SCITUATE – The Baker-Polito Administration announced the winners of the inaugural Seaport Economic Council Grand Challenge, awarding over $450,000 in grants to three organizations that will deploy Internet of Things, or ‘IoT’, technologies to boost economic development in the state’s marine economy. The projects, based in Buzzards Bay, New Bedford, Gloucester and Scituate, will use IoT to enable high-tech data analysis in commercial fisheries, deploy distributed sensors to help track lobster populations and create an online data portal that will allow researchers to track tidal flows and other data points in Commonwealth waters, information critical to energy and aquaculture companies.
“Massachusetts is a global leader in innovation and technology and our Administration is committed to continuing to support growth across the state,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These pilot programs bring together connected technologies and the Commonwealth’s Blue Economy to advance economic development opportunities for Massachusetts’ 78 coastal communities.”
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, chair of the Seaport Economic Council (SEC), announced the awards and highlighted the critical importance of embedded technologies in addressing challenges faced by coastal communities during the event.
“We have incredible coastal assets here in Massachusetts and through the work of the Seaport Economic Council, we have been able to direct more focus and support to helping those communities address their unique challenges and economic opportunities,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, chair of the Seaport Economic Council. “The Grand Challenge is a prime example of how we leveraged expertise from across and outside the administration to raise the bar on our efforts, to bring new cutting edge, internet-based technology to bear, and we are thrilled to support these exciting pilot projects.”
The SEC Grand Challenge sought applications from diverse collaborators working on proposals that incorporated IoT-based technology or business solutions to address important opportunities within the marine economy across Massachusetts’ 78 coastal communities. The IoT refers to systems that enable equipment, devices, sensors, or applications to communicate seamlessly with one another to become part of a connected whole which can transmit data through the cloud, transforming it into useful information for people, businesses, and institutions.
“The Internet of Things utilizes cutting-edge sensors, cloud computing, and data processing to drive new discoveries, helping us harness data from the ocean that would have been nearly impossible to capture just a few short years ago,” said Housing and Economic Development Deputy Secretary Carolyn Kirk, vice chair of the Seaport Economic Council. “Through this data, these sectors can better understand the environment, adapt their practices, and conserve critical resources, enabling these industries to more rapidly adapt and grow economic opportunities in these coastal communities.”
The three projects that received grants include:
- “New Bedford Ocean Cluster: Harvesting and Applying Data about the Sea” - $250,000 - Lead grantee: New Bedford Port Authority; Partners: Spherical Analytics, a Massachusetts based IoT technologies firm; UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST); Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, a public data center located in Holyoke, Mass.
A collaborative partnership called the New Bedford Ocean Cluster will develop a Marine Data Bank to harness the highly underutilized data that exists in the maritime economy and provide the entities generating this data, such as the commercial fishing fleet, with the ability to access, share, trade, or license this data to maximize productivity and efficiency while creating potential commercial growth. The Marine Data Bank will merge the Blue Economy with the Innovation Economy through the utilization of leading edge Blockchain technologies, combining big data, analytics, and machine learning to provide transparency and enable the necessary regulation and compliance demanded by the marine industry.
- “LobsterNet” - $133,156 - Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts, Scituate (Lead grantee). Partner(s): Gloucester Innovation, Gloucester; SigFox, an IoT network provider; UMass Gloucester Marine Station; Angle Center for Entrepreneurship at Endicott College.
The LobsterNet project will develop and deploy a low-cost, IoT-enabled network of environmental sensors (“ePods”) attached to lobster pots that can collect and distribute key environmental data relevant to the industry’s needs. Today there are nearly half a million lobster pots in use in Massachusetts waters, including 290,000 pots fished by commercial lobstermen in state waters, 93,000 pots that are potentially deployed by Massachusetts fishermen under federal licenses, and thousands of recreational lobster pots. While lobster pot capture efficiency has improved, using the pot as a platform to collect valuable environmental information about the ocean and lobster habitat has not been widely explored. Data such as temperature and pH will be captured at depth and in greater spatial and temporal resolution than is now possible, augmented by sensing presence/absence and movement. This information will help fishermen and researchers better understand what is affecting lobster habitats in general, and individual lobster fertility, lifespan, or health, in particular. This project will make each pot included in the network a potential sensor and every lobster boat a data communication hub, collecting information that will then be used to develop predictive models of lobster locations, potential movement and health.
- “Marine Hydrokinetic Oceanographic Data Portal” - $69,600 - Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA), Buzzards Bay/Bourne (lead grantee).
