Underwater Wi-Fi may soon be a reality because why not?

underwater wifi university buffalo
UB researchers prepare to test their underwater Wi-Fi system

Humanity is one step closer to realizing the glorious, super-useful dream of underwater Internet access.

That’s right, a team of researchers at the University of Buffalo have successfully tested an “underwater network architecture” that could one day provide Wi-Fi connections deep under the sea.

What on Earth would we want that for, you ask? Not uploading photos to Instagram or posting tweets – though, technically, you probably could. Instead, says Tommaso Melodina, an associate professor of electrical engineering at UB and the project’s lead researcher, underwater Wi-Fi could help researchers monitor the oceans, save lives by detecting tsunamis and earthquakes earlier than current systems, and even help law enforcement stop crafty drug traffickers.

“A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real time,” said Melodina in a statement. “Making this information available to anyone with a smartphone or computer, especially when a tsunami or other type of disaster occurs, could help save lives.”

When it comes to underwater Wi-Fi, the challenge has been finding another way to transfer data across the network. Land-based systems, like your home Wi-Fi router, use radio waves to communicate. The problem is, radio waves completely crap out under water. Fortunately, acoustic waves (sounds) travel great in water. It’s for this reason that, say, submarines use sonar to power their navigation system. Melodina’s team took that principle and applied it to an Internet connection.

Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, Melodina and his team were recently able to test out their underwater Wi-Fi system in Lake Erie. The team dropped two 40-pound sensors into the water, which connected to a relay buoy on the surface that converts a radio Wi-Fi signal into an acoustic one. Seconds after launching the test, the team detected “a series of high-pitched chirps,” which “ricocheted of a nearby conccete wall,” according to the university’s release, proving that their underwater networking solution worked.

If you want to make yourself feel stupid, feel free to check out the team’s paper, “The Internet Underwater: An IP-compatible Protocol Stack for Commercial Undersea Modems,” on exactly how they created underwater Wi-Fi here: PDF.

Now, if they could start working on making waterproof smartphones and laptops, that’d be great.

(Image courtesy Douglas Levere/University of Buffalo)

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Looking for flexible and inexpensive phone service? Check out our favorite MVNOs

Looking to switch from a major carrier to something a little more affordable? Luckily, there are a ton of great MVNO options to choose from. Check out our guide to the best MVNOs, from Boost Mobile to Google Fi.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Cars

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.