Sensor and System Innovations for the Oceans of Tomorrow

An Oceans of Tomorrow Workshop*

Aberdeen, June 22 2017


Oceans regulate the Earth’s climate and are integral to all known sources of life. As we know, ocean processes are of biological, geological, chemical or physical nature, occurring at micro- to kilometre scales, from less than seconds to centuries, turning the understanding and the sustainable management of the ocean into a multiscale and multi-disciplinary effort. Collection of insitu observations from a volume that covers over 70% of the planet is also inherently challenging and remains generally difficult and costly in time and resources. Clearly, advances are needed to monitor at a level that effective understanding and stewardship of the oceans can be achieved.

The Oceans of Tomorrow (OoT) projects, funded by the European Commission’s FP7 program, are developing a new generation of sensors supporting physical, biogeochemical and biological oceanographic monitoring. The sensors range from acoustic to optical fluorometers to chemical analytics to labs on a chip. Through the development of sensor and information technologies for observation systems as well as improved analytical approaches, key gaps in our ability to monitor the environment are being addressed. By creating multi-sensor capabilities that can easily operate on different platforms, economies of scale in sensor manufacturing and full interoperability across monitoring platforms is becoming a reality.

This workshop will address advances in sensors, platforms interfaces and information systems for a new generation of observation capabilities. It will be a discussion forum looking at current capabilities and to future needs and developments.

This workshop was organized by the NeXOS Project in coordination with OoT 2013 projects as part of a workshop series.

Session 1 Sensor & System Innovations for the Oceans of Tomorrow - I (0900-1020)

Presenter Project Organisation Title
Jay Pearlman Introduction IEEE Innovation in Sensors and Observations
Matt Mowlem SENSEOCEAN NOC SenseOCEAN: Development of biogeochemical sensors for autonomous platforms and observatories
Jan van der Meer BRAVOO University of Lausanne BRAAVOO
Antonio Novellino SCHeMA ETT SCHeMA - Integrated In situ CHemical MApping probes: objectives and main achievements


Session 2 Sensor & System Innovations for the Oceans of Tomorrow - II (1340-1520)

Presenter Project Organisation Title
Eric Delory NeXOS PLOCAN NeXOS: Development and end-to-end integration of compact, low-power, multifunctional ocean sensors.
Luca Sanfilippo SMS SYSTEA SMS: Innovations in emerging pollutants ocean monitoring using biosensing technology
Dennis Gowland EnviGuard Northbay Shellfish Ltd. ENVIGUARD: a real-time multi-sensor in a small package with a big future
Matteo Bonasso


KONTOR 46 MariaBox
Sergio Martinez COMMON SENSE LEITAT COMMON SENSE: Cost-effective sensors, interoperable with international existing ocean observing systems


Session 3 Sensor & System Innovations for the Oceans of Tomorrow - III (1550-1710)

1. Applications Panel Organisation Areas of interest
Stef Kapusniak SMD Offshore and deep sea mining
Gordon Drummond SubseaUK Technology for subsea environment
Gareth Davis Aquatera Marine Energy
Iain Shepherd EC DG Maritime Affairs & Fisheries Environment/Fisheries


2. Sensor System Innovation Panel  
Session 1&2 presenters New Directions and Recommendations

Abstracts of the above projects are provided below:

BRAAVOO: Biosensors for Near Real-Time Marine Toxicant Monitoring

Jan Roelof van der Meer (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), on behalf of the BRAAVOO consortium.

Marine environments are threatened by pollution through a variety of activities, both directly and indirectly. The major aim of the BRAAVOO project and its contribution to the Ocean of Tomorrow program (FP7-OCEAN-2013) was to develop innovative solutions for measurement of high impact and difficult to measure marine pollutants.

The BRAAVOO concept of near real-time in-situ sampling and analysis is based on the use of three types of biosensors, to enable both the detection of a number of specific marine priority pollutants and also of general biological effects that can be used for early warning. The first type of biosensor uses label-free antibody-based immuno-sensing on innovative nano-optical platforms such as bimodal evanescent waveguides or asymmetric Mach-Zehnder interferometers. The second sensing platform consists of live bacterial “bioreporters,” which produce bioluminescence in response to chemical exposure. Finally, the photosystem II fluorescence of marine algae is exploited to monitor changes induced by toxic compounds.

