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From Submarines to Sensors: Harnessing the Power of Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT)

Introduction

The vast and mysterious underwater world has long remained a realm of secrets and wonders. However, advancements in technology are now unlocking the potential to connect and explore this hidden realm like never before.  The Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) is revolutionizing our understanding of ocean depths by harnessing the power of connectivity. In this article, we will delve into the realm of IoUT, exploring its applications, benefits, and the ways it is transforming the underwater landscape.

 

Connecting the Unseen: The Internet of Underwater Things

The Internet of Underwater Things, often referred to as IoUT, is an emerging field that aims to establish a network of interconnected devices beneath the waves. This network encompasses a wide range of underwater assets, including submarines, sensors, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), and other specialized equipment. By enabling seamless communication and data exchange, IoUT is revolutionizing our ability to explore, monitor, and understand the underwater world. IoUT is enabled by advances in acoustic and optical communications, edge computing, artificial intelligence and underwater drones, helping to improve the way we understand our ocean.

 

Unleashing the Power of IoUT

IoUT networks consist of underwater objects that are connected to each other and to the internet, enabling them to collect and share data in real time. This data can be used for a wide range of applications, such as:

Enhancing Underwater Exploration: IoUT is revolutionizing the way we explore the depths of the ocean. Oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. For various reasons, almost 95% of these areas remain unexplored. By connecting sensors and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to the underwater web, researchers and explorers now have the ability to gather real-time data, capture high-resolution images and videos, and conduct scientific experiments in previously inaccessible areas. This technology opens up a world of possibilities for marine biologists, geologists, archaeologists, and oceanographers, allowing them to unlock the mysteries of the underwater world.

Monitoring marine life:IoUT networks can be used to track the movement of marine animals, monitor their populations, and study their behavior. This information can be used to protect endangered species, manage fisheries, and understand the impact of climate change on the ocean.

Enabling Environmental Monitoring: IoUT empowers us to monitor and collect crucial environmental data in the underwater realm. By deploying a network of sensors, scientists can gather information on water temperature, salinity, acidity, and other vital indicators of ocean health. This data helps us understand the impacts of climate change, track marine life migration patterns, and detect harmful algal blooms, enabling proactive conservation efforts and the preservation of marine ecosystems.

Revolutionizing Maritime Operations: IoUT is reshaping various maritime industries, from offshore oil and gas exploration to commercial shipping. By integrating IoUT technology into vessels and infrastructure, operators can enhance efficiency, optimize routes, and monitor equipment health. Real-time data on weather conditions, currents, and underwater obstacles provide ship captains and offshore operators with valuable insights, allowing them to make informed decisions that improve safety and reduce operational costs. This revolution in maritime operations has the potential to transform industries and enhance productivity on a global scale.

Detecting and responding to disasters: IoUT networks can be used to detect and respond to natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and oil spills. By providing real-time data on the location and extent of the disaster, IoUT networks can help to save lives and property.

Enhancing maritime security: IoUT networks can be used to monitor shipping traffic, identify potential threats, and respond to incidents. This information can be used to prevent smuggling, piracy, and other crimes at sea.

Navies are also investing in IoUT, recognizing its potential for enhancing military operations and undersea surveillance. Just as the Military Internet of Things (MIoT) comprises various platforms like ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles, the concept of Military Internet of Underwater Things (MIoUT) is emerging to connect sensors, unmanned underwater vehicles, ships, and submarines. The military has long sought a non-cabled, distributed, and networked undersea surveillance and weapons system, and the development of MIoUT brings us closer to this elusive capability. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has even issued a solicitation, seeking technology breakthroughs that will enable fully integrated and networked undersea systems.

 

Overcoming Underwater Challenges: Advancements in Underwater Internet of Underwater Things

The underwater environment presents unique challenges for communication, requiring innovative solutions to establish reliable connectivity. Traditional radio waves face significant attenuation underwater and can only propagate at extra low frequencies with large antennae and high transmission power. However, advancements in acoustic and optical communication have shown promise in addressing these challenges.

