Out of 817 entries, Subnero is the sole Asian finalist in Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Grand Challenge. This Singaporean startup will be headed to the finals in Chicago, which will be happening from 14 to 16 October. The prize money is US$250,000 in cash which is to divided among three winners. Subnero will present its latest offerings — UnetStack and the Subnero Underwater Modem.
According to the core team at Subnero that comprises Manu Ignatius, Shanmugam Mpl and Ong Tian Chang, the company, which was set up in 2012, is in the final stages of a Series A funding.
The idea of being able to surf the net and track one’s location underwater using the GPS seems impossible. However, as Ignatius, who was a part of the original team at National University of Singapore (NUS) that forms the bedrock of Subnero’s offerings, said, “It is about creating a mesh network underwater with acoustic communication nodes.” He likens the network that Subnero is trying to make possible to an upgrade “from using walky talkies, which are point to point to using mobile phones, which utilise a network.”
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How the UNET nodes work
The Underwater Network Nodes (UNET) are acoustic communication nodes that transmit pulses of sound that communicate with gateway buoys on the water’s surface and are thus linked to the internet on the surface via cellular networks or satellites. The node can function as an add-on to underwater equipment or installations to communicate with each other.
The UnetStack is a software layer that enables the nodes to relay information with each other and can be integrated with most underwater modems. The Subnero Underwater Modem would feature the UnetStack software as well as other features such as multiple logical channels with user-configurable modulation, timed transmission, hardware time-stamping and ranging capability. According to Chang, the speed of which the data is downloaded is approximately 2-10kbps.
Subnero’s clients (which they declined to reveal, citing engagement-related confidentiality) belong to the environmental, defence, and oil and gas industries. The company also allows the software component of its technology to be free for usage for academic and innovation purposes.
“With 70 per cent of the Earth covered in water and with issues of climate change, underwater communication is at a tipping point,” quipped Ignatius on why the team sought to delve into underwater communication in the first place.
Perhaps uploading a selfie on Instagram while diving is not such a distant possibility after all.