“More than one million known species of plants and animals [exist in the world’s oceans], and scientists say there may be as many as nine million species we haven’t discovered yet” writes Discovery Education. These astonishing numbers grow even higher if we consider all the aquatic life in the world’s rivers, seas, lakes, and swamps. But despite this wealth of life, around “2,300 species are listed as endangered or threatened” according to NOAA Fisheries. This number is likely to grow as the impact of human activity on aquatic habitats worsens. Our oceans are polluted and often dangerous for the wildlife that once enjoyed their bounty, with around “5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean as of 2015” according to National Geographic.
Despite this crisis, there is much we can do to counteract the effects of human interference with the wild. One solution is to capture and breed specimens of endangered species in aquariums around the world. If managed ethically, these aquariums can promote restoration of wild populations through release programs. Likewise, they offer an exceptional opportunity for humans, young and old alike, to become better citizens of the planet by learning more about the ocean’s plants and animals. But what can aquariums do to maximize learning opportunities and management of their wildlife? The Internet of Things offers an incredible world of possibilities for updating aquariums.
With cellular, Wi-Fi, and low-power-wide-area (LPWA) network options available to link the animals and technology in an aquarium, collection managers have plenty of choices for taking control.
Go Fish! IoT Engagement and Education Applications for Aquariums
Museums, zoos, and libraries are using IoT to create interactive exhibits and learning opportunities for their visitors. Aquariums can join this growing collective by adjusting their own displays and attractions to incorporate outreach technology that uses IoT networks as its platform. Interactive exhibits make the lives and needs of our aquatic friends easier to understand and a little more tangible to those who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience the majesty and diversity of the ocean.
Want to let your visitors see underwater worlds from the perspective of a fish? Try connecting aquatic drones equipped with underwater cameras to your Wi-Fi or cellular network and let visitors control them with a joystick while wearing virtual reality goggles. Biologists already are using similar drones to explore the ocean, according to Gizmodo. And with minor adaptations, drones could be used safely in an aquarium setting as well. Both submersibles and surface skimming drones are readily available on the market. Ultimately, drones let visitors get close to your exhibit’s wildlife without placing the animals or plants at risk, allowing visitors to develop a real sense of awe and obligation to ocean life.
Ready to give visitors a chance to feed their new watery friends? Connect automated feeders to a trigger mechanism or button that passersby may press. Next to this button, you may want to include displays that describe what nutrients each species requires. This feeding tool may be set to only dispense food so many times within a given period to avoid overfeeding as well. Observing the natural feeding activities of different species not only allows visitors to gain a greater appreciation for nature, but it also allows visitors to see just how easy it would be for fish to consume plastics, litter, and other human debris.
Engagement also can include scavenger hunts that leverage wayfinding technologies. Your aquarium can create a simple smartphone application that connects users to your wireless network as they enter the facility. With a Wi-Fi IoT network, you can connect stops along the tour with wireless beacons that provide insight and facts about the fish living in each section of the facility.
Smart Tanks: IoT Maintenance Applications for Aquariums
IoT networks provide a connected platform for aquarium management systems to ensure optimal living conditions and comprehensive health monitoring across an entire aquarium’s ecosystem. Tanks can be outfitted with waterproof, Wi-Fi-linked sensors to monitor fish movements and habits, and larger fish and other aquatic creatures may even be chipped with RFID tags to allow immediate identification during tank cleaning, maintenance, and breeding programs. According to the RFID Journal, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center already safely uses RFID tagging for captive fish to provide visitors more information about the habits of the fish swimming past.
RFID tagging allows for easier maintenance of health records and improves the ability to quarantine specific animals. RFID readers linked to the network can be placed strategically throughout a tank to allow passive but frequent updates about an individual animal’s activities. Linked with digital mapping software, these scanners allow aquariums to track movement through their tank systems. This mapping information could, in turn, teach biologists more about animal behavior, potentially gaining insight useful for intervention in the wild. In this way, knowledge gained from IoT-linked aquariums can directly contribute to conservation efforts.
Lighting, salinity, and even tank temperature all can be controlled remotely with network-linked environmental systems, as well. Systems such as a tank’s digital thermometer and thermostat chiller can be linked with machine to machine (M2M) technology to allow automated adjustment of conditions when defined thresholds are breached.
In terms of cost, functionality, and compatibility with existing IoT technology that may be purchased on the open market, Aeris can help aquariums looking to preserve and protect the ocean’s greatest gifts. Our team is dedicated to helping each client plan and implement unique networks populated by reliable, state-of-the-art technology. We will work with your IT team to select the perfect tools for your aquarium, carefully considering the needs of your animals, crew, and visitors. Once your network is online, we’ll provide network support and consultation for any further additions to the network.
Ready for a smart aquarium that lets the public interact with endangered wildlife in new ways while also teaching you more about the behaviors and needs of your animals? Contact us today to get started!