Navigating the next wave of oceanic evolution: how disruptive tech is steering the future

Oct 17, 2023 | Technology

Oceans are home to abundant life, and for us, they open the door to a world full of vital resources and untapped potential. Making the most of these opportunities without negatively impacting ocean sustainability requires rapid technological innovation at this new frontier. 

By enhancing our processing power to gather and understand data and improve our communication capabilities, technology will help us comprehend the ocean’s movements and behaviours better than we already do. For example, it can allow us to explore our vast marine world further – most of which is still uncharted. Through new technology, we have the potential to enhance our understanding of our waters, protect vital marine life and the future of our planet. 

But what precisely can we look forward to achieving through using this technology? It could mean we have a greater foothold on our food supply. For example, scientists can better address pressing issues relating to the sustainability of our fisheries. With technology that can track fish through remote sensing, for example, communities can maintain and promote better fishing practices, minimise bycatch, and accurately predict fish migration patterns so that fishing activities can be optimised.  

This doesn’t mean, however, that traditional methods would be shelved. On the contrary, what is required is a fusion of traditional oceanography with the most advanced technologies we can develop, which could significantly reduce further disruption to our depleting food supply from the ocean. 

Spearheading Oceanic Evolution with disruptive technology 

As well as maintaining food supplies for future generations with the advancement of disruptive tech, we have the potential to significantly change the way we approach ocean exploration, research, and conservation with the help of the following:  

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): With AI, scientists can rapidly process vast amounts of ocean data accurately, allowing them to detect patterns and make future predictions beyond any human capacity. It can also assist with predicting ocean currents that have the potential to change quickly and with suitable training, it can analyse footage to help identify species environments and habitats, forecast weather, and monitor global climate changes as they occur.  
  • Autonomous Vehicles: Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and crewless surface vehicles (USVs) can explore and monitor the ocean in ways that traditional methods cannot achieve. Such vehicles can collect data from the deepest trenches of the ocean bed floor to the stormiest surfaces during high winds and extreme weather, which helps scientists understand ocean health and biodiversity levels. And all managed from the safety of the shore, avoiding the need to put people into high-risk situations at sea.
  • Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT): The IoUT brings the connected concept of the Internet of Things into the underwater domain as a complex network of smart devices that can communicate underwater at varying levels. Where it is implemented, this comprehensive technology can monitor marine environments in real-time, track marine life, and provide vital early warning systems for natural disasters giving authorities and communities time to act and save lives.
  • Satellite Technologies: Satellite technologies have offered unparalleled views of the ocean’s surface for decades, yet their capabilities are beyond any previous traditional monitoring. Today, they can monitor an ocean’s surface temperature in real-time, monitor and accurately detect the location of dangerous oil spills, track marine animals in their natural environments – behaviours and habitats, and scan and map an ocean’s floor. All this in addition to providing a communication link from remote ocean surface locations back to shore with minimal infrastructure.

If we embrace fast-evolving disruptive technologies, we will have a greater chance of accelerating our understanding of oceanic evolution. However, it is paramount that we take a holistic and fully integrated approach, with the core focus being on the following frameworks:  

  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: By fusing oceanography with computer science, robotics, and engineering, we can collaborate better with scientists, technologists, policymakers, and educators for more positive and rapid outcomes.
  • Open Data Sharing: The ocean is a shared resource, so its data should be open too and accessible to those who work with it. With the possibilities of open data sharing, we can rapidly accelerate scientific discoveries and encourage innovation in all areas of ocean science.
  • Education and Engagement: With public engagement, coupled with widely accessible education about the importance of the ocean and technologies used to study it, we can broaden the critical message to generate greater support for our work and, in turn, drive more substantial conservation efforts.

Ensuring the protection of our oceans and the enigmas of the deep will require us to advance our navigation, and it will be disruptive tech that will help us successfully navigate the next phase of oceanic evolution. That way, we will have a better chance of contributing to the maritime revolution’s momentum, wave by wave. 

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