On May 9th, a hundred floating robots outfitted with smartphones and GPS systems were field tested in the Sacramento River by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
The project’s participants hope that similar networks made up of mobile sensors will be available for rapid deployment to make available real-time, high-resolution data about the way pollutants spread, how salmon migrate, or how salt water and fresh water mix, for example.
After being launched in the water, the smartphones provided location data to servers at Berkeley Lab. The data was integrated and processed into a map.
We are putting water online. Monitoring the state’s water supply is critical for the general public, water researchers and government agencies, which now rely upon costly fixed water sensor stations that don’t always generate sufficient data for modeling and prediction. The mobile probes we are using could potentially expand coverage in the Delta — on demand — to hundreds of miles of natural and manmade channels that are currently under-monitored, and help agencies responsible for managing the state’s limited water supply.”
— Alexandre Bayen, associate professor, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS)
The fleet of robots includes models that are able to dive, measure water quality, and even map the shape of the channels within which they are floating. Possible types of measurements that the floating robots could collect include the speed of water currents, water temperature, salinity, and the presence of specified contaminants.
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- Floating Robots Track Water Flow With Smartphones (Berkeley Lab article)
- Floating Sensor Network (project website)
© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.
- Smartphones in tow, robots take a swim (futurity.org)
- Tweeting Robots Monitor Water Quality in California Rivers (treehugger.com)
- Smartphone-equipped floating robots transmit water data in real-time (theverge.com)
- Floating Robots Use GPS-Enabled Smartphones to Transmit Data and Location (adafruit.com)