The Digital Ocean: Our Next Information Frontier
We need an information superhighway of the seas
By Gary Gysin
Feb 16 2017
When the term Information Highway was coined, little did the majority of the world realize the impact this concept and the resulting Internet Superhighway would have on humanity. In 1994, MIT described the concept this way: “The information superhighway brings together millions of individuals who could exchange information with one another.” Spring forward to today. You can simply “Google” anything and receive an instantaneous response to gain immediate knowledge. This is our expectation—immediate access to data anywhere in the world, day or night.
In reality, instant access to data is only true for less than one quarter of our planet. For the remaining three quarters, the ocean, there is a huge information infrastructure gap, with limited to no real time access to data.
Why is this? On land, we have sensors everywhere—weather sensors to provide neighborhood weather reports, traffic sensors to report on road conditions, and the list goes on. There are sensors throughout your home for better home management and security—controlled right from your smartphone. In manufacturing plants, sensors are prevalent to optimize the supply chain and increase productivity. Many more examples exist in healthcare, entertainment, military, oil & gas, and in thousands of other industries. The Digital Revolution has certainly arrived, yet not to our oceans.
Why does this matter? Who needs instant access to information in the middle of the ocean? The answer is we all do. The world’s economies are tightly linked to the oceans. Over 90 percent of global trade is carried by ships with goods worth over $4 trillion. Fishery net export revenues are over $42B, and offshore energy exploration exceeds $394B. To help solve the global issues of dwindling fisheries/seafood supplies, energy shortages, and climate change we must depend on advancements in technologies, and the ability to understand the ocean, which will require an exponential growth and deployment of sensors and a global communications infrastructure to help monitor and manage the ocean. These economic forces, coupled to the sustainable management of our ocean environment, are key drivers of the Blue Economy. The common denominator for this growth is the need for pervasive real time data to understand what’s going on in our ocean and in turn, our planet
Despite a growing awareness of our economic dependence on our Oceans, the majority of the world does not realize its importance or our dependence for life’s basic needs (oxygen, food, weather). Below are statistics that underscore this importance and co-dependence: