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WFS - a wireless computer network on the seabed

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Subsea communications and computing company WFS is developing a 'Subsea Internet of Things' (SIoT) system with modular devices which can be easily plugged in and plugged out, with no cables required.

Subsea communications and computing company WFS is developing a Subsea Internet of Things' computing system with modular devices which can be easily plugged in and plugged out, with no cables required.

The company has SIoT devices deployed is currently running trials with two 'tier 1' operators.

By making most systems wireless, WFS aims to resolve a problem usually faced when implementing subsea computer networks - that connecting and disconnecting devices using a remote operated vehicle (ROV) can get very tricky.

With the SIoT 'Hot-Swap' wireless system, connecting a device is just pushing a cylindrical container into a holder, something which can be done easily with a ROV, says Brendan Hyland, founder of WFS Technologies.

The next generation of SIoT devices will broadcast a position beacon, so that underwater vehicles can easily find them.

Data can be processed on seabed devices, or at the 'edge', so reducing the amount of data communication to shore. Software can be installed on the devices to run algorithms, including predicting fatigue life and corrosion. So only 'answers' need to be sent to the surface, not raw data.

The devices have a battery with a guaranteed life 30 years, made by French company SAFT (now owned by Total check). [we don't use wireless recharging for ultra long life systems].

The system is designed so that any one component failure will not cause a knock-on effect to any others.

Altogether it should open up pathways for people to do more with subsea data, he says.

So far, WFS has made non-intrusive SIoT devices which can measure temperature, strain, vibration, corrosion, displacement, process flow and leaks. WFS has an intrusive SIoT device that measures pressure.

While most people can see the broad benefits, the critical thing is to develop 'killer apps', where people get the value, Mr Hyland says. He draws a comparison with mobile phones, where take-up in the early 1990s did not accelerate until builders realised they could use them to avoid driving back to the office to get the next job.

WFS recently took on a new investor, described as 'a multibillion dollar size US firm', but WFS is unable to reveal its name. The investment funds are being used to 'scale up' the business. Also, Chet Mroz, formerly president and CEO of Yokogawa Electric Corporation has joined as an advisor.

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» WFS Technologies
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