BRAAVOO has rigorously tested the three biosensor systems for their analytical performance, responding to a set of targeted pollutants that include algal toxins, heavy metals, organic compounds related to oil, and antibiotics. To enable low-cost real-time measurements, the three biosensors were miniaturized, multiplexed and integrated into biosensing instruments, which allow simultaneous multianalyte detection. The instruments include the optical elements for biosensor signal generation and readout, the microelectronics for data storage, and specific macro- and microfluidics to expose the biosensors to the aqueous samples or calibration solutions. The modules were tested as stand-alone instruments with manual operation (e.g., sample addition manually), and were integrated in a marine buoy and an unmanned surveying vessel (USV). Integrated sensor instruments could be operated autonomously and remotely, store and transmit data to a remote observer. The performance of the stand-alone biosensors and biosensors in their integrated form was tested at field sites, and was further bench-marked using spiked marine samples with known target compound concentrations. Comparative chemical analytics showed reasonable agreement between the two types of measurements, although limits of detection in biosensor measurements without sample pre-treatment were generally (and not surprisingly) higher than in chemical analytics with extensive sample purification and concentration.

BRAAVO was funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614010).

COMMON SENSE: Cost-Effective Sensors, Interoperable with International Existing Ocean Observing Systems, to Meet EU Policies Requirements

Sergio Martinez-Navas (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) on behalf of the COMMON SENSE Consortium

The COMMON SENSE project contributes to supporting the implementation of the MSFD, and other EU policies such as the CFP and the Maritime Integrated Policy- These help provide robust, cost-effective, multi-functional new sensors, which are easily accessible across several platforms, in order to detect different in-situ measurements on key parameters on GES of marine waters by means of methodological standards. It focuses on increasing availability of standardized data on eutrophication, marine litter, contaminants, underwater noise and other parameters (e.g. temperature, pressure, pH and pCO2) according to MSFD descriptors 5, 8, 10 and 11.1 Moreover, innovative transversal sensors (temperature, pressure, pH and pCO2,) based on cost effective “new generation” technologies for the continuous monitoring of water parameters have been developed. The integration of these transversal sensors provides variables measurement with a reference frame (time, position, depth, temperature, etc.). To ensure the performance of the micro and nanosensors developed, a special effort has been done to study the design and development of nanocomposite films for future cost-effective sensors.

 The focus was both on the development of innovative sensors and systems. One topic of interest was to provide standardised and interoperable data with existing international observing systems. To meet this objective, a smart sensor unit (SSU), with different connection interfaces (NMEA based) and the ability to provide power to sensors systems was developed, as well as a platform for data visualization and accessing.  The Common Sensor Web Platform (CSWP) aims at bringing a more sophisticated view of the environment, implementing the OGC Sensor Web Enablement standards and optimising data acquisition, indexing, access and interoperability. It feeds the data collected by the COMMON SENSE sensors into international initiatives, notably the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), without any restrictions on discovery, access, or use. In addition, through collaboration with the other projects funded under topic 2 of the FP7-OCEAN-2013 call, it contributes to the establishment and implementation of common methodologies and standards for data archiving, discovery, and access within the GEOSS framework.

Common Sense Nutrient Sensor
COMMON SENSE nutrient sensor validation for phosphate concentrations
SSU-1 smart sensor
FSSU-1 smart sensor unit fosters interoperability

The sensors developed are interoperable with existing and new observing systems and they are field tested by means of autonomous platforms and opportunity vessels: local harbours, coastal lagoons, racing yachts and research vessels.

Deployment of MISS system
Deployment of MISS system with microplastic and SSU in Oristano

Several different resources are available (, which will allow reader to understand exactly what the knowledge is, and how it could be applicable. From an industrial point of view, sensor profiles were developed as technical briefs, outlining the technical specifications and highlights of each sensor. These are available to download from the COMMON SENSE website’s media section. Also, the project carried out a feasibility analysis and has outlined manufacturing procedures for each sensor, providing in-depth information on how the sensors can be reproduced and brought to the market.  A project video was also created, which quickly explains the project and its relevance to marine monitoring policies across Europe, using a mixture of real footage and animations. The video is also available to view online on Vimeo (

CommonSense was funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614155).

