Ensuring the security of oil rigs, ports and harbors isn't easy. Boats of all sizes sail in and out, and while radar can see most of them, it doesn't give details about who or what.
Intellicheck Mobilisa, a wireless technology company, thinks it has an answer. It's a buoy, outfitted with an array of communications antennas, a computer and various sensors. "In a way, this makes too much sense," Steve Williams, CEO, told Discovery News. "We wondered why nobody had tried this before."
To keep costs down, the company turned to off-the-shelf systems where possible. For example, the computer on board is similar to a high-end gaming machine. The real advances are in the software, which can recognize anomalies, and the way the buoys use communications frequencies and protocols. One of those is an algorithm used to pick up wireless signals over water - unlike the ground, which absorbs many frequencies, water reflects them, sometimes confusing receivers.
Power was another problem. A buoy that needs batteries replaced or refueling isn't as cost effective as one that doesn't, so these devices are powered by a set of solar panels (the number is adjusted to local presence or absence of sunlight) and a wind turbine. Getting solar panels to work in a marine environment, Williams said, isn't always easy - bird guano was a real problem until they put Bird-B-gone on the top of the buoys.
The buoy can communicate on cellular, satellite, or Wi-Fi networks, and can be equipped with cameras, infrared imagers and even sensors for radiation. They idea is to deploy small groups of these buoys in big harbors or near ports, such as Puget Sound or, as in a recent demonstration project for the Navy in the Potomac.