Ocean of Things program to enhance maritime situational awareness

The Internet of Things has optimized the functionality of everything from medical implants to livestock monitoring devices. Its ability to create a network of devices that can connect and exchange data means it has become ubiquitous across multiple industries. The IoT concept is now being used to create an Ocean of Things.

Much like the IoT model, The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has announced the launch of its Ocean of Things program, which plans to use thousands of small, low-cost floats to form a distributed sensor network for the purpose of enhancing maritime situational awareness across large ocean expanses.

Smart Floats

“The goal of the program is to increase maritime awareness in a cost-effective way,” said John Waterston, Program Manager at DARPA, when discussing the innovative way the organization’s team will incorporate the use of smart floats into its Ocean of Things program.

The smart floats will have sensors that will collect environmental data such as location, sea state, and ocean temperature. Additionally, the sensors will be able to detect activity about aircrafts, commercial vessels, and even nearby aquatic life.

The data collected would then be transmitted to a cloud network for real-time analysis and storage.

“It would be cost-prohibitive to use existing platforms to continuously monitor vast regions of the ocean. By coupling powerful analytical tools with commercial sensor technology, we plan to create floating sensor networks that significantly expand maritime awareness at a fraction of the cost of current approaches,” added Waterston.

Open to Proposals

The Ocean of Things program has two major technical challenges to conquer: smart float development and data analytics. In order to effectively address these issues while encouraging innovation, DARPA has decided to field proposals regarding both issues.

In regards to float development, proposers are asked to design a smart float for housing a passive sensor suite conditioned to withstand harsh ocean environments. Each of these floats would fulfill its purpose for at least one year before sinking itself into the deep ocean.

As for data analytics, proposers need to develop cloud-based software and analytic techniques to process the data collected by the floats. The proposals are asked to include identification of new indicators of maritime activity; processing of environmental data for meteorological and oceanographic models; a dynamic display of float locations, health, and mission performance; and algorithms to automatically detect, track, and identify nearby vessels.

A day has been set for DARPA to hear out any potential proposals on January 4, 2018.