Acoustic communication utilizes low-frequency waves, allowing them to travel long distances underwater. However, this method also presents challenges such as large propagation delays, high bit error rates, multi-path propagation, time variations of the channel, and interference from turbulence, acoustic noise, and pressure gradients.

Despite these obstacles, ongoing research aims to improve the efficiency and reliability of underwater acoustic communication protocols. Improved signal processing helps detectability and recovery of errors, and better signal design can make it more difficult for others to detect these signals as they appear more random and are masked by background noise.

Long-range acoustics communications have the potential to cover vast distances of hundreds of kilometers, facilitating communication between submarines and large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUVs) through simple messaging. However, the data transfer rate for these long-range communications is relatively low, typically measured in just a few bits per second. This limited bandwidth imposes restrictions on the types and amounts of data that can be transmitted over long distances.

In contrast, medium-range communications, spanning up to approximately 10 kilometers, offer significantly improved bandwidth. Within this range, data transfer rates can reach speeds ranging from 2 to 20 megabits per second. This enhanced bandwidth empowers smaller uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) to transmit data back to a ship or an uncrewed surface vessel (USV). It also enables swarms of UUVs to exchange valuable information such as position, time, and sensor data.

Partridge’s insights underscore the trade-off between communication range and data transfer speed in the underwater environment. While long-range acoustics provide extensive coverage, the data rates are significantly slower. On the other hand, medium-range communications offer higher bandwidth but are limited to relatively shorter distances.

Comprehending these capabilities and limitations is pivotal for optimizing underwater communication strategies and developing efficient and reliable underwater systems. By leveraging the appropriate communication range and technology, organizations can make informed decisions regarding mission types, data requirements, and operational scenarios that can be effectively supported in the underwater domain.

Optical communication, on the other hand, offers potential for short-range underwater communication using highly efficient LED pulses or lasers. For instance, at distances of up to 150 meters, optical communications can achieve speeds of up to 20 megabits per second (Mbps). And at distances of nearly 10 meters, it can reach speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).

However, optical waves are susceptible to scattering and are influenced by factors such as the optical properties of ocean water, including organic and inorganic content, temporal variations, and precision in directing narrow laser beams.

For in-depth understanding on IoUT technology and applications please visit: Exploring the Depths: Unlocking the Potential of the Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT)

Challenges

The available bandwidth for underwater communication is severely limited, posing a challenge for transmitting large amounts of data. Additionally, underwater sensors face high costs due to limited suppliers, limited battery power, susceptibility to fouling and corrosion, and the need for efficient and reliable data communication protocols.

Power: Power management is another key challenge in IoUT. Underwater objects have limited power resources, requiring them to be designed with extreme energy efficiency. Finding innovative ways to optimize power consumption and extend the operational lifespan of underwater devices is essential for sustainable and long-term deployments.

Security: Security is a critical concern in IoUT networks. Similar to other IoT applications, IoUT networks are susceptible to security threats. Hackers could potentially exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to the network, compromising data integrity and system functionality. Ensuring robust security measures, including encryption, authentication, and intrusion detection, is crucial for protecting sensitive data and maintaining the integrity of IoUT deployments.

Edge Computing

Processing data at the edge is a critical aspect of optimizing communication and data handling in underwater systems. Given the limited and varying bandwidth available in underwater environments, it becomes essential to use communication media sparingly and efficiently. Intelligent system design plays a crucial role in ensuring that data transmission occurs only when necessary.

This is where edge computing comes into play. By employing more powerful processors at the edge, systems can process large volumes of raw data into smaller, meaningful chunks of information that can be offloaded in near real-time. Edge computing allows for data to be analyzed, classified, or even detected at the source, reducing the need for extensive data transmission.

