Amrita University has developed a low-cost networking solution to provide net connectivity to fishermen at sea. The facility -- Amrita OceanNet -- will carry Internet signals to fisherfolk up to 60 km at sea and 45 km beyond the range of cellphone towers.

The product was launched by HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar in Kollam and is expected to benefit fisherfolk who regularly spend five to seven consecutive days outside Internet range.

According to Maneesha Sudheer, Director, Amrita Centre for Wireless Networks & Applications, the networking solution would enable fishermen to remain in touch with their families while out at sea and they would be able to use e-mail, Skype, Whatsapp and other Internet-based applications. The system would help communicate in realtime alerts and disaster warnings to fishing vessels. Without proper connectivity, the relevant government agencies are unable to inform fishing vessels about imminent emergencies caused by dynamic changes in the weather, she said.

Amrita OceanNet comprises an onshore base-station with Internet connectivity that boosts signals. This boosted signal is captured by fishing vessels that are equipped with a low-cost Amrita OceanNet receiver-broadcaster system. In turn, these Amrita OceanNet-equipped vessels also become broadcasters. In this way, the Internet signal — through multiple boat-to-boat hops — can extend 60 km beyond the shoreline.

A Wi-Fi network will be provided aboard the fishing vessel to which the fishermen connect using their smartphones. Researchers at Amrita University are also developing apps for at-sea location tracking and alerts for collisions, maritime-boundary crossings, obstacles and inclement weather.