"Marine skin" wearable technology tracks underwater creatures

Wearables are normally connected devices like smartwatches or shirts that people wear. Researchers are expanding wearables to cover underwater creatures as well with a new wearable sensor that could help track whale sharks and dolphins in the future. The crab you see here was one of the first test subjects for a new lightweight sensor tag that could track animal movement in deep ocean environments.

The sensor is dubbed "Marine Skin" and is designed to be glued to the outer shell or skin of an animal. When in water, the sensor is said to weigh about as much as a paper clip. The lightweight design would allow the sensor to be worn by a variety of large and small marine animals without disrupting their bodies or behavior underwater.

The tag was developed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the scientists behind the tag expect to have it on as many as 200 different marine species by the summer of 2019. The new tags are non-invasive, older types of tags had to be injected or used other invasive methods for attaching to the animals.

The tags are fitted with a small coin battery that is good for up to a year. Scientists say that the prototype tag was able to continuously track seawater salinity, temperature, and depth. In the prototype, the battery lasted for five months without any optimization or changes made to data logging frequency.

The electronic components of the tag are primarily copper, tungsten, and aluminum with silicone for the main body of the skin. The material and processing costs for the sensor are under $12 per sensor. One catch is that the current prototype needs a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone to transfer data, this is what the prototype was fitted to a shark in an aquarium in Spain. A second-generation sensor aims to transmit data wirelessly when the animal surfaces.

SOURCE: Spectrum