Science & Tech

Wireless Communication Breaks Through Water-Air Barrier

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MIT researchers have taken a step toward solving a longstanding challenge with wireless communication: direct data transmission between underwater and airborne devices.

Today, underwater sensors cannot share data with those on land, as both use different wireless signals that only work in their respective mediums. Radio signals that travel through air die very rapidly in water. Acoustic signals, or sonar, sent by underwater devices mostly reflect off the surface without ever breaking through. This causes inefficiencies and other issues for a variety of applications, such as ocean exploration and submarine-to-plane communication.

In a paper being presented at this week’s SIGCOMM conference, MIT Media Lab researchers have designed a system that tackles this problem in a novel way. An underwater transmitter directs a sonar signal to the water’s surface, causing tiny vibrations that correspond to the 1s and 0s transmitted. Above the surface, a highly sensitive receiver reads these minute disturbances and decodes the sonar signal.

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Chris G. Long

Chis Long is an award winning writer for The San Andreas Times, and various other publications. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.

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