USMART - smart dust for large scale underwater wireless sensing

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

Wireless sensor networks using radio technology are used to gather data in many applications for infrastructure monitoring, environment monitoring and security. However this technology cannot be directly applied under water since radio waves are absorbed by water. Technologies exist for underwater communication using acoustic waves (sound) to carry data but this is a complex and demanding task requiring sophisticated processing. Hence these devices are expensive (£5-20k), bulky and power hungry which has generally limited their use to relatively small numbers and short duration. This has prevented the large scale deployment of sensor networks underwater despite huge demand for monitoring of subsea assets and the marine environment. The aim of this project is to create a smart underwater sensing framework based on ultra-low-cost underwater communication and sensing devices ('smart dust'). Pilot studies at Newcastle University have demonstrated the feasibility of producing underwater acoustic communication devices known as "nanomodems" which use novel approaches to signal processing to vastly reduce hardware complexity, size and cost. These have manufacturing cost as low as £50, very low receiver power consumption, to enable long life from small batteries, and tiny dimensions. However they can achieve data transfer and positioning capabilities found in much more expensive devices, over distances up to 1km through water. The communication technology will be extended, to further increase data transfer speed and power efficiency, and low cost sensor modules will be developed, along with flexible interfaces for commercially available sensors, to create mass deployable wireless underwater sensor devices. Protocols will be developed to allow large numbers of units to share the same communication channel efficiently while intelligent sensor processing techniques will ensure that the sensor network reliably extracts the maximum information available from the limited resourc available. Hence the system will allow users to fully exploit the power of mass deployment, the whole being far greater than the sum of the parts. This will transform underwater sensor networks to allow long term monitoring with high spatial resolution, frequent updates and near real-time data delivery in a way that has been previously been cost prohibitive and impractical.

With highly flexible sensor payload, the technology created may be applied to a wide range of monitoring tasks. However, the project will focus on three main demonstrator scenarios in close collaboration with industry & end users:
- subsea asset monitoring e.g. condition of subsea cables, risers, seabed installations
- marine environment / biodiversity monitoring - chemical or biological parameters
- sensor nets for underwater security - detecting sound emitted or magnetic disturbances from underwater threats

The novel contributions of this project will be:
- Disruptive, low-cost technology enabling mass deployment with battery life of several years.
- Large scale underwater monitoring (>100 devices) with high spatial resolution.
- Rapid deployment and online data delivery (as opposed to data logging and collecting later).
- Intelligent, adaptive sensing to maximise resource utilisation and fully exploit large scale.

To maximise the impact of the project, an open test-bed will be created near the Northumberland coast. Potential end-users from across the subsea sector will be invited to take part in a series of workshops to identify new opportunities in distributed underwater sensing, which will be prototyped and evaluated via trials using the test-bed. The ultimate measurable objective of the project will be to demonstrate a step change in the efficiency of subsea data gathering. This will be defined in terms of the data delivered (volume, quality, coverage) versus overall cost of operations (hardware cost, boat time, staff time, infrastructure cost).

Planned Impact

The main impact generated by this project will be in the following areas

Offshore oil/gas & renewable energy
This project will bring about a step change in the feasibility of large scale monitoring for subsea assets such as cables, risers, seabed structures and marine energy devices. This will enable online, high resolution data to be gathered to assist in condition based maintenance of these assets, prolonging life, reducing through-life cost and mitigating the environmental and financial risk of failures. There are already examples where existing underwater communication technology is being combined with corrosion sensors for example but this is currently on a very small scale due to the cost, size and power consumption of the technology. This project has the potential to transform these applications.

Marine monitoring and governance
The cost of data gathering at sea, to support the study/monitoring of the marine environment and biodiversity, is vast. Organisations such as the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Cefas) have a pressing need for more efficient and cost effective technologies to measure a wide variety of parameters with ever increasing requirements on spatial resolution, timescales and area coverage. This sector is over reliant on logging devices which take a long time to deploy/recover (with boat time being a dominant cost) and data cannot be viewed until after recovery. Such devices are also frequently lost, costing money and data. Low cost, mass deployable wireless sensing with real time data transmission would revolutionise these operations and many possible use cases have been discussed with such organisations. The potential indirect benefit of improved and more widespread monitoring for the marine environment and those who depend on its resources (e.g. fisheries) is therefore very significant as is the potential for improved data to study ocean processes linked to climate change.

