WhatsApp underwater? Smartphone messaging app is a diver’s dream

There was the challenge of changing position and the proximity of smartphones in moving currents. There was also noise from surrounding ships, animals, and even low-flying planes. To solve all these problems, an algorithm was developed that could account for variations in distance, noise, and frequency response between devices, optimizing the bit rate and acoustic frequencies of each transmission.

The process works in a certain way, to avoid interference. When a user intends to send a message to another user, AquaApp sends a quick note (sound) to the other device. On the second device, AquaApp runs the algorithm to determine the best settings for what the researchers call the preamble (note).

There is an undersea network capability, where 60 unique users can be in the same network at the same time. This is similar to a Wi-Fi network, but underwater. The last aspect of AquaApp is the range, up to 30 meters seems to be the ideal distance between devices. But tests have measured ranges of up to 113 meters and at depths of 12 meters.

There seems to be a consensus that AquaApp is akin to early forms of the Internet, called ARPANET. The research team claimed that this technology can bring underwater communication to the masses.

AquaApp is open source code and will be available for everyone to download and use on their smartphones and smartwatches. For more information, see the website on the UW website AquaApp.

Read the summary of the article below:

“Since its inception, underwater digital acoustic communication has required custom hardware that neither has the economies of scale nor is ubiquitous. We present the first acoustic system that brings underwater messaging capabilities to devices existing devices like smartphones and smartwatches.Our software-only solution leverages the audio sensors, i.e. microphones and speakers, ubiquitous in today’s devices to enable underwater communication acoustics between mobile devices. To achieve this, we design a communication system that adapts in real time to differences in frequency responses between mobile devices, changes in multipath and noise levels at different locations and changes dynamic channel dynamics due to mobility.We are evaluating our system in six different real-world underwater environments with different depths. rs from 2 to 15 m in the presence of boats, ships and people fishing and kayaking. Our results show that our system can adapt its frequency band in real time and reach data rates of 100 bps to 1.8 kbp s and a range of 30 m. By using a 10-20 bps lower bitrate, we can further increase the range to 100m. As smartphones and watches are increasingly used in underwater scenarios, our software approach has the potential to make underwater messaging capabilities widely available to anyone with a mobile device.


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