CLEVELAND, OH — A new network of high-tech radio transmitters is being installed along the Ohio coastline as part of a telecommunications project advocates say will help optimize Lake Erie environmental management and accelerate water-based technology development.
The specialized wireless network is part of the grant-funded Smart Lake Erie Initiative from the nonprofit Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA), which is attempting to increase access to real-time data about environmental conditions used by regional water managers, among others.
The network, which runs on the LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) protocol common in smart home devices, is expected to aid in the tracking of toxic algal blooms, chemical spills, urban floods and other situations that require dozens or hundreds of sensors to monitor.
“We intend to operate the network like a public utility and share its combined coverage with those who study, manage, and protect our water systems including water utilities, university researchers, and many others throughout northern Ohio,” said Bryan Stubbs, CWA director.
Radios were installed this month at the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center, on several buildings on Case Western Reserve University’s Cleveland Campus, on the William G. Mather museum ship and atop the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building in Cleveland. More are planned along the Ohio shoreline and other key inland and urban areas.
Each site can send and receive data from thousands of remotely deployed sensors within its listening area, which may be located up to 20 to 30 miles away over open water.
The first uses of the new network include transmitting data from specialized buoys that monitor lake conditions near the city of Cleveland water intakes.
The lake already features a network of sensors which measure wind speed, water and air temperatures, wave height, water pH, dissolved oxygen and other conditions.
Ed Verhamme, a principal at LimnoTech and president of Freeboard Technology, an Ohio-based company which maintains parts of the network and several offshore buoys, said organizations around the lake are interested in new environmental monitoring approaches which aren’t limited by the current cost of sensors and expensive cellular communication plans.
“We’ve had some data packets make their way from sensors deployed in Sandusky Bay clear across Lake Erie to the gateway deployed in downtown Cleveland,” Verhamme said. “Our testing so far shows that we can get regular connections to our buoys 17 miles from shore, which previously had zero cellular coverage.”
The CWA nonprofit works with researchers, academia, corporations, government and utilities in the hope of building a giant water industry in Cleveland.
The networking project is an outgrowth of the Erie Hack technology innovation challenge.
The Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) hopes to develop similar network systems across the region as part of a Smart Great Lakes Initiative.