Wired systems are the most reliable, but are difficult to maintain and cover a limited operational area. And wireless internet doesn’t work well in water, because of the way water interacts with electromagnetic waves. Scientists have tried optical and acoustic waves, but light and sound are not efficient forms of underwater wireless communication: water temperature, salinity, waves and noise can disrupt signals as they travel between devices.
So Davidde teamed up with a group of engineers led by Chiara Petrioli, professor at Sapienza University and director of Sapienza spin-off WSense, a startup specializing in underwater monitoring and communication systems. Petrioli’s team has developed a network of underwater acoustic modems and wireless sensors capable of collecting environmental data and transmitting it to land in real time. “Now we can control the site remotely and at any time,” says Davidde.
Its system relies on AI algorithms to constantly change the network protocol. As sea conditions change, algorithms modify the information path from one node to another, allowing the signal to travel up to two kilometers. The system can send data between transmitters a kilometer apart at one kilobit per second and reaches tens of megabits per second over shorter distances, Petrioli explains. This bandwidth is sufficient to transmit environmental data collected by sensors anchored to the seabed, such as images and information on water quality, pressure and temperature; metallic, chemical and biological elements; and noise, currents, waves and tides.
In Baiae, the underwater Internet allows remote and continuous monitoring of environmental conditions, such as pH and carbon dioxide levels, which can influence the growth of microorganisms that could disfigure the artifacts. In addition, it allows divers to communicate with each other and with colleagues on the surface, who can also use the technology to locate them with a high degree of accuracy.