SMART Cables for Ocean Observing

What does it take to turn a global communications network into a platform for ocean sensors?

Whitepapers, Policy Documents, and Articles

The SMART Cables initiative is endorsed by world-leading ocean science and tsunami warning organizations

Join the Joint Task Force

Undersea cables connect the planet.

What if they could help save it?


The SMART Cables Joint Task Force is a project of three United Nations agencies (International Telecommunication Union, World Meteorological Organization, and UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) working to bring the SMART cables concept to fruition. JTF unites the efforts of experts from across disciplines and around the world.

The Deep Ocean Problem

The ocean is a key frontier in the race to address environmental threats, from climate and ocean warming to rising sea level, ocean acidification, and tsunamis and earthquakes.  At the same time, the deep ocean is difficult and costly to monitor, meaning that scientists lack fundamental data needed to adequately model, understand, and address these threats. 

The SMART Cables Solution

JTF is working to solve this paradox by integrating environmental science sensors into the repeaters of future trans-oceanic telecommunications cable systems.

SMART cable sensors “piggyback” on the power and communications infrastructure of underlying communications cables. There are more than 1 million kilometers of operational undersea cable and 20,000 repeaters. These cables are repaired, replaced, or expanded on 10-20 year cycles, meaning that every year tens of thousands of kilometers of new cables are being laid. By hitching a ride on new connectivity projects through the SMART cables program, the ocean science community need only raise the incremental cost of the added sensor packages, resulting in globe-spanning sensor coverage at a cost that is a fraction of that of alternative systems.

Figure 1b.png

A World of Opportunity: Telecommunications cables criss-cross the oceans, passing through zones of oceanographic and seismic interest. SMART cables will allow scentific sensors to hitch a ride, reporting back data that can help us better understand and mitigate ocean risks like tsunamis and ocean warming.

Harnessing Telecommunications Investment for Ocean Science and Public Safety

By working with new cable projects, governments, and telecommunications suppliers, JTF hopes to take advantage of the enormous private and public investment already being made in telecom infrastructure. Each cable that is laid represents a potential home to dozens or hundreds of new deep ocean and seismic sensors, at a fraction of the cost of stand-alone science systems.


Visit the FAQs for more information, or check out JTF's Publications for the most recent whitepapers.