Fish are dying, coral reefs are bleaching, and pollution is threatening the fragile ecosystem of our planet’s oceans. The Internet of Things (IoT) — an interconnected collection of sensors and devices that collect environmental data — can help us monitor the ocean’s health and alert us to problems that need solving.
The idea of “smart” solutions has been around for decades. Still, with all of today’s connected devices transmitting vast amounts of data, we’re starting to understand how IoT can help to tackle some of our most pressing problems. With more than 70% of Earth’s surface covered by water and more than two-thirds of the planet’s oxygen coming from its oceans, it should come as no surprise that we have so many IoT solutions have developed with ocean conservation in mind.
IBM and the Ocean Voyages Institute
IBM collaborates with innovative organizations such as the Ocean Voyages Institute to create open-source technologies for marine science. The organization has launched an initiative called IoT for Sea Conservation which aims to preserve our underwater world through advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence and IoT.
The system will combine marine science with high-tech solutions to help sustain our planet’s oceans for future generations.
The IBM Bluemix cloud platform will power this project by providing access to advanced analytics tools and more than 150 APIs designed to help solve problems quickly.
With these tools at their disposal, the team at OVI can build connected applications that help track ocean pollution, reduce illegal fishing and improve fisheries management.
The Components of IoT devices for Sea Conservation
The node design represents the sensor, gateway, and server levels. It may also consist of a complete application with some design aspects.
The IoT comprises sensors and devices that collect data from the environment or other machines; this data is then transmitted to networks and platforms to be analyzed and used to trigger actions.
Think of it as a system comprising many layers: hardware devices, wireless connectivity, cloud computing, data storage, and analysis.
A gateway is an intermediate device that receives data from devices and forwards it to other networks for further processing or storage. It can also be considered a bridge between various networks such as wired and wireless or field and enterprise networks. Gateways also perform protocol conversion, cloud connectivity, data aggregation and cleaning, security, etc.
Connectivity and Cloud Services
The connectivity and cloud services represent the network system required to communicate with the devices, the data storage systems, and security aspects to protect data from getting lost or misused.
Marine IoT systems will need a secure connection between devices without the need for an intermediate server or network infrastructure. Data is the lifeblood of the IoT. Applied to the right use case, the right data can drive efficiency, safety, and even innovation across industries. Databases help to safeguard your structured data, typically from IoT devices.
AI and Machine Learning
AI and machine learning work with the components of IoT architecture for sea conservation. They help them collect and analyze data, recognize patterns and anomalies, and take action. As with any application, the quality of the data collected by sensors is critical to accurate analysis.
A system-wide foundation for data collection, processing, and management provides a swimming pool of information that can help make better decisions about using resources more effectively.
By implementing AI and machine learning, smart objects can learn from their surroundings and make decisions in real-time.
This cognitive computing capability is vital for the IoT as it allows for systems to be automated and can completely remove the need for human involvement.
Furthermore, deep learning and deep neural networks are enabling machines to make better decisions, which will allow them to take over more complex conservation tasks and processes.
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Applications and Analytic Tools
Applications are also needed to translate raw IoT data into insights that stakeholders can use to inform conservation strategies. For example, an application might track water quality trends over time to identify threats to the sea environment. Likewise, an application can help scientists track and predict oceans and marine life trends by monitoring fish feeding patterns and tracking temperature levels.
It is important to understand the various types of data collected by these sensors to understand the applications and analytics you can use to create value from data collected by sensors in the ecosystem. This data can be classified as follows:
- Data is recorded when an event occurs with respect to an asset (e.g., a ship or a buoy) or a sensor device (e.g., temperature or humidity). For example, when a smart buoy detects an oil spill or when a sensor onboard a ship receives GPS coordinates
- Data recorded periodically by sensors on assets or devices (e.g., location or temperature)
- Data generated on assets and devices (e.g., images generated by cameras)
- Data that users send through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Data sourced from external systems such as weather forecast systems.
Based on the type of data, data scientists can use applications that create interactive visualizations and dashboards that assist in making decisions related to marine conservation. Some examples of these tools include Google Earth Engine, Microsoft AI for Earth, and more.
Three Ocean-Monitoring Problems Solved by IoT
This section looks at how IoT can help solve three specific problems in ocean monitoring: counting fish populations, tracking illegal fishing boats, and cleaning up marine litter on beaches.
How is IoT used to improve fish ecosystems?
IoT data can be used to monitor water temperature, PH levels, salinity, and oxygen levels using sensors, enabling stakeholders to maintain optimal conditions for growth.
How can IoT help fight illegal fishing?
Illegal fishing has become an industry worth billions of dollars each year, robbing legitimate fishermen and damaging the marine ecosystem. To catch those illegal fishers, conservationists need to know where they’re operating — which is where IoT comes in.
Satellite-enabled GPS trackers allow authorities to follow ships suspected of illegal activity and even alert governments automatically if a vessel enters a protected area or turns off its transponder.
Using IoT to help clean up the ocean
Each year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the ocean, according to the non-profit Ocean Conservancy. That amounts to a truckload of trash every minute!
Fortunately, we have the technology to help clean up some of this mess. A Dutch startup called The Ocean Cleanup has developed an autonomous floating device that it claims can clear half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.
The ocean clean-up device is being tested right now, uses a network of sensors to detect the location and concentration of plastic waste and then reports that information back to headquarters via satellite.
The data collected from these devices helps pinpoint the best location for cleanup efforts and identify hotspots where ocean currents are carrying trash from land and dumping it into the water.
IoT devices are being attached to water animals to observe their behavior
IoT tags can be attached to whales to monitor their health and the environment around them. The device can detect pressure, temperature, and light changes and send data back to scientists on land via satellite. They can track how whales react to certain situations and learn more about their movements.
IoT is used to keep track of shipping containers and cargo
We know the plastic litter in our oceans is a threat to the environment, but did you know that oil spills and other toxic liquid waste can wreak havoc on our marine life?
It is estimated that up to 706 million gallons of oil are dumped into the ocean each year by shipping vessels. This number does not include oil leaks or is spilled from drilling rigs, tankers, and pipelines.
Thankfully, IoT solutions can help protect our oceans from this environmental disaster. The sensors and solutions involved help track shipping containers worldwide to prevent any unauthorized dumping of oil, which happens more often than you might think.
Also, with IoT comes a new class of sensors to detect any toxic substances in the ocean and alert authorities before it becomes another environmental disaster. This can help keep our oceans clean while also watching what else could be threatening its delicate ecosystem.
There are many ways that IoT technology can monitor the world’s oceans and control and respond to its changing environment.