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Environmental Sensor Array


National Maritime College of Ireland

Description of the technological challenge

        Context, definition of the problem:

Part of the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI’s) key infrastructure is a jetty and lifeboat deployment structure located on the northern side of the campus from which davit launched, open launched and free-fall lifeboats are deployed along with other types of small boat (e.g. fast rescue craft). NMCI vessels participating in survival craft/small boat training range into Cork harbour as far as 3.2km from the jetty.

NMCI small boat/survival craft exercise programs are constrained by environmental limitations (wind speed, wave height, swell, visibility, tidal flow and tide height) set low enough to avoid personnel or equipment being damaged or negative learning outcomes.

Safe conditions in which to conduct exercises exist when wave amplitude, wind speed, swell and tidal stream combine to produce surface conditions less than Beaufort Sea State 2. When surface conditions are at or above Beaufort Sea State 3, training does not take place. When harbour conditions are between (or forecast to be between) Sea State 2 and 3, instructors employ various mitigation strategies and take extra safety precautions to prevent risks escalating according to the nature of the training exercise, the lesson, and candidates’ experience level.    

In the absence of real-time environmental data, NMCI instructors (highly trained mariners with significant sea-going and small boat training experience) are forced to rely on local knowledge, tide tables and meteorology apps when they dynamically assess risks posed by hazards such as bridge arches or reaches of shallow water that amplify tidal flow, or rocky outcrops that exposed by the fast falling tide when water volumes in the harbour are low.

Challenge definition / Description of need:

The proponent shall give the comprehensive solution (hardware device and software). The IoT challenge is:

  • To design and develop a prototype of a ‘smart’ buoy that will be docked at the jetty / inshore for the measurement of the state of the sea in shallow water with wireless capacity (e.g. LoRa). 
  • To design and implementation of a mobile (3G/4G) data visualization and monitoring system or platform. 


The solution must satisfy the following criteria for the design and construction of a wireless enabled ‘smart’ buoy:

  • To include the suitable sensors for measuring wind speed, wind direction, wave characteristics (amplitude and period), water speed and water depth.
  • To include a self-sufficient power system and wireless connectivity (i.e. LoRa Communication Network).
  • A flag, pendant or windsock should be incorporated in the buoy design so that wind direction can be estimated visually from any location in the training area.
  • To incorporate a remotely controlled ultra-bright white LED, to serve as a warning beacon. 
  • The solution must satisfy the following criteria for the system:
  • Data should be reported via accessible and easily parsed network messaging protocol.
  • Data should be updated, at least, every 30 seconds.
  • The system for monitoring data must be multi-device with controlled access permissions. 
  • This functionality must be achieved with relatively inexpensive hardware and software licenses.
  • The design of the system, including the monitoring application, will be open since in the future, in addition to monitoring the data from the prototype buoy, it could include information from new buoys or sensors and could be used for education purposes*. 
    • The system might provide other benefits in education, e.g. in student projects, or be used for research open source firmware libraries (e.g. Arduino) and data-processing/front end source code should be accessible (e.g built with Pyton or Java libraries).  

Expected Outcomes:

  • The proponent will design and launch an implementation of the buoy prototype.
  • The proponent will implement a comprehensive multi-device display system to support NMCI instructor decision-making. 
  • The system might provide other benefits in education, e.g. in student projects, or be used for research open source firmware libraries (e.g. Arduino) and data-processing/front-end source code should be accessible (e.g. built with Python or Java libraries). 


  • The solution will have a €15,000 budget to cover proponent's costs. The project will have a €3,000 budget for hardware procurement, but this cost will be met by the tenderer independently of HR funding. The proponent will provide full details (brand, model, supplier and cost) of hardware procured for the project. 


Applications to this challenge are not allowed because the call is already closed.