Smart underwater connector

Standardized by the Open Geospatial Consortium


Adding new instruments to an oceanographic mooring or underwater observatory can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Each instrument has to be custom programmed to communicate with a host computer or observatory network. To simplify this process, MBARI engineers developed a communication protocol called PUCK, which allows a host computer to recognize an instrument and begin accepting data from it immediately, in much the same way that a personal computer recognizes when a camera or other device is attached to one of its USB ports. In early 2012, the PUCK team was rewarded for its efforts when an international standards organization known as the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) approved the PUCK protocol as a new standard.

The acceptance of PUCK did not happen overnight. In fact, MBARI engineers began working on this problem more than a decade ago. Along the way, they overcame many engineering challenges. But they also went out of their way to involve other researchers and with commercial companies that build oceanographic instruments. As MBARI’s Platforms Engineering Group Lead, Kent Headley said, “Working with our collaborators, we put a lot of thought and effort into figuring out how to build a community around the standard, to amplify the impact the PUCK technology can have on the ocean-science community.”