Intelligent River is the first stage of an environmental monitoring project that’s attempting to put the Savannah River Basin in the cloud. The project is run out of the Institute of Computational Ecology at Clemson University in South Carolina, and is based on a network of customized sensors built by the school’s Dependable Systems Research Group.
The sensor platform is called MoteStack, because each sensor, or mote, consists of a literal stack of components. One layer typically houses a small computer processor, and another houses the radio equipment that lets the mote connect over wireless or cellular networks. Like Lego bricks, other layers can be snapped on with sensors to measure rainfall, wind speeds, temperature, and the like. Each mote lives inside a weatherproof housing — a buoy, if it’s depolyed on the river — and can run for months or years on battery power.
On the back end, the researchers have developed a suite of custom software tools, from the motes’ OS to mesh networking protocols that help the motes communicate through dense foliage and other terrain hazards. And they’re creating a web portal where real-time data will be available to researchers and the public.
One of the long-term goals of the project is to develop a low-cost, flexible system that could be deployed in a variety of environments to monitor any number of variables — everything from soil composition to highway traffic patterns — and to make that data available in real time to researchers, city managers, and government agencies.
“We hope to create the world’s first automated river,” Gene Eidson, director of the Institute for Computational Ecology, tells Postscapes. His team is already working on spin-off projects, such as Intelligent City, Intelligent Farm and Intelligent Forest, in communities along the Savannah River. By synthesizing those MoteStack networks with publicly available databases from state and federal agencies, Intelligent River will make it possible to build infrastructure that can respond immediately and automatically to changes in the environment.
The potential to revolutionize city planning and environmental management has the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers all interested in Intelligent River.
“I think it will absolutely transform the way our resources are monitored and managed,” Eidson says.
Deployment of the MoteStack network into the 312-mile Savannah River Basin is underway, with several dozen motes in the field currently and dozens more to be deployed in 2014 to towns, farms and waterways along the Savannah.
Watch the Institute for Computation Ecology’s website for project updates and real-time data, and check out the video below for more details.
Image Credits: Clemson University