Traffic is evil – that’s the tagline for Waze, the popular route app for driving. For boaters, traffic isn’t the only problem – it’s mostly the weather. How do you avoid really bad weather? DARPA, the same government agency that brought you that little thing called the Internet, has launched a new initiative – the Ocean of Things – which will solve this problem. Where the “Internet of Things” networks common appliances to the Internet, such as a home security system or refrigerator, the “Ocean of Things” networks thousands of “floats” around the globe to provide near real-time access to data from across oceans.
DARPA’s Ocean of Things project would involve “deploying thousands of small, low-cost floats that could form a distributed sensor network,” the agency said. “Each smart float would contain a suite of commercially available sensors to collect environmental data—such as ocean temperature, sea state, and location—as well as activity data about commercial vessels, aircraft, and even maritime mammals moving through the area. The floats would transmit data periodically via satellite to a cloud network for storage and real-time analysis.”
What does this mean to boaters? Quite simply, the transformation of voyaging. Just as GPS, AIS, and other navigation technology innovations made it far easier to get from point A to point B, the Ocean of Things project will make it far easier for safe route planning. Weather conditions in the most remote stretches of water will be networked across the globe. Commercially developed algorithms will constantly update the best route to avoide bad weather – just like Waze does today for cars. Rather than relying on the interpretation of arcane weather charts or a routing service, boaters will be able to simply see the best route based on thousands of weather inputs.
Once deployed, these systems will help you cross oceans more safely, opening up passage making to more people who want to explore the world. While this won’t eliminate the need for having someone on watch, it will dramatically reduce the guesswork related to avoiding bad weather and arriving at a destination safely.