WSense, this is how the Internet of Things reaches the depths of the sea

The IoT becomes underwater as the "Internet of Underwater Things" thanks to the ideas of the Italian researcher Chiara Petrioli and the Roman scale-up

Internet of Things: Wi-Fi is now underwater
WSense's Internet of Underwater Things closes a 9 million euro round: the revolutionary technology that brings the Internet underwater (Photo: WSense)

29 percent of the Earth's surface is crossed by connections IoT (Internet of Things), which connect commonly used objects such as smart watches, remote controls, cameras and home automation devices. Underwater, however, there is still a lot of silence: in the depths of the sea, radio communications are too weak for a Wi-Fi network to function.

Today, The Internet also works underwater. And it is due to the intuition of an Italian researcher, Chiara Petrioli: the innovative technology of WSense, the scale-up led by Petrioli, uses ultrasound, and allows sea depths to be monitored 24 hours a day.

A long-awaited turning point in the field of Blue Economy, which has already been put to the test in the underwater archaeological context of Baia and which has just attracted a notable pool of international investors led by Blue Ocean, the SWEN fund that invests in innovations for the health of the oceans with the aim of contributing to the achievement of 'Objective 14 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Internet under water: today it is possible to monitor the sea 24 hours a day
The Undersea Internet of Things allows you to wirelessly connect sensors and devices produced by third parties: it is the beginning of a new course for marine sciences (Photo: Envato)

The Internet of Underwater Things is born

Intelligent objects today communicate with each other in real time: the progress of technology IoT (Internet of Things), which has now extended well beyond the sphere of home automation, involves the most sophisticated industrial machinery as much as w and virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home.

Smart devices constitute an intelligent network that allows you to do things that were unthinkable just ten years ago. This rapid progress, however, has left out over 70 percent of the planet: Under water, in fact, the Wi-Fi of IoT devices does not work.

Sea water therefore constitutes an obstacle to the propagation of radio waves Internet doesn't work underwater. Or rather, it didn't work until some time ago, when the intuition of computer scientist Chiara Petrioli, who recently won the “Women Startup Award” as part of the “GammaDonna Award”, has opened the way to a completely unexplored market, that ofInternet of Underwater Things (IoUT).

The technologies patented by WSense, a deep tech company born as a spin-off of the La Sapienza University of Rome and led by Petrioli, exploits wireless optical technologies and acoustic waves similar to those that dolphins use to communicate: the result is that today Underwater Wi-Fi communication it's a reality. The Internet of Underwater Things was born.

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Internet underwater: Chiara Petrioli is the scientist at the helm of Wsense
WSense was born from the ten-year research of Chiara Petrioli, professor of Computer Engineering at La Sapienza University of Rome and CEO of the deep tech company (Photo: WSense)

WSense takes the Internet underwater, and this is the beginning of a new course

It is estimated that the Blue Economy is worth over $1.500 billion a year globally, a figure expected to double by 2030. Europe, in particular, it plays a fundamental role: it generates approximately 667,2 billion euros in turnover and 183,9 billion euros in gross added value, employing almost 4,45 million people, with a weight almost double that of that of the United States.

La underwater wireless communication, in this context, is a sector with enormous potential: it is estimated that the current value of its global market, equal to 3,5 billion dollars, can grow by 22 percent on an annual basis from now until (at least) 2027.

WSense is the first technological enabler of the Internet of Underwater Things: among the clients of the deep tech company there are the National Oceanography Center in Southampton in the United Kingdom, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, but also companies such as ENI and Terna.

New technology enables reliable, real-time, safe and economical underwater wireless communications: this makes it possible underwater data collection on an unprecedented scale, revolutionizing the study and understanding of the Oceans and the planet.

Wsense's underwater connectivity paves the way for a long series of new possibilities: from monitoring archaeological areas and marine infrastructures to ecological transition, from real-time screening of environmental conditions tosustainable aquaculture data-driven. All without interfering with the life of marine creatures and without causing damage to the seabed.

