CSIRO goes fishing for data using a 'Fishbit'

The organisation's researchers are hoping to develop a Fishbit that can be used to measure the bio-parameters of fish in different environments.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Supplied/CSIRO

Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are currently developing a proof of concept to track the movement of fish in real-time.

According to CSIRO electronics engineer James Sharp, the technology -- dubbed the Fishbit -- will be used to measure the bio-parameters of fish in different environments whether it's in the wild or in an aquaculture environment, such as a salmon pen or tuna cage.

"You can get an idea if a fish is experiencing any environmental stress by measuring it's oxygen levels, heart rate, so you know if predators may be in the vicinity, or when fish are being transported after being caught and moved into cages," he told ZDNet.

"You can also even see the effects of global warming, rising ocean temperatures, and pollution. The fishbit enables people to measure these stresses and respond to them."

As part of the project, the CSIRO researchers are developing sound wave technology to enable the data collected by the Fishbit to be transmitted to a receiver in real-time. Sharp pointed out how existing wireless communication technologies are incompatible to be used underwater.

"Conventional wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and 4G won't work in sea water. You can't use radio frequency technology over large distances in sea water," he said.

"What we are using is sound wave technology because it propagates fairly well through sea water. It's a difficult environment to reliably communicate in because there are constantly interfering noises such as boat propellers, snapping shrimps, and other common noise sources found in the marine environment." 

Aside from fish, Sharp said the telemetry of data under water has other potential applications, such as tracking the safety of divers, for instance.

"You can have a dive watch that's measuring your heart rate while you're scuba diving and it's sending that information to the boat so the boat knows you're okay. Or if your heart rate goes up it might show you're in a panic situation. You could also have an alarm button so you can push a button on the dive watch to say you've lost your way and the boat can be alerted," he said.

"Because you're sending acoustic signals all the time, you can be tracked so they can keep your precise location and find you, and rescue you."

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