By integrating these concepts, it becomes possible to deploy long-life, cableless seabed nodes that serve as intelligent sensors. These nodes can monitor noise, detect disturbances, or track environmental changes in critical areas or pinch points. Seabed nodes deployed for extended periods have been successfully used for event detection in deep waters, monitoring seabed deformation due to mineral extraction or tectonic plate shifts caused by seismic activity.

The collected data can be processed at the edge, condensed, and classified. Depending on the requirements, the information can be transmitted to uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) equipped with satellite communications (satcoms) or covert uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) that can surface to offload data or dock with cabled infrastructure. In cases where raw data is needed, it can be uploaded to a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) tethered to a ship or a UUV in close proximity using laser-based O-COMMS technology for transportation back to shore, a ship, or a dock.

Standardization and Interoperability

Standardization and interoperability are crucial aspects to address in the development of underwater communication systems. The integration of legacy systems and the establishment of communication between different assets require standardized protocols to enable seamless communication and interoperability.

Phorcys is an emerging standard for interoperability in the underwater domain that is gaining traction. Phorcys is focused on defining the signals and operating principles for underwater systems, allowing them to communicate and exchange data in a standardized manner. By adopting the Phorcys standard, companies and organizations involved in underwater operations can enhance interoperability, streamline collaboration, and improve overall efficiency.

Currently, there is a lack of an international legal framework that comprehensively covers the operation of unmanned vehicle systems in the underwater domain. As these systems become more autonomous and prevalent, it becomes increasingly important to establish regulations that promote safety and responsible use of underwater resources.

As IoUT continues to advance, the possibilities for underwater connectivity and exploration are expanding. Researchers and engineers are focused on overcoming the unique challenges posed by the underwater environment, including limited visibility, acoustic signal degradation, and high-pressure conditions.

Ongoing research focuses on improving protocols, optimizing data transmission, and addressing the unique characteristics of the underwater environment. By addressing standardization, regulations, and legal frameworks, we can pave the way for a future where underwater communication and connectivity are efficient, reliable, and sustainable.

 

SOUTH KOREA’s S K Telecom demonstrated world’s first subsea communication over sound waves

South Korea’s SK Telecom and Hoseo University r announced that their researchers successfully demonstrated the world’s first underwater data transmission over a sound wave, which they say is a major milestone toward a new era of commercial underwater communication.

Using OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), a new modulation technique for wireless communication, researchers put LTE frequencies on programmed sound waves to transmit text and photo data at 25 meters under the sea off a port in Incheon. The data were exchanged between two ships about 800 meters apart. Three sample color photos and a set of marine information like water temperature and salinity were also sent out successfully but their transmission speed was limited to 40Kbps similar to a current wired telephone modem, SK Telecom said.

The company and the university will continue their collaboration in developing and establishing underwater sensors and base stations. Those sensors will gather information to be transmitted to marine communication buoys through base stations in the water and then to land communication systems via a satellite LTE network. All data signals will be transmitted over a sound wave in the water and a radio wave in the air.

Korea is the first country that has demonstrated this type of communication based on underwater base stations, said Hoseo University professor Ko Hak-lim who leads the joint research team.

In a consortium with academic and research institutions, SK Telecom is to establish the nation’s first underwater communication network. The underwater control network, which will be developed by the consortium, will collect various underwater information using sensors and send it to land through base stations in the water. The collected information can be used for maritime weather observation and ecological environment analysis, keeping track the shipping industry including route information of vessels, and for national defense of territorial waters.

Also, these underwater networks will allow not only more accurate prediction of maritime climatological observation and natural disasters by detecting sea temperature, currents, and seismic waves, but also quick response to ship accidents.

The national project is broadly divided into three areas – the development of underwater sensor nodes that can work for long hours underwater, and communication technology between stations, the design of an idealized underwater network for accurate wave propagation in the water, and the construction of a central integrative network in a bid to unite the communication networks of the land and sea.

