Ocean sensor data consists of oceanographic, atmospheric, commercial, and other marine data collected via IoT-connected sensors. Military and law enforcement organizations are the main users of this data, but their sensors generate information on ocean currents and marine animals in addition to human activity.
This data primarily comes from floating sensors (called floats). Other sensor data comes from marine vehicles or from satellites.
Some companies do make ocean sensors for private use. However, it’s militaries that generate most of this data—which they then allow civilians to access. The US’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), for example, developed the well-named Ocean of Things program that grants public access to their data. Many other countries and the European Union follow suit.
Ocean sensors generate images, sounds, and measurements 24/7 and relay this data to a secure cloud platform. Some of the measurements of the ocean itself and the atmosphere above it include temperature, air pressure, and humidity.
The sensors also identify and track the movement of marine animals and of sea- and air-craft.
Countries use this data to maintain border security and track threats, whether they be from other countries or from nature. For example, the European Commission’s Integrated Maritime Surveillance program shares maritime data between nations to better respond to threats or accidents at sea.
Other uses include research and commerce. Researchers map ocean currents and animal movements, monitor the sea regardless of cloud cover, and, potentially, observe active storms.
Commercial ventures, in the meantime, use the data to monitor the state of sea routes, avoid accidents or call for help when something goes wrong. They can also report on piracy or poaching activity if they encounter it.
As most of this data is generated by national security agencies, there is little quality assurance left for the user. Even free-floating sensors require little quality control as they are made of environmentally friendly materials designed to last one year before being retired to the bottom of the ocean.
While satellites can provide some information, DARPA project manager John Waterson points out that there are gaps in their coverage – optical satellites cannot see through clouds, radar satellites only have limited coverage, and none of them can say much about what is going on underwater.
In addition to obvious military and border protection use – no vessel could slip through the dense field of OoT sensors, on or under the water – the OoT will produce a mass of data of interest to oceanographers, meteorologists and biologists, with plans to share raw data online with researchers. The OoT may be able to monitor marine mammal like whales, watch hurricanes form from the inside, and track changes in ocean temperature.
Genscape Vesseltracker Maritime Reports provides reports on crude oil. Biodiesel and fertilizer sectors.
Tidetech Metocean Data offers accurate and reliable metaocean data that can be downloaded.