Safer and controlled waters with smart buoys

Beatriz Sanz Baños    23 August, 2018

Internet of Things is not limited to dry land. We already saw how they it inserted itself in the sea to improve the experience of bathers and ensure more sustainable tourism in the post 10 sensors that make the beaches smart.

However, the technology has gone even further into open waters with the help of smart buoys that measure the level of sea pollution or where to find larger schools of fish. They can also be used in pools to measure the level of deterioration of the waters, regardless if it’s salty or chlorinated.

These floating elements are already common for everyone. Until now their function has been to signal the safe bathing area, channels for entry and exit of boats, or specific points of reference at sea. However, with the application of IoT its functions can bring many more benefits to bathers, as well as coastal authorities, fishermen and others.

The function of smart buoys is determined by the programming of the sensor they carry. We can find different types of uses for these new connected devices both at the beach and in swimming pools:

  • Beaches: In addition to facilitating monitoring the water temperature and its quality, they can help make the beaches much safer since they can be used to monitor the boats and / or control restricted access. It’s a very common problem this summer; bathers have denounced boats to get too close to the shore, crossing the security distance of 200 meters established by law. In this way, the relevant authorities can receive the signal with enough time to act and be alert.Likewise, the safety of swimmers will also be reinforced with these buoys, since they allow jellyfish banks to be monitored. Once detected they send a warning and can even reorient seaward to get a better reading, thus preventing the jellyfish from reaching the shore of the beaches where they eventually die, but not before causing problems among bathers.
  • Fishing: This sector is also going through a digital transformation and adapting new technology to its daily tasks. For example, in fishing, sailors nowadays have satellite-connected buoys that can tell them where the schools of fish are located. These buoys were created by the company Marine Instruments, which places great emphasis on control standards to ensure that fishing resources are maintained for the next generations. However, they also make fishing more efficient, since they also manage to reduce the consumption expenditure of fuel to capture the same amount of fish, or have an estimate of the fish population in an area, which indicate how much fishing can be done and how they affect the environment.
  • Detecting polluting substances: German researchers from the Karlsruhe Technological Institute (KIT) developed a smart monitoring project two years ago. They used a multisensory buoy that allowed them to make high-precision measurements as well as monitor bodies of water. In this way, they could measure the quality of water at different depths and configure parameters to measure things like oxygen concentration, temperature or the presence of greenhouse gases, then they analyze the captured data, either in the buoy itself or remotely, adding the information of many buoys. Its power supply is produced by wind energy and solar cells and the measurement system combines methane and CO2 sensors, flow direction, sample analysis systems and meteorological measurement station. This system was born mainly to detect the so-called blue-green algae, which grows uncontrollably in rivers, maritime areas and lakes; they release toxic substances and can kill the fauna of certain aquatic environments. This process has been evolving and, along the way, similar projects have emerged such as BRAAVOO (Biosensors, Reporters and Algal Autonomous Vessels for Ocean Operation), the project of buoys with biosensors that will monitor marine pollutants. It was born with the aim of trying to stop the degradation of marine water quality in a biological and chemical way thanks to buoys with chips that will monitor marine pollutants in real time thanks to three biosensors: bacterial, immunosensors and algae sensors.
  • Swimming pools: the maintenance of swimming pools is a never-ending task. It’s stagnant water in which many people bathe during the day, chlorine and pH levels have to be controlled and regulated constantly. To do this, the sensors on the buoys are the most appropriate solution, since they can carry out exhaustive control in real time and send a warning to the responsible of the pool when the quality of the water is compromised. The message quickly reaches the wearable or the device that is connected to the buoy. Then the person in charge only has to see what level fails or if the temperature has risen or fallen above the indicated temperature and correct it. To this end, mobile apps have also been created so that private users who have a private pool in their homes can also be aware of the quality of their water at any time.

All these applications of connected sensors, with the help of the processing of collected information that allow to know the state of the water in detail, reflect the natural way in which we adapt our day to day to new technologies to any context, and how these improve our quality of life, as well as cities and natural areas that surround us. Together with them, it highlights the importance of Big Data and the importance of knowing how to analyze the data collected by these sensors in order to solve the indicated problems.

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