Defence/homeland security
The detection of underwater threats by dense networks of sensors is another application which is currently difficult to realise due to the cost, size and power consumption of current devices. This project makes the vision of underwater sensor nets defending strategically important ports and waterways a realistic one.

Water supply industry
Cost effective, long term sensor deployment in hard to access submerged environments would open up new possibilities in asset monitoring and operational management in the water industry.

Subsea equipment manufacturers
The outputs of the project will be exploited in the form of new families of ultra-low cost/power, miniature communication and sensing products for underwater applications. The project will have close links to several manufacturers of such devices and a clear route to the commercialisation of these new technologies. Such devices are sold globally for a vast range of applications and substantial economic benefits are anticipated.

Beyond these areas, the extensive programme of end-user engagement planned for the project will help to identify many more application areas and the open test-bed to be created will allow realistic trials to assess the feasibility and value of these applications.
 
Description • Sparse signal processing techniques can be applied to underwater spread spectrum receivers to produce underwater communication devices very low computational load and energy consumption (for long battery life).
• A new spread spectrum modulation scheme using orthogonal code keying with non-repeating sequences achieves reliable communication in the presence of severe multipath effects commonly encountered in underwater acoustic channels.
• Efficient MAC layer schedules for underwater acoustic network can be obtained without the need of a global time reference using the TDA-MAC protocol.
• TDA-MAC can be extended to dual-hop underwater network topologies, significantly reducing the energy consumption and/or improving the network coverage, while maintaining the high throughput performance
• Compressive sensing techniques can be used to reconstruct complex fields of underwater phenomena from sparse, randomly distributed networks of sensors.
Exploitation Route Circuit designs and software may be used by underwater equipment manufacturers to create cost effective products for underwater monitoring and tracking, including dense underwater sensor networks, and 3 SME's already taking up this technology under licence. This will enable large areas or complex subsea infrastructure to be instrumented for long periods with relatively small investment.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

 
Description The early outputs of the USMART project in the form of initial Nanomodem transceiver designs are being commercially exploited, under licence, by a UK SME for underwater messaging and diver location. The main outputs from workpackage 1, in the form of the enhanced Nanomodem transceiver design, have now been licenced to 3 SMEs (2 UK, 1 EU) for products in diver communication/tracking, wireless underwater sensor networks and underwater vehicle operations. The technology has also formed the basis of two new commercial development projects focused on aquaculture and the reduction of marine litter (by acoustically tagging fishing nets).
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Full-Duplex for Underwater Acoustic Communications
Amount £797,955 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R002665/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description Full-Duplex for Underwater Acoustic Communications
Amount £377,244 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R003297/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 12/2020
 
Description Global listening Network for Turbidity Currents and Submarine Geohazards
Amount £846,911 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S010068/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2024
 
Description High bandwidth covert (low probability of intercept) underwater acoustic communication
Amount £117,500 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2023
 
Description Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund - Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
Amount £602,590 (GBP)
Funding ID 104058 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 07/2019
 
Description Maritime autonomous system anti-submarine barrier (Phase 1)
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 11/2019
 
Description NERC - Innovative monitoring approaches for infrastructure, oil and gas and offshore renewable energy
Amount £353,486 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R014884/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 06/2019
 
Description NetTag - Tagging fishing gears and best-practices on board to prevent marine litter derived from fisheries
Amount £346,720 (GBP)
Funding ID EASME/EMFF/2017/1.2.1.12/S2/02/S12.789121 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2021
 
Description York-Haifa Underwater Acoustic Communications Experiments
Amount £6,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 11/2019
 
Description Collaboration with USMART EPSRC project 
Organisation Newcastle University
Department School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution USMART is an EPSRC project funded under the Sensing in Extreme Environment call and is developing low cost large scale acoustic sensor networks. We are partners in USMART and have proposed to collaborate on ORCA for the development of complex sensing packages that will complement USMART research and make it applicable to ORCA and other applications of interest to USMART.
Collaborator Contribution The partner is providing USMART low cost acoustic modems in kind to help us integrate our technology.
Impact This is too early to report outputs but we expect joint publications in the next year or so.
Start Year 2017
 
