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UnderWater Information Technology (UWIT)

Underwater navigation has always been very tricky, because even in the clearest waters, visibility can be down to a few metres. With the products the UWIT project has developed, divers can see their accurate location on a map, mark positions of objects and orientate themselves to preset locations.

The team have created an underwater tablet computer with a fully functional touch screen called Alltab, along with an Underwater Navigation Solution comprising a GPS receiver and their proprietary Navigator software.

“These features have been barely possible before as previous devices have been clumsy and inaccurate, costing 10 times more than the tools we have developed,” says project coordinator Jouni Leinikki. He explains, “The GPS is in a surface buoy that is coupled to Alltab via a cable and uses Navigator software which has been especially designed for use by divers.”

The software they have developed can use the location information from Alltab either through GPS or by dead reckoning by counting time and compass direction. Designed in cooperation with military and police special forces from different countries, features also include offline maps.

One of the biggest technical challenges the project faced was the touch screen interface: the project found pressing rather than touching to be more effective underwater. Another challenge was to find the right components. “Alltab is completely filled with liquid, and it houses a commercial, off-the-shelf tablet computer. Models with a self-illuminating OLED display have turned out to be optimal for our use,” explains Leinikki.

Finding the right tablet computers was a trial and error process. “Without knowing exactly what components these tablets are made of and how they work in our liquid, long trials were needed to ensure the reliability of Alltab.”

By using the tools the project has developed, a diver can for the first time connect to the internet from underwater with all its more and less serious applications from communication to watching movies during long and boring decompression stops. The team has also developed data collection software for scientific divers and others who can find a mobile device useful in their research or work.

“We have created an ICT solution for professional divers – ranging from scientists, military and fire and rescue to dive instructors – that will disrupt the market for diving equipment and, by making the dive more efficient, may decrease the costs of an average diving project by more than 50 %.”

Alltab can store thousands of pages of drawings, specification sheets and other crucial material which means underwater inspections are easier to do when the relevant documentation can be carried by the diver. Diving instructors can carry teaching material and instructional videos without them needing to surface between short lessons.

The benefits have been explored in several pilot projects in which the tools were tested by multiple groups around the world. “Special forces divers of Germany Finland France Norway Sweden Canada and United States have tested the navigation solutions and given us valuable ideas and feedback. Marine scientists in Belgium Finland France Sweden United Kingdom Hong Kong and the United States have also tested our solution. Alltab has been used to control underwater scientific instruments such as CISME which saves in their cost and size and adds flexibility compared to built-in buttons-and-display controls on the devices.

“I'm proud of creating such a great product-line and a brand, VALTAMER, that is already recognised by the professionals that use the tools. We have all learned many new things during the project, part of which is thanks to the business coaching provided as part of the SME instrument grant,” says Leinikki. He adds that the next step is to attract new investors.

Reference source: UnderWater Information Technology (UWIT)

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