 

European Initiative: SUNRISE – Advancing Underwater Exploration and Environmental Monitoring

The European research project SUNRISE is making significant strides in the field of underwater technology. Through the development of federated, internet-compatible underwater communication networks and innovative software-defined open-architecture modems and protocol stacks, SUNRISE aims to unlock the full potential of underwater exploration and monitoring. With partners from Italy, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United States, SUNRISE is a multinational effort that brings together expertise from various fields.

One of the key achievements of SUNRISE is the development of mini submarines equipped with acoustic modems, environmental sensors, and advanced computer systems. These autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) can navigate underwater, collect data, and communicate with each other through sound signals. By leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) concept, SUNRISE enables seamless information exchange among sensors and robots, opening up new avenues for monitoring and understanding our oceans, lakes, and rivers.

A major challenge faced by the project is the rapidly changing underwater environment. Unlike land-based WiFi and internet connectivity, underwater communication relies on acoustic signaling, much like how marine mammals communicate. However, robots need to be programmed to adapt to these dynamic variables. Factors such as salinity, temperature, waves, and passing ships can significantly affect the range and effectiveness of communication. To address this, SUNRISE deploys multiple AUVs that can cooperate and communicate together. If one robot faces communication difficulties, others can take over, ensuring reliable data transmission.

The AUVs developed under SUNRISE are equipped with environmental sensors, navigation systems, batteries, and modules for radio and satellite communication. Their waterproof casings allow them to dive to depths of up to a hundred meters, making them suitable for a range of missions. For example, these robots can be used in search and rescue operations, employing onboard sonar devices to locate sunken objects by emitting sound pulses and listening for echoes. Additionally, the AUVs contribute to port security, environmental monitoring, and ship inspections, providing valuable data for decision-making and risk analysis.

SUNRISE has also focused on developing a federated testbed infrastructure, accessible through the SUNRISE gate web tool. This allows users to access and utilize the resources offered by the testbeds in a unified manner. The project aims to deploy and federate five testbeds in diverse marine environments, including lakes, canals, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Black Sea. This comprehensive approach ensures the relevance and applicability of the developed technologies in various marine scenarios.

The developed system will also be compliant to emerging NATO standards such as JANUS, a physical layer protocol in the process of becoming the digital underwater communications standard enabling interoperability among multi-vendor solutions

The SUNRISE project holds great promise for advancing underwater exploration, environmental monitoring, and marine risk analysis. By harnessing the power of underwater robots and IoT technologies, SUNRISE is paving the way for a deeper understanding of our oceans and the sustainable management of marine resources. The project’s achievements in low-cost autonomous vehicles and advanced data analytics are poised to revolutionize the marine industry and empower marine analysts with the necessary information for assessing threats and making informed decisions. SUNRISE represents a significant step forward in unlocking the potential of the underwater world for the benefit of humanity.

 

 

Underwater Robots New Language, JANUS acoustic signal will connect aquatic robots and sensors into an “Internet of Underwater Things”

Underwater communication has traditionally been a significant challenge due to the limitations of transmitting signals through water. However, recent advancements have emerged to improve communication capabilities among underwater robots and sensors, paving the way for an “Internet of Underwater Things.” Two notable developments in this field include the JANUS acoustic signal standard and the TCP/IP protocol for acoustic communications.

JANUS, developed by a team at NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, is the first standardized protocol for underwater communication. Its primary objective is to synchronize different acoustic systems by establishing a common frequency of 11.5 kilohertz, allowing systems to announce their presence and initiate contact. Once connected through JANUS, systems have the option to switch to alternative frequencies or protocols that offer higher data rates or longer transmission distances. This standardization facilitates interoperability among underwater systems and enables more efficient and reliable communication.

US: Buffalo Lab developed  TCP/IP protocol for acoustic communications

The US-based Buffalo R&D Lab has contributed to underwater communication advancements by developing a variation of the TCP/IP protocol specifically designed for acoustic communications. By incorporating an adaptation layer between the data link layer and the network layer, the original TCP/IP network and transport layers remain unchanged. The adaptation layer compresses headers and fragments data, ensuring energy efficiency without altering the fundamental aspects of the TCP/IP protocol. This development allows for the establishment of a submerged wireless network, enabling real-time data collection and analysis from the oceans. In emergency situations like tsunamis, this information can be made available to anyone with a smartphone or computer, potentially saving lives.

