustic waves must be converted to radio waves, which are employed in sending data to a satellite, which then redirects the radio waves back to land-based computers.
Melodia said sharing data between the acoustic- and radio-based systems is difficult because each often has a different infrastructure. The framework he is developing would solve the problem by transmitting data from existing and planned underwater sensor networks to laptops, smartphones and other wireless devices in real time.
The system has been tested in Lake Erie, a few miles south of downtown Buffalo. Work on the project is funded by the National Science Foundation. Melodia and his students will present a paper, "The Internet Underwater: An IP-compatible Protocol Stack for Commercial Undersea Modems," at the 8th annual International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems Nov. 11-13 in Taiwan.
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