Optus takes a bite out of shark danger

Sonar technology can see shark-sized objects

No 'clever buoy' needed to tell this is a shark.

No 'clever buoy' needed to tell this is a shark.

A shark detection technology currently being trialled is intended to make beachgoers feel safe to go back in the water.

Optus has contributed its wireless network to a “clever buoy” that uses sonar technology to identify shark-sized objects in coastal areas. The buoy was developed by Shark Mitigation Systems and is expect to be commercially available by mid-2015.

Australia is home to about 180 species of shark, including the Great White that was made famous in films like Jaws. Sharks can be found nearly everywhere on the Australian coast, with most located on the bottom of the continental shelf, according to the Department of the Environment.

When the clever buoy detects a possible shark near the coast, it sends buoy signals lifeguards on the beach via Google Plus over the Optus network. Lifeguards can then respond as appropriate to the possible threat.

While sonar has not historically worked well in finding sharks, Optus said the new technology is more effective because it can differentiate between the length of an object and its propulsion through the water using sonar signatures.

In initial trials, the technology has correctly identified sharks at the Sydney Aquarium and the Abrolhos Islands, which are located off the west coast of Australia.

Current work is focussed on improving the technology’s ability to differentiate between sharks and other sea life, Optus said.

The researchers hope to eventually be able to differentiate between species of sharks and provide data about shark behaviour to marine researchers, it said.

“Very little is known about shark behaviour and we are continually striving to learn more about them,” said Shark Mitigation Systems director, Hamish Jolly.

“The reality is, there currently isn’t one perfect shark detection system. We wanted to develop a non-invasive shark-detection solution to improve our capacity to detect sharks off beaches which could be a big step in improving beach safety.”

Nathan Rosenberg, Optus head of brand and communications, said that the initiative is meant to protect beach visitors and sharks alike.

“Clever Buoy could change beach safety forever as we learn more about shark behaviour through a truly digital method of detection.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags detectionAustraliamobilewirelessoptussafetyMitigationalertssonarsharksshark attacks

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