MMA will develop a marine hydrokinetic oceanographic data portal that will be hosted live and available online to anyone, building on the Academy’s expertise as an academic test center for marine hydrokinetic energy (e.g. tidal flow) generators and instrumentation. The new data portal will have uses for commercial users in renewable energy, aquaculture, recreational mariners, educators, and the general public. MMA has several marine research and aquaculture programs generating live oceanographic data, in addition to separate video cameras which cover Cape Cod Canal marine traffic and provide high-definition video from 20 feet under water. The project will modify these independent systems into one visual portal and will give the internet a real time view of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at work. The project will also work cooperatively with a 60kW hydrokinetic (tidal) turbine that can be used for environmental testing, workforce development training and power production, infrastructure funded through a $150,000 investment by the Commonwealth. The turbine, housed on a mobile barge, will act as a test site which will tie into the data portal, allowing viewers of the portal to view the output of the barge throughout the varying tidal cycles and in real-time.
“We applaud the Seaport Economic Council for the vision to promote these transformative IoT technologies into marine economy,” stated Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech. “Each of these projects are built around a strong group of collaborators and innovative technology platforms. The Commonwealth’s investments are the seed funds which will help these pilot projects grow value for each of the sectors they’re working with.”
The Innovation Institute at MassTech was created in 2003 to improve conditions for growth in the innovation economy by enhancing industry competitiveness, promoting conditions which enable growth; and providing data and analysis to stakeholders in the Massachusetts innovation economy that promotes understanding and informs policy development.
Project grantees, partners, and elected officials highlighted the importance of the SEC’s awards.
“The Port of New Bedford continues to evolve as a leading center of marine science innovation, and today’s announcement is further evidence of that,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who chairs the New Bedford Port Authority. “Dozens of businesses located in and around New Bedford have been tracking, and continue to track, hundreds of individual data points for a variety of purposes. These data points are sitting in a number of physical and digital spaces, creating a highly underutilized data environment. At the same time, there are hundreds of public data sets that are also sitting in a variety of physical and digital spaces. Our goal is to find ways to capture the latent value of all this data, and put it toward productive economic use for our industries and residents.”
"We are excited to be given the opportunity to work on such an important project with Spherical Analytics and SMAST,” said Edward Anthes-Washburn, Port Director, New Bedford Port Authority. “Through this project, we can basically turn our fishing fleet into a fleet of research vessels that are on the water 365 days a year, collecting data that could provide additional streams of revenue for fishermen.”
“We are honored to be part of the world class team that the New Bedford Port Authority put together to win this grant,” said Chris Rezendes, Chief Business Officer of Spherical|Analytics, member of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster and a partner to the New Bedford Port Authority. “We are grateful to the Governor and Lt. Governor for their vision, to Mass Tech Collaborative for their support, and to many partners for their acceptance of our team.”
“When industries work together and share information, additional opportunities arise,” said Representative Antonio F. D. Cabral. “This Seaport Economic Council grant will facilitate this type of cross-industry collaboration among the marine industries through a unique data collection and dissemination initiative—enabling both the Port of New Bedford and the New Bedford Ocean Cluster to maximize their reach.”
“I want to thank the Baker administration, Seaport Economic Council, and MassTech Collaborative as well as the award winners for their efforts in forging stronger connections between the maritime and tech business communities,” said Representative Bill Straus, whose district includes parts of New Bedford. “Given the challenges stressing our local fishing fleets, I fully expect that these targeted investments in data generation and sharing will provide important economic benefits to the New Bedford region.”
"The spirit of SEC Grand Challenge, and the award winners, highlight the importance of working together to improve the future of the commercial fishing industry and blue economy,” said Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo-Theken. “I am thrilled that Gloucester, as the number one landing port of lobster in Massachusetts, will be at the forefront of the ‘LobsterNet’ project, showcasing the long standing innovative nature of our great city. Thank you to the Baker-Polito Administration, my colleagues on the SEC and the Mass Tech Collaborative for recognizing the critical role that all of our port cities play in the Massachusetts economy."
"Thank you to the Seaport Economic Council for supporting the work of Scituate's Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts,” said Representative Joan Meschino. “The fishing industry and the maritime economy are the backbone of our local economy, and, as such, supporting research and innovation in the industry is critical."
“The Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts is excited to be part of an innovative and forward thinking project to better understand what impacts ocean acidification have in real time on the lobster resource,” said Mike Bartlett, president of the Lobster Foundation in Scituate. “We are hopeful to be able to utilize the data collected from this research to better plan on where to set our lobster pots in the optimal habitat areas and in turn reducing our own carbon footprint.”