Sea and digitization: the Connectivity FieldLab NorthSea project

Improving connectivity in the water thanks to new technologies: studies, structures and solutions in the field of the Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands

Sea: the first technologies of the "Connectivity FieldLab NorthSea" project
The first technologies of the "Connectivity FieldLab NorthSea" project were tested through the use of a buoy that is first released near the shores of the North Sea and later further offshore
(Photo: Rijkswaterstaat)

Sea and digitization travel hand in hand thanks to the Connectivity FieldLab NorthSea. A project that aims to explore the opportunities of digital communication in the waters of the globe and test the innovations.

“Digitalisation of society, business and government is advancing very fast, but lagging behind at sea”, explained Fred Hage, who led the project wanted by Rijkswaterstaat, the agency of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

The target? Digitize and make large areas of the North Sea communicate with each other in order to fluidify all the activities that are present, from fishing to natural tourism.

Today more than ever new technologies can prove useful for protect the sea, but also to promote a better and more efficient management of this space. Advantages and innovations that strongly involve even those who practice spearfishing with the possibility of counting on connected and enhanced systems, to make the underwater experience smarter and more engaging and to improve safety.

On the mainland, for some time now, we have all learned to exploit the potential of 4G and 5G telecommunications technologies, which have quickly become an integral part of our daily lives. At sea, however, the question is very different and specific studies are needed to understand how to act best.

Let's think, for example, of the structures necessary for the functioning of 5G which are difficult to build in the open sea and therefore require new solutions. “We need to use the space at sea as efficiently as possible”commented Fred Hage. “Good communication is therefore essential”.

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In the middle of the waters from analog to digital

To understand what the situation is, just think that today communication at sea takes place via analog technology. A technique which, as Hage points out “it's not even enough to manage SMS”.

So it is clear how much the system is no longer adequate to support the numerous activities taking place at sea from Spearfishing to breeding up to the use of wind turbines. Not surprisingly, over the years the need has grown to create an intelligent and more advanced system that allows you to really connect to the web effectively.

Una high performance digital communication in fact it is not only possible, but could prove to be the winning weapon to protect the seabed.

“A communication system with sensors, for example, could help monitor water quality in real time”, added the researchers who are still hunting for the best solution for communicating at sea.

Several technologies have already been tested in the North Sea in order to understand which is the most suitable. “We are looking at new technologies, but also existing ones. This is because many of the existing technologies work well on land, but have never been tested at sea."

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Sea: the presentation poster of the "Connectivity FieldLab NorthSea" project of the Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands
The presentation poster of the “Connectivity FieldLab NorthSea” project of the Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands

Technologies tested in the North Sea

The work of the scholars therefore continues in the search for the best solution to increase connectivity and communication in the seas. The first technologies were tested through the use of a buoy. “We are placing all kinds of sensors on a buoy to test different communication technologies in practice”-

“Specifically, this concerns LTE-M and the 450 MHz frequency range”, revealed Hagge.

“What we have built over the last few years is a wonderful opportunity to further develop a digital North Sea. It is a fast and targeted way of innovating to help the development of society and themarine economy in the best way".

The buoy will first be placed close to the shore and then moved offshore. In this way it will be possible to test the performance of the technologies over long distances.

Among the types of communications under consideration are those via LEO satellites. Not only that: experts are testing the possibility of obtaining coverage of an area of ​​12 miles by exploiting the lower frequency of 5G and the future 6G.

“The business case for suppliers is, of course, primarily land-based, but we are investigating the possibility of extending it to the sea”they commented.

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The "Smart use of the Northsea" presentation video of the Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands

The video presentation "North Sea Wind Power Hub" of the Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands

Sea: the North Sea
The North Sea (Photo: iStock Photos)