NICTA and I2R collaborate on maritime wireless mesh

Users aboard seafaring vessels will soon have access to more reliable wireless connectivity, thanks to collaboration between Australian and Singaporean researchers.

Users aboard seafaring vessels will soon have access to more reliable wireless connectivity, thanks to a team-up of Australia’s NICTA and Singapore’s A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R).

A six-month agreement between the two research organisations will demonstrate a new wireless mesh system for maritime traffic.

I2R’s existing WiMAX-based network connects mobile nodes on ships and land-based networks. It provides voice and data communications to port authorities, container terminals and other ships.

But in the case of stormy conditions or if a vessel is beyond the network’s reach, connectivity is disrupted.

Under the new system, NICTA’s router technology will supply satellite connectivity for the I2R network.

NICTA researcher Dr Roksana Boreli explains: “When shore mesh nodes cannot be reached, traffic will be directed to the mesh node on a ship which has a satellite connection.

“As standard VoIP and data transport techniques don't work well with satellite communications, the mesh system will use NICTA’s mobile routers to handle satellite connectivity in these cases,” Boreli said.

The data can therefore reach its destination by going through the mesh either directly to shore or via the router and the satellite system.

The project aims to deliver a 6 Mbps, 20 km ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore mesh communication system. Potential applications include voice and data communications, messaging, surveillance and navigational safety.

“If the research outcomes are successful, trials will be conducted to further validate the system,” said I2R’s Dr Jaya Shankar.

NICTA’s CEO, Dr David Skellern, said the collaboration was important because it allowed the organisation to use its technology in an innovative way.

“By working together, NICTA and I2R have a stronger chance of developing a robust maritime communications network capable of serving the world’s busiest ports,” Dr Skellern said.

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