Clever Buoy: Bondi Beach tests the world’s first IoT shark warning system

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It’s no surprise that IoT technology can make life more convenient; automating mundane repetitive tasks so that we don’t have to waste precious energy. But it can also be life-saving too.

Clever Buoy – a clever combination of sonar, satellite and mobile networks – can use facial recognition techniques to warn beach users of approaching sharks. Created by Shark Mitigation Services and telecommunications network Optus, Clever Buoy is currently being trialed by Bondi Beach following a surge in shark attacks on Australia’s east coast beaches.

Shark attacks reach their highest level yet

The new technology attempts to make beaches safer, in response to record-breaking numbers of attacks. Last year, there were 98 reported incidents and six fatalities. Bad news for those who enjoy sun, sea and surf – preferably without a side of shark.

The old methods of shark mitigation (nets, aerial patrols and culls) all have their problems. Shark nets ensnare other marine life too; aerial patrols spot roughly one in eight sharks (and are eye-wateringly expensive to boot) and shark culls – such as the one sanctioned by the Western Australian government in 2013/14 – are considered to be inhumane.

An efficient and humane solution

The benefit of Clever Buoy is that it protects both beach users and marine life. A single buoy connects multiple sonar heads which are positioned parallel to the shore to detect movement beneath the waves. The Clever Buoy’s microprocessor analyses the sonar data, and if there’s a positive match, satellites transmit a real-time message to the lifeguard towers via an app. The lifeguards can then alert beach users to get out of the water. The shark itself is unharmed, and so are the bathers.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a …shark?

Using sonar to spot large marine animals isn’t a new thing in itself. It’s not that difficult to use sonar to hunt for anything longer than 6 feet that can move on its own. But to distinguish sharks from other marine life, you have to look at their unique swimming patterns to be sure of what you’re seeing. This is where the Clever Buoy really gets clever. Just like facial recognition software, the more frequently a shark is detected accurately, the more reliable the recognition in the future.

It’s early days, but Clever Buoy has already had a significant impact for good. According to Craig Anderson, founder of Shark Mitigation Services, it has a 90 percent success rate. Good news for beach lovers everywhere.

To find out more about Clever Buoy, take a look at the video above, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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