The Sideshow

Underwater Wi-Fi, coming soon to an ocean near you

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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Student researchers Zahed Hossain and Hovannes Kulhandjian test out the underwater Wi-Fi transmitter (University …

You’re underwater in the middle of the ocean taking in the breathtaking views. Naturally, you’re going to want to check in on Facebook.

OK, that’s not technically in the works, but a team of researchers have successfully tested an underwater wireless Internet network.


And as futuristic as that may sound, it actually would happen years after NASA successfully launched Internet access in space.

News.com.au reports that University of Buffalo researchers say any underwater Wi-Fi network would be used for practical purposes, such as monitoring ocean life and giving advance warning of tsunamis.

“A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time," Tommaso Melodia, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo, and the project’s lead researcher, said in a statement. “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.”

In other words, your Instagram update will need to wait until you’re back in the boat.

However, creating an underwater Wi-Fi network will not be as easy as dropping a few 4G hotspots into the ocean. Radio waves do not effectively transmit underwater. In the study, Melodia and his team used sound waves to create the wireless signal.

Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, the researchers dropped two 40-pound sensors attached to a buoy into Lake Erie. After converting the sound waves to radio waves, they were able to detect "a series of high-pitched chirps" which "ricocheted off a nearby concrete wall," according to the University of Buffalo professor.

Melodia says a future underwater network could be used for a wide range of activities, from helping law enforcement track drug traffickers to protecting the ocean’s inhabitants.

"We could even use it to monitor fish and marine mammals, and find out how to best protect them from shipping traffic and other dangers," Melodia said. "An Internet underwater has so many possibilities."

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