Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) transforms hard science and big data into products and services that benefit society and industry thanks to a timely investment in Smart Ocean SystemsTM from Transport Canada, Western Economic Diversification (WED), and IBM Canada.
Gigantic computers were in use for decades before innovative new applications allowed the Internet to become the essential pocket-sized tool we all depend on today. It takes time and effort for specialized technology to evolve into practical use, and it’s no different for ocean observing infrastructure and data.
“You can have big data without information, but you can’t have information without data.” Daniel Keys Moran, computer programmer and sci fi author.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation has supported ONC since 2002. In 2014, Transport Canada, WED, and IBM Canada wisely invested in a vision to take ONC’s decade of deep sea ocean observing science, data, and infrastructure to the next level. After three years of hard work, collaboration, and innovation, this timely investment bore fruit in April 2017 when ONC successfully delivered an impressive suite of Smart Ocean SystemsTM infrastructure, services and data product prototypes, positioning Canada as a global leader in ocean technology, data management and responsible ocean management.
Just as a cleverly designed nozzle turns water from a garden hose into a practical gardener’s tool, ONC’s new suite of innovative products and services turns the firehose of ocean data into practical applications that help scientists, communities, and leaders monitor and #knowtheocean in real-time in the midst of challenging climate changes. Successful innovation also depends on good timing: product delivery needs to coincide with market need. Canada’s new Oceans Protection Plan (Figure 1), announced in November 2016 dovetails with ONC’s delivery of Smart Ocean SystemsTM products and services that provide solutions that address everything from marine safety, incident response, earthquake early warning, tsunami detection, marine mammal detection, environmental monitoring complimented by a robust Indigenous community engagement and education program.
"Smart Ocean Systems™ is an innovative program that harnesses science and leverages the unique capabilities of Ocean Networks Canada’s world-leading observatories to inform public and ocean safety and ocean health. Smart Ocean Systems™ positions Canada as a global leader in ocean technology that delivers science and information for good ocean management and responsible ocean use,” stated Dr. Moran (Figure 2).
The outcome of this smart investment (Figure 3) is the delivery of the following suite of ocean infrastructure, data products, and services that leverage ONC’s extensive infrastructure and continuous real-time data and foster our country’s long-term economic growth and protection of the marine environment (Figure 4).
SMART OCEAN SYSTEMSTM DATA & PRODUCTS
ONC pioneered the installation of nine strategically placed oceanographic radars in high traffic locations near busy British Columbia ports (Figure 5). These sophisticated, high frequency, land-based oceanographic radars measure surface ocean current speed and direction in real-time, playing a key role in making Canada’s west coast safer for shipping navigation, incident response (such as search and rescue and oil spill), and tsunami detection.
FIND OUT MORE:
- READ: Oceanographic Radar Systems
- WATCH: Oceanographic Radars and Ocean Safety
Automatic Identification System (AIS)
ONC installed five AIS receivers in high traffic locations along the British Columbia coast (Figure 6). These land-based receivers provide data that track large ships and the data are used to detect and monitor anomalous vessel behaviour.
FIND OUT MORE:
- WATCH: Marine Traffic and Ocean Safety
Coastal communities are facing a variety of rapid environmental changes. Real-time data from cabled observatories can be used by community members to make informed decisions about their coastal and marine resources.
In 2012, ONC pioneered a solution for integrating community engagement and environmental monitoring in a harsh, remote environment by installing a small-scale cabled observatory in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. This first-of-its-kind community observatory⎯that includes an underwater observatory with sensors, a camera, a hydrophone, and land-based instruments including a weather station, oceanographic radar, camera, and AIS receiver⎯functions as a model that now supports the recent installations along British Columbia’s coast in heavy use areas in Prince Rupert, Campbell River, and Kitamaat Village (Figure 7). Community engagement and education with local Indigenous leaders, schools, and community members is a vital ongoing component of this project.
FIND OUT MORE:
- READ: A first anniversary for British Columbia's community observatories.
- WATCH: Coastal Communities and Ocean Health
Ocean Safety Data Products
ONC is developing a suite of data products that contribute to the safety of British Columbia residents and ecosystems:
- Earthquake Early Warning: working in collaboration with Emergency Management BC, the combination of land-based and ocean sensors will detect the early P-waves that precede a mega-thrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone, providing British Columbians with up to 90-seconds advance warning. This earthquake early warning system will be delivered to Emergency Management BC by 2019 (Figure 8). Read more about earthquake early warning.
- Tsunami detection notification and impact modelling: ONC is working with Canadian and international partners to develop tsunami wave models to create inundation maps that will inform coastal communities and city planners. These models, along with ONC’s observatory sensors and the long-range oceanographic radar in Tofino, will inform communities and first responders in the event of an approaching tsunami. (Figure 9)
- Marine incident response: ONC has prototype tools and data products to help agencies and first responders efficiently respond to accidents such as lost cargo, search and rescue, and oil spills.
Marine Traffic Data Products
Using a combination of AIS, radar, and hydrophone data, ONC developed prototype products that monitor and track marine traffic and provide vessels with timely sea state information⎯wind, currents, and waves. To protect endangered southern resident killer whales in British Columbia’s busy marine corridors, ONC is also working on algorithms that combine whale calls identified in hydrophone data with AIS-detected ships to both prevent collisions and monitor ship noise that impacts marine mammals and their environments.
FIND OUT MORE:
- WATCH: Marine Traffic and Ocean Safety (see above).
- READ: Listening station to study impact of ship noise on whales.
Workshops and Working Sessions
Following the installation of three community observatories, ONC conducted a series of workshops with over 300 stakeholders⎯including over 50 Indigenous groups, marine transportation authorities, Provincial and Federal government decision-makers, and community leaders⎯on seven topics: tsunami modelling, earthquake early warning, sensor technology, community observing, marine hazard detection, radar training, and educational outreach.
To integrate ONC’s data products into risk assessment and response planning, ONC participated in a variety of British Columbia response plan exercises.
FIND OUT MORE:
- READ: Tsunami models used in preparedness exercise for Port Alberni
- READ: A Fly-on-the-wall: notes from Port Alberni’s Exercise Coastal Response
Ocean Health Data Products
To make checking the ocean as simple as checking the weather, ONC created a suite of ocean health products. State of the Ocean plots provide a snapshot of long-time series data from instruments in the Saanich Inlet and all four of ONC’s community observatories (Figure 10). The Saanich Inlet Ocean Report Card includes real-time updates on key ocean parameters, while a Salish Sea Daily Noise Index compares year-over-year decibel levels.
Related stories: Government of Canada invests in Smart Oceans™