Friday, July 11, 2014

Unlocking the Ocean : smart ocean planning using crowdsourced data

Crowdsourcing data to provide efficiencies in hydrographic surveying (CARIS)

From SailorfortheSea, by Paul Cooper & John Hersey

The marine and coastal zones of the world host a growing number of overlapping and at times competing uses and activities.
The commercial, recreational, cultural, energy, scientific, conservation, security, and other interests of these users drive our ocean priorities.
These include the protection of life and property, securing renewable energy resources, developing and sustaining ocean productivity, supporting national security and of course ensuring its enjoyment by recreational boaters.

The increasing degree to which legislators are controlling both national and international waters is due to the growth of awareness in the importance of management of the ocean’s resources (image courtesy of NOAA).

Smart ocean planning helps guide these priorities and creates a program that organizes the demands placed on the ocean by industry and individuals.
Smart ocean planning is an adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based planning process that uses sound science and good data.
It is developed for analyzing current and anticipated use of offshore, near shore and coastal space.
In practical terms, ocean planning provides a public process to better determine how the ocean and coasts are sustainably exploited and protected now and for future generations.

Smart ocean planning provides the evidence to support plans for development in the most suitable sites for a range or class of activities.
It provides the information that will reduce conflicts among different users, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystems.
Some examples of successful ocean planning include moving shipping lanes outside of Boston Harbor to prevent hitting whales and protecting the coral reefs of the Florida Keys.

Limits on ocean research capabilities

Given the size and extent of the ocean, the limited worldwide oceanographic fleet cannot adequately document navigation and environmental hazards, especially in support of smart ocean planning dynamics.
Over the past several years, the scientific community has begun supplementing the work of these ships with fixed sensors.
In the United States, the National Science Foundation Ocean Observing Initiative and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Integrated Ocean Observing System are establishing permanent surface and seafloor installations that allow for constant and persistent monitoring of ocean processes.
The drawback is that these fixed-location sensors are relatively expensive to operate, limiting how widely they can be dispersed.

Your afternoon on the water can support smart ocean planning

Every citizen in the United States can help with smart ocean planning by encouraging legislation that supports it.
However, recreational boaters and those that work in the marine industry have the opportunity to also contribute much needed data, often using the sensors already installed on their boats.

ARGUS™ is a patented, autonomous, crowdsource bathymetry (the study of underwater depth) system that provides continuous, automated acquisition and processing of depth data.
ARGUS™ interfaces with vessels’ existing GPS and depth-finding systems and automatically processes the information for both data aggregation and sharing across the web.
Originally demonstrated as part of a NOAA research grant, ARGUS™ has processed over 100 million depth soundings from an international fleet ranging from 18-foot bass boats to 1000-foot commercial cruise liners.
The wide spectrum of users provide representation for the maritime community in the ocean planning process, and provides valuable data in support of this process for areas that may not have been surveyed in decades.

The National Ocean Policy highlights the importance of stakeholder participation throughout ocean planning.
ARGUS data helps track the uses of different types of boats in Baltimore Harbor and provides indications as to the current state of shipping channels.

ARGUS™ in action

ARGUS™ is being used to great effect in one of the busiest waterways in the United States, the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). 
The Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net is an online social media forum focused on the ICW, and is a treasure trove of useful reports and articles provided by and consumed by ICW cruisers.
The website informs others via chart displays, enhanced with access to information such as fuel prices, marina accommodations, and navigation hazards like misplaced buoys and shoaling.
These reports are also enhanced by the millions of water depth measurements made by cruisers during their routine ICW transits, autonomously delivered and processed through the ARGUS™ crowdsource bathymetry innovations of SURVICE Engineering and CARIS USA. 
What was previously a fleeting number on a chartplotter screen, that may or may not have been looked at and interpreted, is now useful knowledge thanks to this pioneering partnership.

 Mile Marker 365 of the ICW: Image credit SURVICE

How do you know that data is trustworthy?

We can all appreciate the value of repeated measurements.
If my boating neighbours and I consistently measure the same depth in a location, we become confident in that depth measurement.
The concept of “trusted partner” development strives to advance the crowdsource bathymetry process by certifying the incoming data and maximizing the accuracy and utility of the aggregated solutions. This is being done through the application of ever-improving hardware and scientific expertise in the field of hydrography, fueled by academic interests in big data and information visualization.  Continued development will soon make information gathered from crowdsource bathymetry better than the pre-1940s “soundings” that are the basis for the majority of modern charts.

The concept of trusted partners is the perfect complement to the limited availability of both ships and fixed ocean sensors, enlisting ships of opportunity from the maritime industry along with recreational boats, to collect a wide range of oceanographic and meteorological data.
This is a powerful and practical approach that inexpensively leverages an unlimited, distributed workforce that frequents, as well as relies on, the marine and coastal zones of interest as shown in Figure 3.

Vessel traffic is highest in the same coastal zones in which smart ocean planning is most needed.  Leveraging these vessels, of which there are millions available, insures that mariners are involved in an ocean planning process that is based on scientific measurements rather than uninformed policies.

More opportunities

Very localized weather and other environmental data from this worldwide ocean-going fleet can also be input to weather models or used for confirming the data supplied by satellite systems.
Better forecasting combined with real-time dissemination to the vessel bridge will provide safest routing as vessels negotiate ocean storms.
Additionally, real-time updates from the ship ahead can provide following vessels with advance warning of conditions.

Trusted partnerships are self-enabling opportunities for industry to not only collectively reap the benefit of each other’s measurements, but also to collectively influence longer-term smart ocean planning with trusted data.
Industry’s contributions are matched by scientists, researchers, and the public at large, to complete the partnership.
Making involvement in trusted partnerships a part of a company’s corporate social responsibility policy demonstrates a theme of contributing to society.
Such responsible companies are generally welcome neighbors and are looked upon favourably by local consumers and environmental advocates. 

The most effective ocean planning will come from a mature and growing marine spatial data infrastructure of traditional data sources complemented by trusted partners contributing to the greater purpose.
Such partnerships will speed progress toward better environmental management, and provide for unprecedented sharing of information and costs across the base of ocean users.

Links :
  • Argus Survice : Autonomous Crowdsourced bathymetry (CSB) / paper
  • Crowdsourced bathymetry : One solution for addressing nautical chart data deficiencies
  • IHO : Crowd-sourced bathymetry  / The lack of hydrographic data
  • IIcTechnologies : How The “Download Generation” will drive Electronic Charting in a new direction (2009)
  • GEBCO : Where are the bathymetric hot-spots ?
  • Power&MotorYacht : How to have the most accurate nautical charts (in these days of oversharing, boaters now have a way to get the best, most up-to-date charts by joining the “in” crowd)
  • TeamSurv : Project where mariners help create better charts of coastal waters, by logging depth and position data whilst they are at sea (see BBC video)
  • Olex :  Collected sea floor data
  • Sea-Id : Crowd sourced bathymetry exchange platform (video)
  • WebGIS :  Web-GIS based crowd sourcing aiming at producing inland lake charts (Denmark)

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