Researchers test the waters with underwater Wi-Fi

A group of US researchers have tested underwater Wi-Fi with speculation that it could be used to providing a more reliable natural disaster warning system.

The University of Buffalo, New York, team used sound waves to create the network as opposed to the radio waves that are used on a regular Wi-Fi network as sound waves find it easier to penetrate water and offer a better range as a result.

“A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time," said Tommaso Melodia, UB associate professor of electrical engineering and the project’s lead researcher. “Making this information available to anyone with a smartphone or computer, especially when a tsunami or other type of disaster occurs, could help save lives.”

Underwater communications have been possible for some time with the main problem that different organisations use systems that cannot communicate with each other and it’s this problem the researchers are aiming to surpass.

One example given by the BBC is of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] using acoustic waves to transmit data from tsunami sensors on the sea bed to buoys on the surface. Unfortunately none of the data can be shared quickly with additional information gathered by the US Navy.

The Buffalo-based team hopes that its work will lead to a shared standard for underwater communications that will make it easier to collate information and prevent natural disasters happening.

The test involved dropping two 18kg sensors into the waters of Lake Erie and then sending information to them using a laptop. The team added that further information on the results that came from the tests would be available at an underwater networking conference taking place in Taiwan next month.

Image Credit: University of Buffalo