Can’t even wait to get back to the surface to share your latest underwater photos or videos? Scientists in Saudi Arabia believe they have found a way to provide scuba divers with a sub-aquatic Internet service.
Recreational divers might not feel the need, but for those working under water the Aqua-Fi system could provide a welcome breakthrough.
It uses light beams in the form of LEDs or lasers to transmit data instantly, allowing multimedia messages to be shared in real time. It would also allow divers to communicate between themselves under water without the limitations of hand-signals or conventional comms systems.
At present radio can be used to transmit data under water but only over short distances, while acoustic signals are longer-distance but have a limited data rate. Visible-light communications overcome these distance and volume limitations – but depend on a clear line of sight between transmitter and receiver.
Associate Professor Basem Shihada and his team at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) have built an Aqua-Fi prototype.
It has been tested by simultaneously uploading and downloading multimedia between two computers a few metres apart in static water. They recorded a maximum data transfer speed of 2.11 megabytes per second and an average delay of 1.00 millisecond for a round trip.
In practice Aqua-Fi would use radio waves to send data from a diver’s smartphone to a small “gateway” computer attached to their kit. Photos and videos are converted into a series of 1s and 0s, which are translated into light beams turning on and off at very high speed.
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