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Monitoring the sea the wireless way

June 28, 2005

SFSU faculty and student researchers were honored June 28 at Sun Microsystems' annual JavaOne conference for their work on NetBEAMS, a marine monitoring system that transmits real time environmental data by cell phone to other wireless networks. Sun CEO Scott McNealy presented the NetBEAMS teams with a Duke's Choice Award. Named after the Java technology mascot, Duke, the award celebrates innovation and exceptional use of Java programming language and networking platforms.

The SFSU researchers collaborated with Agilent Technology and Sun Microsystems to create NetBEAMS (Networked Bay Environmental Assessment Monitoring Systems). The system, which securely integrates and disseminates information, could also be useful to needs ranging from earthquake and tsunami detection to homeland security.

Photo of NetBEAMS equipment specialist Chris Raleigh preparing a sensor for deploymentAt a recent Silicon Valley demonstration of the system, Java inventor James Gosling described the innovation as "cool, very cool."

"That's like the Pope telling you you're holy," said SFSU computer science graduate student Gary Thompson, a key player in the project since it began.

NetBEAMS gathers information from a network of sensors placed in different parts of the San Francisco Bay. It then transmits data such as water depth, temperature, salt content and algae growth via cell phone to a database that uploads the information to the Web. NetBEAMS utilizes Sun Microsystems's Java programming language and networking platforms. The data is collected and forwarded via Agilent's measurement information services and cellular monitoring infrastructure. Fishermen, environmental scientists and others who may need up-to-the-minute information about ocean conditions can pick up the real time data by visiting the team's beta site, Networked Bay Environmental Assessment Monitoring System.

"This technology is a big step in devising a method of data collection in more remote areas where internet access is not available," said Toby Garfield, an SFSU professor and oceanographer at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies (RTC). He adds that it will contribute significantly to the Integrative Coastal Observation Research and Education (CICORE) program, a statewide effort to monitor all of California's 1,200 miles of coastline.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Arno Puder coded the system, Assistant Professor of Engineering Todor Cooklev and his students worked on the wireless technology and Garfield led sensor deployment at the Romberg Tiburon Center.

The collaboration continues under the auspices of SFSU's new Center for Computing for Life Sciences (CCLS), which provides an environment for faculty and students to integrate study and research between the life sciences and computational sciences. Researchers and students in the biology, biochemistry, geosciences, computer science, mathematics and physics are collaborating on a number of projects including the collection/dissemination of genomic information and the visual data modeling, real-time monitoring and recording of functioning organisms. For more information about the Center for Computing for Life Sciences visit the CCLS Web site.

"I believe that this project points to a new model for the way computer science can be taught," said Professor Dragutin Petkovic, chair of the SFSU Computer Science Department. "The true collaboration between industry and higher education using open source software can produce great advances and will excite students about choosing careers in computer science."

--Denize Springer


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Last modified June 28, 2005 by University Communications