SubCableWorld has been reporting on the Scientific Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications (SMART) cable concept for many years.  The SMART concept would allow commercial submarine telecom cables to collect vast amounts of data from the ocean floor in real-time, without interfering with their primary purpose of transmitting Internet data around the world. 

The scientific data would be fundamental for a better understanding of the ocean and climate and, by providing warnings of approaching tsunamis, contributing to the safety and security of populations living in areas of high risk.  Thus SMART cables can play a dual role of advancing our scientific knowledge and providing a life-saving service, all while the cables are improving global communications for billions of people.

As part of our continuing efforts to bring this important concept to as wide an audience as possible, we are providing coverage of a recent virtual event entitled SMART Cables in a Sea of Connectivity; Serving Science and Populations.  ANACOM, Portugal’s telecommunications regulatory authority, organized the event in partnership with the Portuguese Government (Sea Area), the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, the Portuguese Committee for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA). 

Portugal is at the forefront of making SMART technology a reality with the CAM Ring, a new submarine cable that will connect mainland Portugal with the Azores and Madeira Islands by 2024.  We will have more about the CAM Ring and Portugal’s interest in SMART technology in future articles, but for now we will begin our coverage of the event with an overview of a presentation, The new CAM Ring as a SMART Cable, by Yasser Omar, Physics of Information and Quantum Technologies Group, IT & Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon & Portuguese Quantum Institute.  Yasser’s presentation noted the opportunities and advantages represented by SMART cables over current types of seafloor sensing, such as ocean-bottom seismometers. 

Yassar pointed out that while ocean-bottom seismometers may be the best technology we have at the moment, they have a number of distinct disadvantages.  They are fragile, have limited coverage and are expensive to acquire, deploy and retrieve.  They also have lengthy time delays in getting the data to shore if the buoys are not fitted with antennas.  These delays can be as long as a year.  Buoys are vulnerable to meteorological phenomena, theft of key parts (such as GPS modules) and natural deterioration or even vandalism.  It was noted that many buoys of a tsunami-warning system were not operational during a devastating 2018 tsunami in Indonesia.  And even when they work, the tsunami warning systems are not always reliable.  False alarms can create panic, such as happened in Chile in January 2021.

SMART cables are part of a new approach to submarine seismometry by using commercial telecom cables to create a real-time underwater observatory, Yassar continued.  This would be achieved this by attaching geophysical and environmental sensors to the submarine cable repeaters and by including interferometers in submarine cable landing stations for earthquake and tsunami sensing. 

SMART cables could provide the scientific community with massive amounts of data about the ocean.  They could advance our understanding of climate change by collecting data on ocean circulation at regional and global scales, heat storage and ocean trends.  They could provide advanced warning of tsunami events.  And they could improve sea level and ocean state prediction and provide research and monitoring of marine protected areas, Yassar concluded. 

This is the first of a series of articles in SubCableWorld highlighting information from the ANACOM event.  We will have more shortly, including more information about the CAM Ring and other potential SMART cable projects.  For more information about SMART technology, click here.  To view all of the presentations from this event, click here.