This project, developing SEANet, a new-generation software-defined underwater acoustic modem and a networking testbed, enables a leap forward in underwater communication. The SEANet testbed constitutes a game-changing development in the field, as it provides: - Fully reconfigurable modems with much higher data rates and flexibility than currently available and - Sophisticated communication and networking primitives unavailable with the current technology. Although underwater acoustic networking technology has become key to most commercial and military activities at sea, currently it can only support mostly point-to-point, low-data-rate, delay-tolerant applications. Hence this technology remains in its infancy. Commercial acoustic modems use signaling schemes that often achieve < 20 kilobit/s with a link distance of one km over horizontal links.

The instrument under development would be composed of SEANet modems interconnected with terrestrial Internet through the NU-MONET network at the NEU Marine Science Center. Unlike existing commercial modems that are inherently based on fixed and inflexible hardware, - SEANet will be built around a new-generation Zynq System-on-Chip architecture board, with reconfigurable design supporting fully software-defined communication & networking functionalities, overcoming the lack of flexibility that limits the capabilities of existing commercial & experimental platforms in the fast-varying underwater acoustic channel; - SEANet will provide a set of newly-developed cross-layer platform-independent protocol development abstractions to be used by students and researchers to rapidly prototype new protocols and transmission schemes; - Networking protocols and transmission schemes will be software-defined based on abstractions discussed above, but hardware-executed by reconfigurable flexible processing hardware at runtime; - SEANet will be endowed with custom-designed ultra-wide band micro-electromechanical (MEMS) transducers that will allow the modem to transmit over much wider acoustic bandwidths (i.e., >= 2 MHz) than currently available existing modems. As a result SEANet will be able to operate at lower power consumption than achievable state-of-the-art bulk piezoelectric transducers used in current commercial and experiment platforms, and reach rates in the order of 500 kilobit/s over 200 in range links and Mbit/s rates shorter range links (~ 50 m).

Broader Impacts: The instrumentation provides the university and overall research community with unique capabilities for data collection in field installations. It also provides the underwater research community with an experimental platform that will be instrumental in advancing research activities in underwater networking. This development directly supports the research activities in communications, networking, security, robotics, and marine science at the institution. The platform will be broadly advertised and made available to the US academic community. The testbed will become a unique research and training facility for undergraduate and graduate students, offering to train minority scientists and professionals with system design skills in underwater signal processing, communications, networking, and system design.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Rita Rodriguez
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Northeastern University
United States
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