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Internet, I hear you: Project SONYC

Projekt SONYC versucht sich an Datenübertragung nach dem Vorbild von WalgesängenBionics is a science branch that enjoys increasing popularity. This includes IT, of course.

Biological data storage systems based on the way in which nuclei store information as DNA have been researched for some time.

The brain is also the subject of bionic research. Scientists are trying to build computers based on the model of neural networks, which are more intelligent and advanced than anything else seen so far.

This research is also advancing in communications technology. As a pioneer we find here – as hardly any other way to expect – Google.

Deep communication

In the age of mobile high-speed Internet it might be hard to believe, but it is a fact, nonetheless: the internet and telephone communication e.g. Between Europe and the American continent is still largely dependent upon transatlantic deep sea cables (TAT). The same is true for Asia (SEA-ME-WE).

But this about to change dramatically soon.

Project SONYC

Google has launched the “Sonic Online Network Yelp Connection” (SONYC) project. The transmission of the data takes place by means of targeted, modulated sound pulses (Targeted Sonic Pulse, TSP).

This type of data transfer is based on the communication code of the humpback whales. These animals can communicate with each other for ten or more kilometers because water is a much better conductor for sound due to the higher density than e.g. Air.

Extremely high data rates possible

Modern deep-sea fiberglass cables sport a data throughput of approximately 50 Tbit/s. By Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), it would theoretically be possible to achieve a rate of more than 1000 Tbit/s via SONYC. “We have the entire wave spectrum from infra- to ultrasound available,” said a spokesman for the project.

Since no cables have to be laid, the system would also be much cheaper than new low-speed cables.

An ear to the sea

The new Internet connection needs an infrastructure of coastal facilities (referred to as “listening posts”), which act as sending and receiving stations. Orientation is important, as a straight connection between the transmitter and receiver is necessary for optimum transmission.

First listening posts are planned to be set up in Portugal, Greenland and Manasquan, New Jersey in the USA. The latter location is not a coincidal choice: one of the transatlantic cables (TAT-14) runs thruogh this very place.

Greenpeace concerned

Ultrasonic technology is controversially discussed among marine biologists and environmentalists. While some experts assume that sound in the frequencies used by SONYC is harmless to marine sea life, others fear that the system could confuse particularly whales. The marine mammals could falsely interpret the impulses as news, love messages or navigation information sent by other whales.

The reverse way might also be problematic: whales, especially during mating season, could add distortions and noise to the signals broadcasted by SONYC.

Ear to the ocean

Another aspect raises questions: how could a secure connection look like when the sound signal can be directly “intercepted” on thousands of nautical miles? Security circles already discuss the possibility of “sailor in the middle” attacks (SITM).

SONYC plans to counter this with a frequency coding, by means of encoding signals using pitch modulation. Whether that system will be safe has yet to show however.


Bild: ©iT-CUBE SYSTEMS AG 2017


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