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Did you know that by 2017, the sea will cover two thirds of the planet? Don’t blame global warming though, it’s always been that way. There just hasn’t been a way to send signals across the majority of the mass of the earth.
Ridiculous isn’t it? In other words, we are way behind dolphins and whales when it comes to networking most of the globe. Sound travels many times faster across water than it does through air, so whales can hold a conference with each other across 3000 miles of salty water. But we can’t.
The good news for humanity is that we are catching up with the porpoises and the marine mammals. Professa Chiara Petrioli at the Universita di Roma has got five patents on her watery wi-fi comms inventions for sending signals through the oceans. This digital equivalent of whale music can help devices exchange information across the medium of the ocean. Which creates all sorts of opportunities for undersea IoT (Internet of Things).
Petrioli’s spin off company, WSense, was exhibiting at the NT100 show in Shoreditch, an event organised by Nominet Trust. Wsense aims to sell the intellectual capital to partners who wish to manufacturer routers and other comms devices for the undersea IoT. It is also open to UK partnerships. Early adopters get the biggest margins and, while the likes of IDC, Gartner and Credence Research expect the IoT to become an $800bn industry in the next ten years, it’s already set to be dominated by Cisco, IBM and Intel. The Undersea IoT is complete virgin territory, and Wsense only has gill breathers for competition. Since venture capitalists don’t like getting wet and whales can’t make a pitch on dry land, Wsense has the money markets to itself.
There are all kinds of problems in the ocean that could be addressed through the Internet of marine things. These range from measuring the Gulf Stream accurately to finding all those spilled shipping containers that lurk menacingly below the surface of the sea, ready to sink any boats that crash into them.
All these initiatives will be driven by government sponsorhip. For example, there is a UNESCO directive for greater surveillance of underwater archaelogical sites and EC directives over concealed sea containers. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industries are throwing billions at better way to carry out predictive maintenance of their undersea infrastructure. There is a fortune to be made in the undersea IoT and Wsense has cracked the challenges of sending complex but reliable signals across oceans.
By 2020 humans could be the top underwater networkers, surpassing dolphins first, then whales. However, plants are still way ahead of us when it comes to converting the sun’s energy into fuel. We have nothing to match the efficiency of chlorophyl and the plant kingdom must be laughing behind our backs at our primitive solar panels, which are constructed from some of the most toxic chemicals ever invented.
We need some heroic inventor to take us forward. Maybe that could be Professa Petrioli’s next project?