DARPA Eyes Ocean of
internet of things connects an ever-growing number of smart devices for
up-to-the-minute monitoring and tracking of many common events. Head out
to most parts of the open ocean, however, and no such capability exists
for real-time monitoring of maritime activity.
DARPA today announced its Ocean of Things program, which seeks to enable
persistent maritime situational awareness over large ocean areas by
deploying thousands of small, low-cost floats that could form a
distributed sensor network. Each smart float would contain a suite of
commercially available sensors to collect environmental data—such as
ocean temperature, sea state, and location—as well as activity data
about commercial vessels, aircraft, and even maritime mammals moving
through the area. The floats would transmit data periodically via
satellite to a cloud network for storage and real-time analysis.
"The goal of the program is to
increase maritime awareness in a cost-effective way,” said John
Waterston, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office (STO).
“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.”
The technical challenge for Ocean of Things lies in two key areas: float
development and data analytics.
float development, proposers must design an intelligent float to house a
passive sensor suite that can survive in harsh maritime environments.
Each float would report information from its surroundings for at least
one year before safely scuttling itself in the deep ocean. The floats
will be required to be made of environmentally safe materials, pose no
danger to vessels, and comply with all federal laws, regulations, and
executive orders related to protection of marine life.
The data analytics portion of the Ocean of Things program will require
proposers to develop cloud-based software and analytic techniques to
process the floats’ reported data. This effort includes dynamic display
of float locations, health, and mission performance; processing of
environmental data for oceanographic and meteorological models;
developing algorithms to automatically detect, track, and identify
nearby vessels; and identification of new indicators of maritime