Description DAN Europe 
Organisation Divers Alert Network Europe
PI Contribution Nanomodem transceiver circuits provided for integration in Diver Communication and Health monitoring prototypes.
Collaborator Contribution Nanomodem transceiver circuits have been integrated in Diver Communication and Health monitoring prototypes and are ready for experiments.
Impact Potential for economic and societal impact through diver safety products market by DAN Europe or spin outs. Licencing in discussion. This involves disciplines of Electrical/Electronic Engineering and Medicine.
Start Year 2018
 
Description DSTL 
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The USMART team, via the CETO community of interest, has contributed to the development of proposals for interoperable underwater communication schemes.
Collaborator Contribution DSTL has hosted the USMART team at a number of events to develop technical specifications for underwater communications schemes, provided trial/experiment opportunities and invited the team to bid for future funding in this area.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description IMT Atlantique 
Organisation IMT Atlantique
PI Contribution Hosted PhD researcher at the University of York for a period of 3 months. Gave invited talk at IMT Atlantique. Jointly wrote proposal for PhD studentship for funding from DGA/DSTL. Contributed to a joint conference paper, presented at UCOMMS 2018.
Collaborator Contribution Two researchers visited our research group. Jointly wrote proposal for PhD studentship for funding from DGA/DSTL. Prepared joint conference paper, presented at UCOMMS 2018.
Impact Conference paper published at UCOMMS conference 2018.
Start Year 2017
 
Description INESC-TEC 
Organisation INESC TEC
Country Portugal 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Application of low cost acoustic modem technology developed during USMART to fishing net location and recovery.
Collaborator Contribution Robotic platforms for fishing net recovery.
Impact Collaboration led to the formation of the NetTag project (funded by European Commission and commenced in Jan 2019) to reduce marine litter by acoustically tagging fishing nets. This project is in collaboration with Marine Biologists and fisheries scientists.
Start Year 2018
 
Description NATO-CMRE 
Organisation NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation
PI Contribution Invited a colleague to organise a special session at the UACE conference 2019. Invited a colleague to co-edit a special issue of the MDPI Journal on Sensor and Actuator Networks on the subject of underwater networking.
Collaborator Contribution Participation in conference special session organisation and journal special issue.
Impact Organisation of conference special session and journal special issue.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Thales UK 
Organisation Thales Group
Department Thales UK Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Visibility of our research activities at York.
Collaborator Contribution Thales are supporting research proposals by offering use of trials facilties, access and loan of equipment, staff time etc. They are part funding an EPSRC iCASE studentship.
Impact iCASE award.
Start Year 2018
 
Description University of Haifa 
Organisation University of Haifa
Country Israel 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Invited to give a presentation at a workshop organised by the University of Haifa. Have a joint project funded by the Royal Society. Provided signals and planned sea experiments for a joint paper.
Collaborator Contribution Have a joint project funded by the Royal Society. Carried out sea experiments for a joint paper.
Impact Royal Society grant successful. Journal paper submitted to IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering.
Start Year 2018
 
Description University of Rome la Sapienza 
Organisation Sapienza University of Rome
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Nanomodem transceivers have been supplied for integration with subsea sensor network nodes developed by UoR.
Collaborator Contribution Nanomodem transceivers integrated into subsea sensor network nodes and tested.
Impact Negotiations are in progress for licensing to a spin out company related to UoR, for use in underwater sensor network products.
Start Year 2017
 
Description University of Washington 
Organisation University of Washington
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Nanomodem prototypes and custom software algorithms were provided to enable tracking and data gathering from "Microfloat" devices developed by UoW.
Collaborator Contribution Microfloat devices have been developed, integrating the Nanomodem transceivers. These are a means of producing high resolution 3-dimensional tidal current data for use in offshore tidal energy systems. UoW are carrying out experiments to determine the accuracy of Nanomodem based positioning in this application, leading to joint publications and future commercialisation.
Impact A successful demonstration of the Microfloat concept has been achieved using Nanomodem acoustic positioning and communication. This involves the disciplines of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechnical Engineering and Physics.
Start Year 2017
 