The University at Buffalo is actively working on an underwater acoustic networking testbed, sponsored by the US National Science Foundation. The testbed utilizes the Teledyne Benthos Telesonar SM-75 modem, a versatile component employed in various US Navy programs and wireless tsunami warning systems worldwide. By leveraging this modem and the TCP/IP protocol adaptation, the University at Buffalo aims to develop an efficient and reliable underwater communication network for a range of applications.

These advancements in underwater communication technologies are crucial for unlocking the potential of underwater robotics, facilitating information exchange, and improving the monitoring and exploration of marine environments. By establishing common protocols and adapting existing networking principles, the goal of creating an Internet of Underwater Things comes closer to reality, opening up new opportunities for scientific research, environmental monitoring, and emergency response in aquatic environments.

 

DARPA requires fully integrated and networked undersea systems.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is seeking to develop fully integrated and networked undersea systems to enhance military capabilities in the undersea domain. Similar to the advancements in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the Predator, DARPA aims to achieve real-time supervision and mission success in the undersea environment.

DARPA recognizes the need for non-cabled, distributed, networked undersea surveillance and weapons systems. The deployment of RF and electro-optical communication systems in the air and space domains has enabled pervasive, wide-band, networked communications. DARPA aims to extend this connectivity infrastructure to the undersea environment, enabling integration and enhancing the tactical effectiveness of undersea platforms and systems.

DARPA is interested in technologies that can enable various capabilities, including weapon targeting and release authorization for forward-deployed undersea platforms, real-time broadcast of high-bandwidth situational awareness data from air and space networks to undersea platforms, and the exfiltration of undersea sensor and platform data to tactical air and space networks. They also seek to establish an undersea networking infrastructure that supports integrated operations between mobile and fixed platforms, sensors, and systems. This infrastructure would enable collaboration between submarines and autonomous underwater vehicles, while also connecting with space and air military networks. Additionally, DARPA is interested in autonomous network-enabled sensor processing, particularly distributed passive and active sonars.

DARPA is open to responses from industry, academia, individuals, and other government-sponsored labs. The agency is seeking information and breakthroughs in various technology areas, such as predicting and adapting to the undersea environment’s impact on communication link performance, novel undersea signaling techniques (acoustics, optics, electromagnetic, and cabled communication), adaptations at the physical and network layers for the undersea environment, information assurance in the undersea environment, and air-water interface and gateway systems to tactical or national command authority.

Overall, DARPA’s goal is to advance undersea systems to achieve fully integrated and networked capabilities, ultimately improving military operations in the undersea domain.

 

 

Conclusion

The Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) is a game-changer for exploring and understanding the underwater world. The Internet of Underwater Things promises to connect the 72% of our planet still disconnected to our ground living connected world and could lead to improvements in tsunami detection by linking together buoy networks that detect tsunamis, offshore oil and natural gas exploration, surveillance, oceanographic data and pollution monitoring and even monitoring fish and marine mammals.

By connecting submarines, UUVs, sensors, and other assets, IoUT enables real-time data gathering, environmental monitoring, revolutionized maritime operations, and enhanced national security. However, IoUT is expected to raise the same concerns for hacking, identity theft, disruption, and other malicious activities affecting the people, infrastructures and economy as are being raised for the IoT.

As IoUT continues to advance, we can expect even more groundbreaking applications and transformative benefits in various sectors. The power of IoUT lies in its ability to bridge the gap between the underwater realm and the world above, bringing us closer to uncovering the mysteries and harnessing the resources of the ocean’s depths.

References and Resources also include:

https://www.naval-technology.com/comment/discovering-what-lies-beneath-subsea-iot/

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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