ENVIGUARD: a real-time multi-sensor in a small package with a big future.

Dennis Gowland (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) on behalf of the EnviGuard Consortium

The objective of the EnviGuard project is to develop a highly specific and precise (i.e. quantitative and qualitative) in situ measurement device for currently hard to measure man-made chemical contaminants and biohazards (toxic microalgae, viruses & bacteria, biotoxins & PCBs) that can be used as an early warning system in aquaculture and as an environmental monitor to assess the good environmental status of the sea in compliance with the MSFD.

The EnviGuard system combines technologies from the field of nanotechnologies, genomics, molecular science, bio-receptors as well as material science and data processing. Three different sensor concepts are being develop in parallel and will be combined in one common device able to collect, process and send the data to the users. In the following, the technological concept of all EnviGuard components is described.

ü  highly specific, precise and reliable, in situ, measurements of biohazards and chemical contaminants in seawater

ü  multi-class, multi-analyte method for the simultaneous determination of harmful microalgae species, Betanodavirus, E. coli, okadaic acid, and saxitoxin, PCB 128 and PCB 118

ü  quantitative and qualitative analysis through combination of nanotechnologies with bio-receptors

ü  automatic sampling for a period of at least one week in the marine environment

ü  real-time results à early warning system for aquaculture industry, harbour authorities and monitoring of ballasting/de-ballasting operations at sea and in port areas.

ü  easy access to data from everywhere through internet database allowing environmental status /risk assessment online

ü  durable design for offshore use under multi-stressor conditions

ü  a modular system (of up to three sensors) integrated in a single, portable device

ü  easily maintainable, user friendly device

ü  compatible with existing integrated ship and shore based monitoring units

ü  more cost-efficient than current monitoring practices


EnviGuard end users and applications
EnviGuard end users and applications

Since the new sensor system comprises a complete new technology that defines its own standards which are missing for many pathogens and toxins in aquaculture nowadays, it should be of great interest for commercialisation. The technology will be of great interest and benefit to the aquaculture industry and beyond to harbour authorities and for monitoring of ballast water transfer- not only on a European but also on a global level.

EnviGuard is funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614057).

MariaBox: an autonomous seawater pollution monitoring device for natural and man-made pollutants

Matteo Bonasso (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), on behalf of the MariaBox Consortium

The MariaBox project is developing an autonomous, analytical device, based on novel biosensors, for monitoring chemical and biological pollutants in sea water. The device will be suitable for installation in free-floating devices, buoys, ships, or to be used as a portable instrument. The main, high-level user requirements for the system are for the device to be of high-sensitivity, portable and capable of repeating measurements over a long time, allowing permanent deployment at sea.

The first phase of the project, “user requirements collection”, was dedicated to understanding the current needs of water monitoring through institutions in different areas of Europe, at different location types. The selected locations are also the ones in which the field validation of MariaBox is taking place: a sea water lagoon in Spain with different characteristics of water salinity and natural environment, currently exploited for shell fish farming; a natural site in Ireland (Galway bay); the Skagerrak, a sea arm between Norway, Denmark and Sweden; and a harbour area close to industrial facilities in Cyprus. The analytes of interest for the monitoring Institutions are coherent to the list of pollutants identified for monitoring by the European Commission.

A first trade-off between end user requirements and the engineering feasibility, available time and final system cost had to be made. On one hand, the MariaBox device is intended to be portable and its size must be such as to allow permanent positioning inside sea buoys. On the other hand, several modules are required to achieve the aim of monitoring, in an autonomous and unattended way, all selected target analytes for a period of several months.

3D rendering of the first MariaBox prototype

Energy expenditure is a relevant constraint. Nevertheless, being a device deployed at sea, energy scavenging is a real option to guarantee the system autonomy or, at least, to keep the system operating at a minimum level, that is, to maintain the biosensors and the biochemical reactants in a controlled and safe environment. This controlled environment is managed by the analytical core unit of MariaBox that acts as a cooler or heater depending on the external temperatures (from -10ºC up to +50ºC). The system design has been confronted with all of these challenging requirements.

