Griffith University researchers have been awarded a $390,000 ARC Linkage grant to develop SmartBuoys, an intelligent remote water quality monitoring platform to address the challenges with environmental sustainability of waterways.

Partially constructed using recycled electronic waste by the social enterprise Substation33, the SmartBuoy system will remotely monitor water quality in creeks, rivers, dams and lakes in near real-time, at 15-minute intervals.

“The smart part of the SmartBuoy design will be its ability to incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence functionality to allow for autonomous reasoning over the data,” said Dr Jarrod Trevathan, lead investigator from the Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems.

“This allows us to extract from the data previously unknown insights about phenomena such as harmful algal blooms.

“The SmartBuoy technology will dramatically enhance the ability of agriculture, aquaculture, landowners, and authorities to manage their waterways and meet key water quality objectives over time.”

Using an online system of off-the-shelf water quality sensors, the buoys will provide data on light, temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH and salinity that is viewed on an intuitive web-based user interface.

Data is transmitted over the GSM network, which will make SmartBuoys deployable in any location with mobile phone coverage for up to 18 months before needing maintenance.

“The development of SmartBuoys pushes the boundaries of what is possible with off-the-shelf commercially available sensor technologies,” Dr Trevathan said.

“The grant will enable the next quantum leap for this system, making the technology smart in preparation for large-scale uptake by end-users.”

“This ARC Linkage is the first grant of its kind for Logan and Griffith University that engages social enterprise in the production and manufacture of an applied research project,” said Tony Sharp an industry and investigative partner from Substation33.

“It also represents a fantastic opportunity for engaging job seekers and volunteers in skilled work experience.”

“In the history of the Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems, this is the first time that a mid-career researcher has led and won such a significant ARC Linkage grant”, said Professor Yongsheng Gao, Director of the Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems.

“We have already undertaken successful deployments across Logan, Townsville, the Lower Burdekin, the Gold Coast Hinterland and the Scenic Rim.”