The internet of things goes under the sea in Ireland

30 Jun 2016

SmartBay general manager Dr John Breslin

A new asset to support Ireland’s maritime economy is to be switched on this week as the new SmartBay Subsea Observatory off the coast of Galway will begin feeding data from the seabed to businesses, researchers and scientists.

The SmartBay Subsea Observatory, supported by the Marine Institute, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, will be used to collect valuable data from the ocean and will be a critical component of a world-class maritime infrastructure in Ireland.

Think of it as the internet of things (IoT) hits the ocean floor.

‘As an island nation, Ireland’s potential to use our seas and their energy is enormous’

In 2015, the RV Celtic Explorer was used to lay a 4km cable and a frame was installed on the seabed to which sensors and monitoring equipment were attached as part of the development of the ocean observatory. Now, for the first time, the cable will supply power to the site and allow for unlimited data transfer from the site for researchers testing new and innovative marine technologies.

“The SmartBay observatory represents the IoT for the marine,” explained John Breslin, general manager of the SmartBay Observatory.

“Thanks to the extensive underwater equipment we have installed, real-time data from sensors can be accessed through the web and analysed by researchers and companies trying to commercialise novel marine technologies.

“The information from the subsea observatory will accelerate developments in the marine sector and contribute to environmental monitoring, the development of ocean-energy technologies, education and research, as well as maritime security.  It is a hugely significant addition to Ireland’s Digital Ocean IoT infrastructure”.

Dive into the digital ocean

smartbay_marine intenet of things

SmartBays Dr John Breslin and Edel O’Connor, National Coordinator, Advanced Marine Technology Programme at the Marine Institute

Breslin was speaking at the ‘Digital Ocean: A Pathway for Developing Ireland’s Blue Economy’ event, which was organised by the Marine Institute, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the Irish Marine Development Office and SmartBay Ireland.

According to the organisers, Ireland has existing expertise across a number of the key enabling technologies required to develop products and services that will support growth in emerging areas of the global blue economy while creating efficiencies and supporting sustainability across more established markets.

The Marine Institute’s Dr Peter Heffernan said that the SmartBay Observatory will greatly enhance our understanding of the sea, the impact of weather and climate change, and how the sea reacts in various conditions and how the products we produce will react underwater.

“The subsea observatory will essentially feed data from the sea floor up to the surface and this information will be vital to accelerate marine research, blue economy businesses, and start-ups,” he said.

Expertise in areas such as sensors, platforms, communications, robotics, informatics, computer vision, and advanced materials can be harnessed in new ways to drive innovation in global marine markets with high-growth potential.

This will also support the sustainable development of our significant marine resource that is uniquely situated on the European Atlantic seaboard and a potential hotspot for developments in areas such as renewable energy, fisheries, shipping, marine security and surveillance and marine biotechnology.

“As an island nation, Ireland’s potential to use our seas and their energy is enormous,” explained Dr Elena Martines from Science Foundation Ireland.

She said Science Foundation Ireland provided support for this key infrastructure to enable both industry and academic researchers to discover and utilise this natural resource.

“The sensors and devices that can be run on this test facility will be able to conduct live real-time analysis of ocean energy devices, environmental monitoring, aquaculture and fisheries, and shipping.

“The test facility means that we can provide what is called ‘decision support’ to industry on a whole range of practical devices. This is the internet of things meeting the sea,” Dr Martines said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years