The IoT relies upon a data pipe – the Internet – for the connection and transmission of information. While a degree of the IoT’s connectivity may also come about as a result of Near-Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth and other wireless protocols, essentially the network is made via wired or wireless connection only.
But what of the undersea world? Given the need to extend our notion of the IoT into the realms of civil engineering and ‘ocean industry’ installations, it’s not hard to come up with subsea scenarios where internet connectivity might be hard to come by. Deep in the North Sea and across the murky waters of the Bering Straits, the only signals available come from passing fishing trawlers and the occasional electric eel.
Even in these hostile underwater worlds, there are man-made installations: underwater cables, oil rigs, wave sensors, hydroelectric equipment and more. So how do these entities join the IoT?
Subsea Internet of Things
As a piece of terminology, the Subsea Internet of Things (SIoT) refers to the creation of regionalized zones of smart wireless sensors, the devices they serve and the transmission units they rely upon to release their recorded data to the outside world for human (or indeed computer-brain) consumption and analytics.
The SIoT is differentiated from the IoT by virtue of the fact that its data transmission layer is through the water, or through the water-air boundary zone. Both low and high data-rate production and transmission are found in the SIoT.
Attributes measured by applications in this space might include temperature, motion (for equipment wear and tear), gyroscopic position, accelerometer readings and more.
Bluetooth submerged is Seatooth
When on dry land, we might consider Bluetooth to be a near-ubiquitous communications standard. At sea, we must instead depend upon Seatooth.
Seatooth runs over low frequency radio waves from 1 Hz to 2.485 GHz. The standard and the SIoT term both originate from Scotland-based oil & gas and marine industries technology specialist WFS Technologies.
Subsea Internet of Things is a network of smart, wireless sensors and devices configured to provide actionable operational intelligence such as performance, performance, condition and diagnostic information.
It is important to select the correct technologies to match the application. Subsea Internet of Things architectures incorporate both hard-wired and wireless communications. Radio, acoustic and optical wireless technologies are complimentary.
“It’s fascinating to see that communication techniques are evolving. On the shore, there is already a clear trend towards eliminating cables and wires. So a logical consequence would be to see this also happening underwater,” commented WFS Technologies founder Brendan Hyland, speaking to hydrographic management website Hydro International in 2016.
“Smart sensors process data locally to implement efficient control strategies. Efficient subsea architectures balance the trade-offs between timeliness and cost. For example, many asset integrity monitoring applications do not require real-time control – harvesting information every six to twelve months by AUV is quite acceptable,” he added.
Let’s dive in
In terms of usage, the Subsea Internet of Things is (theoretically) designed to create a seamless ubiquitous connection between smart devices with internet connectivity in the IoT, those in the SIoT and higher-level cloud datacenters, analytics engines and industrial enterprise software applications.
“[The SIoD] is a collection of devices that are adapted for a subaqueous environment and utilize alternative communication technologies (such as VLF, LF, acoustic, optical) to form an interrelated underwater data network – to overcome the attenuation, high power, high cost impacts of using traditional IoT communication mediums,” noted Kear.
Successfully implemented, the SIoT can enable data collection and real-time monitoring of subsea industrial assets, as well as other subsea environments.
Don’t forget your snorkel.