Description University of Zagreb 
Organisation University of Zagreb
Country Croatia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Newcastle University supplied 150 prototypes based on the Nanomodem designs, to provide communication and positioning for use in the H2020 subCULTron project on underwater societies of autonomous robots for environmental monitoring (http://www.subcultron.eu/).
Collaborator Contribution UNIZG have integrated Nanomodem devices into "A-mussel" and "A-pad" vehicles with successful experimental validation in Croatian waters and Venice Lagoon.
Impact Early stage collaboration with potential for impact through spin off company and improved understanding of marine environment.
Start Year 2017
 
Description XIamen University 
Organisation Xiamen University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prepared signals and planned sea experiment. Prepared two papers.
Collaborator Contribution Carried out sea and water tank experiments and contributed to two joint papers.
Impact Published paper in UCOMMS conference 2018. Submitted journal paper to IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering.
Start Year 2017
 
Title "Nanomodem" underwater acoustic transceiver design 
Description These are ultra-low cost, low energy acoustic transceiver devices suitable for underwater data/sensor networks, positioning and tracking. The IP is in the form of both circuit designs and embedded software algorithms. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2017
Licensed Yes
Impact The IP has been licenced to Succorfish M2M (https://succorfish.com/), a UK SME, for use in its SC4X personnel tracking device to provide an affordable solution for tactical underwater messaging and localisation. It is also being designed into an ultra low cost tank pressure gauge and location device for recreational divers. Negotiations are in progress with 1 other UK SME and 2 European SMEs to licence the technology for products in underwater sensing, vehicle tracking and diver safety.
 
Title Nanomodem V3 
Description The V3 Nanomodem is the next generation, enhanced version of the Nanomodem technology which was developed during the USMART project. This offers higher data rate, longer range and more flexible protocols than the previous technology. Hardware designs and software are protected by copyright and licenced to commercial partners. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed Yes
Impact This technology has been licenced to 3 SMEs: - Succorfish M2M (UK) - for diver tracking and messaging products - WSENSE Srl (Italy) - for underwater sensor network products - Blueprint Subsea (UK) - for generic underwater communication and tracking products Commercial products based on this technology are expected to be on the Market by mid 2019.
 
Description DSTL workshop on underwater communications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ben Henson, Nils Morozs and Paul Mitchell contributed to sessions on underwater acoustic communications and led a session on underwater networking for this workshop held at the National Oceanographic centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Demonstration at Breaking the Surface 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A successful demonstration of a Nanomodem network providing positioning and communication for both underwater remotely operated vehicles and swimmers/divers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Demonstration at Breaking the Surface 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Successful demonstration of V3 Nanomodem devices and provision of a positioning network for AUV operations at the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Demonstration at ERL 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was a successful demonstration of Nanomodem based tracking of a variety of autonomous underwater vehicle platforms (AUVs) competing in the European Robotics League Emergency 2017 competition in Piombino, Italy. Competing teams and visitors from throughout Europe and the US were able to monitor the progress of the underwater missions on the shore in real time.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description ISCF RAI meeting London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Attended the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund workshop in robotics in London. Met with many businesses and research organisations and identified some potential partnerships for the future once the project matures.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited presenetation at DSTL, Fort Halstead 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Addressed an audience of experts from DSTL, Royal Navy and related industry about underwater communication technology with particular emphasis on low cost and low power solutions and the USMART project outputs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited workshop presentation at DSTL Fort Halstead 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A presentation was given on underwater acoustic network research developments in a plenary session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description JANUS NATO standard workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact To bring together experts to discuss developments with regard to standards for underwater acoustic communication, including future requirements.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Member of CETO Community 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Working group set up by DSTL to bring together interested and active parties involved in underwater communications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation in USMART industry workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The workshop brought together members of industry, goverment agencies (DSTL) to look at and discuss the potential applications of USMART technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation to USMART industry Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The workshop brought together members of industry, government agencies (DSTL) to look at the potential applications of USMART (Underwater sensor networks EPSRC funded project) where ORCA aims at providing novel sensor packages. The workshop highlighted the need for cheap deployment for the technology to be of real benefit and mentioned that engagement with ORCA would be a must. This will be facilitated by Yvan Petillot who is a CO-I in each grant and leads USMART in Heriot-Watt University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Progeny Framework 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We are a member of this framework run by QinetiQ. It's purpose is to manage and coordinate projects for DSTL, with members of the framework collaborating and bidding for DSTL funds in underwater and above water maritime systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018