In some cases, the name of the company reveals exactly what the company does. A telling example is Blue Water Metrics, a nonprofit startup that aims to, guess what, gather data about the oceans.

Founded in August 2016 at Tufts University, the company has a goal that exceeds the mere academic interest. According to Blue Water Metrics CEO Matthew Merighi, who is also an assistant director of the Fletcher maritime studies program, ocean data can provide insights on some of the 21st century’s greatest ecological challenges, from climate change to water acidification. In other words: the weather and the food we’re going to deal with in the next years.

“It’s kind of the Internet of Things for ocean science.”

Insights can be inferred from very basic data that Merighi groups under the label “ocean health,” which includes temperature, salinity and pH – a measure of acidity. These parameters are also the most interesting for the broadest range of potential stakeholders.

“For example, temperature goes into weather forecasting, into climate change analysis and ocean warming,” Merighi said. “The intersection of temperature and salinity is often used for predictive analytics for fish finding […]. And then pH is obviously crucial for ocean acidification.”

The ways that we currently have for gathering these data show limitations. Data on sea surface temperature gathered thanks to satellites is generally considered not very accurate, Merighi said. There are also government-financed vessels that carry technologies to gather high-quality data, but Merighi said they’re not a scalable solution, especially given the budget they have to operate.

CEO Matthew Merighi (Photo courtesy of Blue Water Metrics)

To fill the gaps of the data collection, Blue Water Metrics aims to partner with vessels that cut through the ocean regularly, such as fishing boats, cargo ships, cruise lines and ferries, and to make them deploy sensors in the water. Data will be automatically extracted and collected thanks to the cloud, and then be made available to the global oceanographic community thanks to an online platform.

“Essentially, it’s kind of the Internet of Things for ocean science,” Merighi said.

In the vision of the company, the sharing platform will be a resource for all the scientists who work in ocean monitoring and the to-go place where organizations can share their findings.

Currently, the number of sensors working for Blue Water Metrics is zero, but the company is talking with a couple of manufacturers to find some cost-effective options. According to Merighi, the plan is to build relationships with partners and then collect feedback from them about how to build the online platform.

Last year, the company placed second in the Tufts $100K Social Impact Track, which translates into $7,000 cash in startup capital. The majority of the staff is now based at Tufts, with a second office in New Bedford.

Photo courtesy of NOAA.