The device is intended to provide not only scientific data but also early warnings in relation to both algal blooming and production of toxins, as well as to chemical, man-made pollutants (heavy metals, camphechlor). This means that considering the European thresholds for pollutants is not enough.  The MariaBox detection capacity is most effective if it can have sensitivity under the legal threshold, so as to enable early warnings and the possibility to prevent the pollution with adequate countermeasures. The biosensors being developed in the project are based on antibodies. A great effort has been devoted to the improvement of the production and selectivity of the antibodies.

The MariaBox project is funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614088).

NeXOS: Development and end-to-end integration of compact, low-power, multifunctional ocean sensors.

Eric Delory (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), on behalf of the NeXOS Consortium

Collecting sustained observations of key ocean phenomena is limited by the high cost of data collection, the poor long-term reliability of ocean sensors and the cost of observation campaigns. The objectives of the project, “Next generation, Cost-effective, Compact, Multifunctional Web Enabled Ocean Sensor Systems Empowering Marine, Maritime and Fisheries Management” or “NeXOS” for short, are to develop cost-effective, innovative, and compact multifunctional sensor systems using optical and passive acoustics technologies that can be deployed from mobile and fixed platforms, with data services. These  systems contribute to the GEOSS, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union.

NEXOS acoustic sensor

Cost-efficiency and the quality of marine observations will be improved through innovation in new sensors and service with multiple functionalities. The NeXOS matrix fluorescent sensor monitors contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and Phycocyanin as well as organic indicators such as Chlorophyll a and fluorescent dissolved organic matter. For the understanding and quantification of the carbon system in the ocean, NeXOS has developed sensors monitoring pH, total alkalinity (AT), inorganic carbon (CT), carbonate ion (CO3), and the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2).  The web-enabled multichannel acoustic sensor offers a new capability with large dynamic range along with internal processing to reduce communication bandwidth requirements. For applications to fisheries, NeXOS developed net-mounted oxygen and fluorescence (as a proxy for chlorophyll) sensors for their applications to fish population assessments and because they are reported as Essential Ocean Variables for the operational oceanographic community.

NeXOS TRIOS Matrix Flu optical sensor for environment assessment


The NEXOS acoustic sensor mounted on an NKE Prevor Float

Ultimately, the integration of these sensors into observations systems is a necessary element of improved environmental monitoring, addressing descriptors identified by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive for Good Environmental Status. Sensors have been integrated on several types of platforms, fixed and mobile, providing an end-to-end service architecture, i.e. from sensor to user. NeXOS has implemented data and information interoperability across sensors and systems based on OGC PUCK and OGC Sensor Web Enablement standards which allow web-based sensor plug and play, sensor control and data transmission to operators and users.

Validation tests for optical sensor on Salibuoy (lower right) measuring pH and pCO2

Validation of the NeXOS systems has been done in three locations: the mid Atlantic (Canary Islands); the Mediterranean and the sea west of Norway. Ongoing results of these demonstrations will be presented.

The NeXOS project is funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614102).

SCHeMA - Integrated In situ CHemical MApping probes : Summary of objectives and main achievements

Antonio Novellino (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), for the SCHeMA Consortium

The SCHeMA (Integrated in Situ Chemical MApping probe) Project is developing an open and modular sensing solution for autonomous in situ high resolution mapping of a wide range of anthropogenic and natural chemical compounds coupled to master bio-physicochemical parameters ( Being modular, the system allows the plug-and-play of commercially available probes as well as new sensor probes under development within the project. The access to the network of monitoring probes is provided via a web-based system interface that, being implemented as a SOS (Sensor Observation Service), is providing standard interoperability and access to sensor observations systems through OGC Observations and Measurements (O&M standard) – as well as sensor descriptions – encoded in Sensor Model Language (SensorML).