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Among the first extraordinary applications of the Internet of Underwater Things, the monitoring project of the submerged archaeological area of ​​Baia (Photo: Institution of the Submerged Park of Baia/Ministry of Culture)

The Internet of Underwater Things: here are the first practical applications

Founded by Chiara Petrioli, full professor of Computer Engineering at Sapienza University, who today also holds the role of CEO, WSense offers solutions that allow the multi-hop mesh networking and which guarantee the interoperability of wireless networks between underwater sensors multi-vendor and autonomous vehicles such as ASVs and AUVs.

In Norway, for example, WSense technology is used to monitor water quality and fish health in salmon farms. In Italy, however, one of the most extraordinary applications was that of MUSAS project, conceived and directed by the ICR archaeologist Barbara Davidde and coordinated by La Sapienza University.

The project, which attracted the attention of the BBC, was born with the aim of networking the submerged archaeological areas and the museums that preserve the finds that emerged through the use of innovative technologies.

In Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia, Wsense's Internet of Underwater Things enables remote and continuous monitoring of environmental conditions, such as pH and carbon dioxide levels, which can influence the growth of microorganisms that could be harmful to precious artifacts.

Furthermore, the Internet of Things underwater allows divers to communicate in real time with each other and with colleagues on the surface, who among other things can use the technology to locate them at depth.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming underwater
Undersea sensor nodes (W-Nodes) are small tubes made up of a battery, an ultrasonic transmitter and sensors (Photo: WSense)

How the Internet of Underwater Things designed by WSense works

To create the internet network underwater, Wsense technology uses underwater sensor nodes (W-Node), small tubes made up of a battery, an ultrasonic transmitter and sensors that can monitor salinity, temperature and even cameras in real time up to 3.000 meters depth.

Each of these nodes works similarly to any home's Wi-Fi modem, except it uses acoustic waves: the acoustic signals then travel from node to node until they reach the connecting element between the underwater world and the surface. The information reaches the W-Gateway, a sort of buoy that converts them into radio frequencies and sends them to all the devices that can understand them, from smartphones onwards.

The system is based on AI algorithms which allow the network protocol to be constantly modified, in order to modify the path of information from one node to another based on sea conditions.

At a distance of one kilometer, the Wsense system can send information at the rate of one kilobit per second, and over shorter distances it reaches tens of megabits per second. The data is finally transmitted to a platform Cloud software to be stored, analyzed and displayed via interface for PC, tablet or phone.

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The Internet goes underwater: Wsense technology
WSense technology, says the CEO of Blue Ocean, “provides us with fundamental data and tools to better understand the ocean and protect it” (Photo: Envato)

Internet of Things and sustainability: the technology that protects the oceans

At the end of October 2023, the WSense scale-up attracted investments of 9 million euros, which together with the 2022 seed round leads to a total financing of over 13 million euros: the deep tech company led by Petrioli will therefore be able to boost its international expansion and expand the portfolio of its revolutionary technological solutions.

"This new round, and above all the confidence of new international investors“, explains Chiara Petrioli, “they allow us to further strengthen our technological leadership in an increasingly competitive market in which even the big players are starting to enter".

"With our ability to implement previously impossible technologies in the marine environment, coupled with our ability to develop cutting-edge solutions, I believe WSense is well positioned to have a positive impact on our planet”, continues the CEO.

"We are in fact developing partnerships that consolidate us in emerging areas such as marine renewable energy, autonomous underwater robotics, infrastructure security and surveillance".

"The ocean plays a central role in regulating the climate”, He adds Christian Lim, CEO Blue ocean (the lead investor in this latest seed round), “however, it remains largely unknown due to current technological limitations, which make communication and monitoring in the ocean much more difficult and expensive than on land".

"WSense is changing that”, explains Lim. “Its wireless underwater telecommunications technology is highly scalable and enables full ocean coverage, in real time. This gives us vital data and tools to better understand and protect the ocean, while harnessing its power to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis".

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The functioning of the Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) created by WSense

WSense's Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) applied to aquaculture and fishing

WSense's Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) applied to archeology and museums

WSense's Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT) applied to oil and gas extraction

Internet of Things: the entire WSense team
The WSense team, the deep tech company as a spin-off of the La Sapienza University of Rome that brought the Internet underwater (Photo: WSense)