TECH

Scientists Test 'Deep Sea Internet' To Standardise Underwater Communications

17/10/2013 11:46 BST

Scientists are testing a new WiFi network with a difference: it's designed to work underwater.

That's right, any sea turtles with iPads and dolphins with Nexus 7s can now rest assured: you're going to be connected.

Jokes aside, the idea has practical implications: current systems which track changes in the environment, for instance, including tsunamis and other emergencies, currently lack an easy way to communicate with each other.

Oil exploration, surveillance and pollution monitoring are also hindered by current systems, which are not standardised in the same way as networks above-water.

Now a team from the University of Buffalo, New York, say they have a system for underwater WiFi which could, in effect, create a "deep-sea internet".

Their network is based on a shared standard using sound waves, rather than radio waves. Sound waves are able to travel for longer, with less interference, than radio waves underwater - as shown by the long-distance communication between dolphins and whales using sonar.

Instead of sending data from the sea floor to surface bouys, which convert acoustic waves to radio waves before sending them to satellites, the new network would use a standardised infrastructure to send data from existing sensor networks, straight to the regular internet.

The team recently tested their network in Lake Erie, near to Buffalo and say it was a success.

"A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyse data from our oceans in real time," said Tommaso Melodia, lead researcher, told the BBC.

The BBC said that more details of the system are set to be unveiled in Taiwan next month.