Small-scale Observatories

What are they?

Community observatories are scaled-down versions of the existing major observatories (i.e. NEPTUNE and VENUS) that still allow for all the major benefits that come from the capability to conduct year-round, continuous undersea monitoring.  These observatories are significantly less complex, allowing for a quick and easy deployment with a substantially reduced cost.  An example of such an observatory is Cambridge Bay.

While the potential uses for such an observatory are limitless, significant interest to date has been related to providing science-based support for the greater understanding and protection of local area marine environments.

Having a localized system that offers continuous, near real-time monitoring and measurements throughout the year is attractive in order to:

  • Complement existing marine research activities that operate at a regional, national and/or global level
  • Provide interesting opportunities for local school educational programs, using locally collected data
  • Create technical and educational training opportunities
  • Outreach potential both to the local community and seasonal visitors

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)

A typical installation includes an underwater instrument platform located on the ocean floor and linked by cable to a nearby wharf connection.  While the instrumentation to be used can be completely customized, usually it includes an HD video camera and lights, underwater microphone and a suite of sensors to measure standard seawater properties (temperature, salinity, pH, CO2, O2, chlorophyll, etc.).  Some have also included instruments of special local interest, such as ones to measure ice thickness.

On the wharf a small weather station provides information on current atmospheric conditions, and other instruments of interest can also be installed, such as a second camera to monitor surface conditions such as ice formation, marine traffic, etc.

From the wharf, data can be transmitted over a wireless link to a local receiving station (such as a school or community centre).

Information can be either maintained locally as a fully standalone system, or hosted through ONC’s facility at UVic where the data can be made available via the internet to all interested parties, including researchers and the broader public worldwide.

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.


NOTE – These phases are the same as for the major observatory implementations, yet are only completed at the level required to ensure success.