Towards an Ocean Dashboard

    The oceans are among the most important resources of our planet. And while ocean technology is very sophisticated, it is also very expensive and sensor distribution is extremely sparse.

    At Desert Star, we hear about the consequences of that lack of visibility most every day. The state of fisheries is poorly known; the risk of a crash clearly present. Navies are struggling to control fishermen turned pirate by the illegal depletion of their resource by industrial vessels escaping detection. Whales get entangled in growing obstacle courses of pot fishery gear. And, while extraordinary large biomasses have been discovered in the mesopelagic zone, its importance in the ocean food web and function as a carbon sink is poorly understood.

    But how could a revolution in ocean sensing be initiated? Twenty-three years ago our young company realized that the key to reducing costs dramatically lay in building a broad product line of sensors and systems on the foundation of a modular architecture. While demand for any individual sensor type might be moderate, the technology and its components could be used over and over again, dramatically building economics of scale. Today, our small company offers a remarkably broad ocean tech product line including satellite reporting tags, acoustic releases, underwater positioning systems, tracking ranges, modems and sound localization capable underwater recorders.

    We have introduced products that not only push innovation but are often available at a fraction of comparable devices. For example, our pop-up satellite tags for fish research have now reached a $499 price point, down from competitor's $4000, opening up new markets and uses for this technology. Our acoustic releases, a technology previously in the domain of science and large offshore projects, are now improving the business of fishermen while reducing the hazard to whales.

    This is but a small beginning. A proof of our business concept, and a starting point towards an 'ocean dashboard' that can monitor and interact with our ocean resource in myriad interlinked ways. Powered by ultimately millions of small, communicating sensors that are thrown over the stern of Navy vessels or deployed from airplanes, the health and distribution of critical stocks might be discerned. Some of these small, pervasive sensors might settle near undetectable on the seafloor to listen for illegal fishing or pirate activity, then rise up to report via satellite, collect more solar energy and settle down again.

    Just a few decades ago, microcontroller use was sparse, embedded technology rare and expensive. Yet today, it is hard to imagine our world and its responsible management without the myriad of sensors and communicating devices that surround us, monitor our activities, protect our resources and allow us to interact and understand our world in critical detail. While predicting a similar future for our oceans and the resulting business opportunities may appear as a leap of faith now, surely the time will come when the sparse monitoring and poor understanding of this most critical resource today will come to be seen as a reckless state of affairs.

    While we are confident that in time this vision will come to pass, we also realize that Desert Star is an organization far too small and limited to execute on such a globe spanning scale. Thus, in 2017, after 24 years of experimenting and steadily building practical foundations for affordable and scalable ocean technology, we are reaching out to find a larger but visionary organization to take the next steps by implementing regional demonstrators and then global solutions for the most urgent needs in our oceans. While at Desert Star we do not have all the answers, we believe that our active products, technology base present an excellent starting point launch this moon shot of consequence.

We are waiting to hear from you.

oceandashboard@desertstar.com