December 7, 2023
An app displaying underwater positioning information College of Washington

The International Positioning System — brief for GPS — is probably the most widely-used system for positioning and estimating time by establishing a wi-fi communication channel with satellites. Smartphones depend on this method, and so do smartwatches, particularly these focused at sports activities fans. Nonetheless, with regards to underwater actions like scuba diving or deep-sea snorkeling, it’s not of a lot use.

That’s as a result of GPS waves merely don’t provide a lot when it comes to liquid penetration because the radio waves it depends on break down quickly in water. Meaning if you happen to take a dip together with your Apple Watch and search to discover some underwater websites, don’t depend on GPS for somebody to control — and discover — you. However there’s a novel resolution that may give GPS-like location superpowers to just about any smartwatch on the market.

The parents on the College of Washington have developed an app that permits underwater divers to speak with one another by way of their smartphones, primarily making a GPS-like three-dimensional location triangulation web. The important thing profit right here is {that a} staff chief can all the time control the remainder of the divers venturing underwater with them and ensure that they don’t stray away from the group.

An answer like this might save lives, particularly in situations the place underwater visibility is low, making it troublesome and even unimaginable for a staff chief to see each single diver within the group. If one of many divers will get entangled in ropes or another emergency befalls them, the app may assist triangulate their location and save their life.

How the smartwatch app works

Locating underwater position of divers using a smartwatch app.
An individual sporting a smartwatch that triangulates underwater place College of Washington

The app is ready to triangulate underwater coordinates for a bunch of divers inside a spread of 30 meters. What the app does is it treats every diver’s smartwatch as a node after which creates the 3D location map primarily based on the relative distance to the staff chief’s smartwatch when it sends an audio ping.

As extra divers are added to the group, the app’s location estimation additionally extends so long as every diver is inside a 30-meter vary. For a pattern community wherein 4 or 5 smartwatches are concerned, the median error at estimating the 3D location underwater falls between 0.5-0.9 m and 0.9-1.6 m.

Alright, so the app will assist a staff chief control all the group — however what about their actual location for an individual above the floor? “You would want an anchor system that’s above the water floor, say, mounted to a buoy or positioned on a ship,” Shyam Gallakota a professor on the College of Washington’s Allen Faculty and lead writer of the analysis paper, tells Digital Tendencies.

Particularly, the chief’s smartwatch should be linked wirelessly to an anchor system for “correct” location estimation in order that an individual above the floor can control the chief and their complete group’s three-dimensional formation beneath the floor.

No particular gear required

A person using the Apple Watch Ultra while scuba diving underwater.
Smartwatches just like the Apple Watch Extremely are well-equipped for underwater sports activities. Newsroom / Apple

The most important victory right here is that the app doesn’t use any specialised {hardware} to do its job. All you want is an Apple Watch or a Put on OS smartwatch that provides the mandatory ingress safety to outlive underwater, and also you’re good to go. And that’s as a result of the novel location monitoring system depends on sound waves.

The app prompts the smartwatches to emit a sound utilizing its onboard speaker array whereas the microphone picks up the sign underwater. Gollakota explains that it takes about 1.5 seconds for the audio ping to make its approach again to the staff chief’s smartwatch.

Gollakota defines the innovation as “the primary underwater acoustic 3D positioning system for smartwatches” that doesn’t require any exterior gear. Curiously, the system also needs to work simply advantageous on a smartphone as in addition they have the speaker and mic array prepared for 3D location estimation. “The smartwatches mainly transmit very tiny chirps after which use the microphone to speak,” he defined.

Actually, deploying a cellphone may very nicely open the doorways for visible odometry. When requested why the staff skipped that facet, “Effectively, taking a smartphone for an underwater dive is simply not as handy as a smartwatch,” Gollokota tells me. It’s a sound level. Plus, not many smartphones on the market can survive immersion on the form of depths required for deep-water journey sports activities.

What provides?

Apple Watch SE 2 with the Apple Watch Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

The system will not be with out its limitations. Gollakota tells us that for the system to work, it wants at the least three smartwatches within the group speaking to one another by way of sound waves. When there are solely two smartwatches concerned, the app can solely present ranging data. That’s as a result of every smartwatch within the group works as a node. The extra the merrier, as a result of having greater than three smartwatches in a linked pool solely enhances the situation triangulation accuracy.

One other pitfall is that it isn’t a steady location monitoring system. As an alternative, it’s a voluntary localization system, which implies the staff chief has to press a button in order that their smartwatch emits an audio sign, which is then picked up by different smartwatches close by.

The most important caveat, nevertheless, is that the app is at the moment not accessible to obtain from Apple or Google’s app shops. As an alternative, the staff on the College of Washington has uploaded all the code to GitHub in hopes that it will likely be picked up by the developer neighborhood to make an app that can subsequently be launched on the Google Play Retailer and the Apple App Retailer.

That’s a minor inconvenience in itself, regardless of the code’s free availability. In comparison with merely putting in an app from a digital retailer, working an app off the code from GitHub takes a sure stage of technical experience. Gollakota tells us that the staff is working to get the state of affairs sorted however says it’s not a very straightforward course of to create an Apple Watch app, given the stringent high quality and UX guidelines on the App Retailer.

The Apple Watch Ultra with the Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch SE 2.
(Left to proper) Apple Watch SE 2, Apple Watch Sequence 8, and Apple Watch Extremely Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

Although the staff used an Apple Watch Extremely throughout the take a look at part, Gollakota instructed Digital Tendencies that the code is appropriate with Android as nicely. Meaning it may be used to create an app that runs on Put on OS (by Google) smartwatches. Nonetheless, with regards to generic smartwatches working customized skins primarily based on the RTOS basis — equivalent to these bought by OnePlus, Honor, Xiaomi, and so on. — there isn’t a possible future for the app.

Regardless of the technical limitations described above, the underwater GPS app developed by the specialists on the College of Washington remains to be a large leap ahead. The perfect half is that it received’t burden a mean smartphone person to spend cash on any specialised gear for his or her smartwatch. It’s only a matter of time, and a few luck, earlier than the app turns into accessible in its completed type from an utility retailer(s).

Curiously, specialists on the identical establishment took an identical acoustic method and developed the primary underwater messaging app not too way back. Digital Tendencies additionally talked with Joseph Breda, a analysis scholar on the College of Washington, who developed an app that permits a smartphone to measure physique temperature with out requiring any specialised add-on equipment or sensor.

Editors’ Suggestions

Supply Hyperlink :