A vast amount of information can be obtained from the ocean, including wave height and direction, air temperature and wind speed. These variables can be measured with ocean data buoys — large information detection devices anchored in the open ocean.

Equipped with smart sensors that detect and process crucial information in real-time, these buoys provide valuable insight into — or a visual representation of — the water conditions for use in ocean updates and predictions.

Recent developments in ocean technology have boosted our ability to record such data. However, not all areas of the ocean data industry have seen such progression…

Identifying ocean data challenges

Whilst data collection itself is highly advanced, data sharing and understanding drag behind.

Inconsistencies between buoy data and satellite data complicate comprehension, and the way oceanic data is shared also requires improvement. Those who observe, model and theorise ocean data typically behave as largely separate entities, resulting in missed opportunities when it comes to valuable interdisciplinary communication.

Accessibility is also an issue.

Data processing is costly and cumbersome, a problem which is only exacerbated by the complexity of the data at hand. This leaves the field at risk of becoming exclusive and preventing oceanic knowledge from expanding.

The high costs of the buoys themselves also tend to make this field inaccessible for many smaller organisations working on the water, such as fisheries, which could benefit from incorporating wave data into their everyday risk assessments.

Then you have the elements to contend with. Designing, supplying and deploying data buoys is no mean feat — especially in harsh oceanic conditions. Once the buoys are deployed, they need to be able to function optimally in these conditions with minimal intervention or maintenance to ensure user safety and enable the continual flow of accurate data.

However, some promising action has been taken to tackle these issues.

Opportunities for ocean data

Collective research initiatives, such as the World Climate Research Programme, are set to improve accessibility and encourage the sharing of ocean data. Equally, attempts to close knowledge gaps have been made by various organisations, including governments and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

Data buoy solutions such as the AquaNode are also improving the accessibility of ocean data. This low-cost, lightweight data buoy has several attractive features that make it suitable for use across a range of applications — including offshore oil and gas sites, wind farms, ports and harbours, and aquaculture sites.

Capable of viewing wave data in near real-time, setting alerts and generating automated messages, this buoy can provide accurate, critical data for informed decision-making thanks to its high sampling frequency. The low power consumption sensor can also be retrofitted to existing buoys, making it a highly cost-effective solution.

On the other end of the scale, you have buoys that have been designed specifically for collecting data in extremely harsh ocean and weather conditions, such as the Mobilis DB 24000 autonomous floating laboratory. The Mobilis DB 24000 features an automatic ‘smart’ winch with an impressive array of sensors. Winch speed, depth and dive frequency can be controlled via remote control, allowing users to safely lower a cage of equipment from a remote location.

Measurements from these types of buoys will help to update ocean models and inform research on areas such as aquaculture, autonomous shipping, underwater robotics and ocean health.

With plenty of opportunities arising from developments like these, a bright future lies ahead for ocean data.

Hydrosphere is the UK’s leading supplier of marine aids to navigation, with nearly 30 years of experience delivering reliable, high-quality and cost-effective solutions to the marine industry. To find out more about our services, get in touch.