NATO standardizes underwater data communication

All members of the NATO alliance have, for the first time ever, adopted a recently-developed standard for underwater acoustic communications.

The standard is called Janus and was developed by NATO Science and Technology Organization’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE).

“This marks the first time that a digital underwater communication protocol has been acknowledged at international level and opens the way to develop many exciting underwater communication applications,” the alliance said in an announcement.

As with the industry standard for WiFi communication, an undersea communication standard has to be defined in order to guarantee the interoperability between equipment from different manufacturers.

Adopted globally, Janus can make military and civilian, NATO and non-NATO devices interoperable, providing them all with a common language with which to communicate and arrange to cooperate.

CMRE is working to support effective underwater communication networks to allow undersea robots to work together and report back home.

“Robots can behave intelligently and act as a team,” says João Alves, principal scientist and project leader at CMRE. “For example, one of the robots could find some interesting feature and call the rest of the team.”

With effective undersea communication, this can all happen in an autonomous way, without requiring direct human intervention. If needed, the operation can be managed by land-based engineers who monitor all the communications from a command and control room ashore. The connection to land is made through gateway buoys on the surface of the water equipped with radio links to local support platforms or satellites.

NATO says Janus has been extensively tested at sea in exercises involving a number of partners (universities, industries and research institutions) covering a range of application scenarios.