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What's New in Spotter 3?

Brendan Crowley

The third generation of our Spotter platform features an array of exciting upgrades, including a barometer, increased onboard compute power, cellular telemetry, efficiency enhancements, and more.

New Platform, Same Core Device

While the Spotter 3 platform unlocks a flurry of new features, existing Spotter users will be happy to know that the core competencies of Spotter are unchanged. You will get everything that came with the previous Spotter generation, including all of our previous ocean data outputs, Spotter dashboard and API features, connectivity capabilities, etc. Spotter 3 builds on this foundation, strengthening the platform through a number of core upgrades and a plethora of game-changing features.

The Spotter 3 platform builds upon Spotter's robust existing capabilities and introduces a plethora of exciting new features.

Barometric Pressure

One major upgrade is that the Spotter 3 platform natively includes a barometer. This is a significant milestone, as it enables Spotter to make direct atmospheric measurements for the first time and, in turn, increases situational awareness and adds a valuable data point for marine weather forecasting. Spotter’s barometer provides excellent accuracy (+ / - 1 mbar, 0°C to 50°C) and has been rigorously tested at sea by our ocean science and engineering teams.

Surface pressure variations are an important proxy for weather changes and, as a result, Spotter’s barometer unlocks many new use cases. For example, the barometer helps us to more accurately measure water levels. If, for instance, we connect a pressure sensor to the bottom of our Smart Mooring, we receive the pressure variations at that location, which account for both atmospheric and water level changes. In this scenario, without a barometer, we must make an assumption about changes in barometric pressure or set it to zero; with a collocated barometer, we can accurately correct for variations in barometric pressure at the surface in real-time. This correction greatly improves the accuracy of water level measurements by up to 50cm in extreme cases.

The barometer also enhances some of the other new features included in the Spotter 3 platform, such as significant weather event detection, which is enabled by a much more powerful processor (more on this below!).

A quartet of Spotters en route to a deployment site to undergo at-sea testing.
“Spotter 3 provides a new foundation for continual development. The combination of the powerful processor platform and cellular telemetry will support new features backed by next-generation embedded processing techniques, and over-the-air cellular firmware updates will allow deployed systems to soak up new capabilities as they’re released.”
- Evan Shapiro, Sofar Ocean CTO

More Onboard Compute Power, Less Power Consumption

The Spotter 3 platform offers 10x more onboard compute power while consuming 40% less energy. This not only vastly improves Spotter’s data processing capabilities but also dramatically increases its ability to operate continuously at extreme latitudes.

The massive jump in compute power increases the amount of data that can be processed onboard Spotter itself and reduces the amount of data that needs to be sent to the cloud. This preprocessing feature powers real-time alert systems (e.g. significant weather event detection, see Barometer section).

The Spotter 3 platform’s power-saving proficiency allows the buoy to continuously operate during extended periods of darkness, which periodically occur in the extreme latitudes of the polar regions. This upgrade will serve many use cases in these extreme environments, including aquaculture solutions, like those provided by Mørenot, and Arctic research, like that performed by teams from the University of Tokyo.

A Spotter in the Arctic Ocean, circa 2019, surrounded by grease ice and pancake ice. Efficiency enhancements unlocked by the Spotter 3 platform will improve Spotter’s reliability at higher latitudes.
"We are really looking forward to what the new form of communication and lower power consumption will allow us to do with regards to more frequent data collection."
-
Mørenot

Cellular Connectivity

Delivering data from Spotters in the ocean to dashboards and APIs worldwide is no easy feat. To date, we have harnessed the power of Iridium satellites to do so, efficiently transmitting data from even the most remote patches of ocean.

Metocean buoys, past and present. Early Sofar Ocean customer Fugro shared this side-by-side comparison of a legacy buoy and our basketball-sized Spotter.

For Spotters deployed nearshore, however, we now also offer data delivery via a cellular connection. Cellular-enabled devices are outfitted with an onboard broadband cellular modem with global coverage that allows for 100x more data to be transmitted at a fraction of the cost. This capability increases sampling frequency and unlocks high-bandwidth use cases that were previously impractical due to prohibitively high satellite data transfer costs. One exciting use case powered by cellular is over-the-air firmware upgrades, which will allow users to remotely update deployed devices with new features as they become available. Spotter’s new cellular capability will add to — not replace — its existing Iridium satellite connection.

Spotter’s cellular connectivity was meticulously tested in a multi-continent effort. From California to New Zealand, strong connections and seamless data delivery were the norm.

A quartet of Spotters undergoing cellular testing. Devices were stress-tested in areas with traditionally poor reception.
“We are very excited about the ability to receive over-the-air firmware updates. The ability to access new features without replacing hardware is huge."
-
AHEC

Increased Usability and Durability

Spotter is well-known for its ease of use and its ability to withstand severe weather conditions in the open ocean; with Spotter 3, we raise the bar on both fronts.

From a usability standpoint, numerous improvements were made to Spotter’s eBox. A new USB-C connector streamlines the data transfer and power supply process; a cleaner interface improves visibility during setup and deployment; a shorter toggle switch guarantees issue-free activation; and a pared-down desiccant storage system simplifies the pack replacement process.

The Spotter 3 platform includes a wide range of usability and durability improvements.

Durability-wise, Spotter 3 is tougher than ever. New water splash protection safeguards the USB-C and SD card ports; a heavy-duty, self-contained flange provides 360 degree support for the eBox; and a retention plate improves onboard cable management. In fact, Spotter is now so rugged that we have started to deploy it from the air without a parachute. These airdrops will help us accelerate deployments in very remote regions and unlock rapid deployments in front of extreme weather events. Check out this video to see what it looks like! Please note that these types of deployments require Spotter to undergo special preparations to ensure in-flight stabilization and should not be attempted with your own Spotter. That said, we hope to support airdrop applications in the future.

“We’re grateful to the customers, users, and partners who collaborate with us and measure the world’s oceans with Sofar Ocean technology. After more than a year of development and worldwide testing, our team is thrilled to launch Spotter 3, and are even more excited about what this new platform will empower us to do next!”
- Evan Shapiro, Sofar Ocean CTO

Interested in learning more about Spotter and the Spotter 3 platform? Visit our Spotter page or schedule a demo with our team.

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