Large-scale Observatories

What are they?

Major observatories are typically regional-scale cabled networks that may span from tens to hundreds of kilometres in distance.  They are designed to support a vast array of instrument types, deployed in a variety of depths ranging from shallow coastal to the deep-ocean (~3000m), within a wide range of environments (fiord, delta, and open coastal settings, continental slope, abyssal plain, and ocean-spreading ridge), and distributed under, on and above the seafloor.

These observatories are typically strategically located to address key scientific and policy issues (tectonic processes, subsea earthquakes and tsunamis, climate change and ocean acidification, marine biodiversity, etc.), as well as enable research and exploration for new sources of natural resources (minerals, metals, gas hydrates, etc.)

Designed to last for decades and providing continuous, year round and near real-time monitoring and measurements, these observatories allow researchers and industry unprecedented capability to conduct transformative ocean research and monitoring.

Typical Installation

Smart Ocean™ Systems consist of the following components:

  • Digital InfrastructureOceans 2.0

Central to our Smart Ocean™ Systems digital infrastructure offering is Oceans 2.0 – a unique and critical component developed to connect the subsea instruments systems, providing the capability for the 24/7 acquisition of extremely diverse and vast amounts of data, quality control and calibration, storage, visualization and access by a potentially global audience, as well as providing a convenient interface to handle otherwise complex tasks associated with the remote monitoring and control of the observatory infrastructure itself.

  • Physical hardware (Observatory Infrastructure / Sensor Systems)

Major observatories (i.e. NEPTUNE) are designed to support real-time cabled observation from multiple instruments and locations distributed across a broad region. Major components include the backbone cable (for transmission of power and communications), branching units and spur cables and major network nodes.  Junction boxes (connected to the network nodes via extension cables and wet-mate connectors) are used to support multiple instrument platforms, individual instruments and sensors. Power, communications and data processing are supplied by a shore station.

Conceptual overview of basic installation components.
Conceptual overview of installation architecture.

Getting Started

As organizations start to explore the idea of their own observatory, we are able to assist by drawing on our extensive experience and leveraging our extensive network of industry partners and academic experts worldwide to provide:

  • Initial technical interchanges to educate primary stakeholders
  • Funding proposal preparation and support services
  • Feasibility studies including evaluations, alternative analysis, recommendations and product costing
  • Initial project planning, risk assessments, resource requirements
  • Technology Demonstrations


Moving Forward

Once a client’s observatory program starts to move forward, we are further able to assist in all aspects of the project from inception to final implementation and ongoing sustainment.  To help ensure success, our Smart Ocean™ Systems are planned and implemented systematically using a proven methodology with several distinct phases:

Conceptual design

Drawing upon our staff expertise in the areas of science planning, system design, integration, marine operations and maintenance, we work with the client and select industry partners (the team) to define and optimize a recommended high level conceptual design that meets the client’s objectives and funding constraints.

Preliminary design / Final Design

Moving forward, we iteratively work with the team to specify the overall architecture of the marine hardware and digital infrastructure required to meet the stated requirements, culminating in a final approved design that will form the blueprint for implementation.

Installation / Implementation

Implementation of both the system hardware (typically consisting of the primary infrastructure such as the shore station, cabling and science nodes, as well as secondary infrastructure consisting of multiplexer modules, etc.) as well as the digital infrastructure required for the collection, analysis and archiving of the resultant data.


In the commissioning phase, the hardware vendor(s), our Digital Infrastructure (DI) staff and Marine Operations group assist the client to make the system operational and to provide initial training.

Ongoing Support

With the benefit of the extensive operations and maintenance experience of its staff, we also offer training programs for new observatory programs and ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the digital infrastructure.