SCHeMA Probe for bio-physicochemical analysis

The SCHeMA presentation layer, a fundamental part of the software architecture, offers to the user a bidirectional interaction with the integrated system allowing operators/users to manage and configure the sensor probes; view the stored observations and metadata, and handle alarms.

The overall structure of the web portal developed within the SCHeMA initiative (Sensor Configuration, development of Core Profile interface for data access via OGC standard, external services such as web services, WMS, WFS; and Data download and query manager) will be presented and illustrated with examples of ongoing tests in costal and open sea.

SCHeMA Project is funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614002).



Matt Mowlem (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) on behalf of the SenseOcean Consortium

Optode sensors mounted on CTD frame ready for deployment (image courtesy of E. Fritsche)

SenseOCEAN is focused on quantifying a suite of currently hard to measure biogeochemical parameters. These are crucial to the scientific understanding of the oceans, management of ocean resources, in situ calibration / validation of satellite Earth Observation data, and supply of data for development of state of the art biogeochemical (process) models. The project innovates and combines state of the art sensor technologies (microfabrication, lab on chip, micro and calibration free electrochemical sensors, multiparameter optodes and multispectral optical sensors) in a modular and configurable system easily usable across multiple ocean and environmental platforms. Prototypes have been optimized for scale up and commercialization including preparation of data flow and data management architectures. These new systems have been tested and demonstrated on profiling floats, deep-sea observatories, autonomous underwater vehicles, and CTD’s. Specific objectives are the development of integrated systems with sensors for pH, carbon dioxide, carbon, alkalinity, oxygen, nutrients, metals (iron and manganese) as well as colored dissolved organic matter, chlorophylls, photopigments, primary production, organic fluorophores, etc. These integrated systems are optimized for power consumption, chemical usage and waste production. The project has developed a novel antifouling system to increase the robustness of the system in the marine environment.

The project has led to an increase in the TRL of all of the developed sensors, and there are three patents in process related to the novel systems developed. The sensors are currently deployed in the Mediterranean on an Argo float, on a mooring in offshore Chile, an observatory in the high Arctic and the coastal waters of the UK.

SenseOCEAN Project is funded by the European Commission (Project No. 614141).

Innovations in emerging pollutants ocean monitoring using biosensors

Luca Sanfilippo (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), on behalf of the SMS Consortium

Portable analyzer automating complex analytical methods

The SMS concept is based on a novel automated networked system, which includes a multi-modular apparatus (a coastal buoy or a floating platform) that hosts in a single unit—the Main Box—a Sampling Module and an Analysis Module. The former contains sample collection, filtering and preconcentration and treatment components, whereas the latter includes five automated sub-modules for the unattended measurement of (i) toxic algal species, (ii) their associated toxins, (iii) hazardous compounds, namely glyphosate (herbicide) and pentaBDPE (flame retardant), (iv) sulphonamides (antibiotic) and (v) a series of standard water quality parameters including nutrients.

Insitu field probe for long term measurements

In particular, a modular measurement prototype based on Enzyme Linked Immuno- Magnetic Optical (ELIMO) assays, is operative to detect algae from genera Alexandrium, Pseudonitzschia and Dinophysis. The water sample is pretreated by a separated automated module performing water sampling, cells preconcentration and lysis.

A modular measurement prototype using the same ELIMO technology was developed and tested in laboratory for the quantitative sequential measurement of Okadaic acid, Domoic acid and Saxitoxin in prefiltered (0.1 µm cut-off) sampling water. This module is capable of measuring, unattended, up to 50 water samples in a measurement range between 0.01 - 1 μg/L.

Coastal buoy for testing in Slovenia

The water quality monitoring system is equipped with a communication module for real-time wireless data transfer to a remote control center, where data processing takes place, enabling alarm functionality of early warning system. Field experiments are conducted at La Spezia (Italy) using a floating platform and Pirano (Slovenia) using a large coastal buoy. 

SMS Project is funded by the European Commission (Project No. 613844).

Gold Patron

Oceans OES
Marine Technology Society

 Gold Patron

Subsea UK


University of Aberdeen
The Robert Godon University
Visit Aberdeen

Associated Societies

Society for Underwater Technology   The Challenger Society for Marine Sciences Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology Institute of Physics