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​​​​​​​​​​​Joint Task Force to investigate the use of submarine telecommunications cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO/IOC), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the Joint Task Force (JTF) on SMART cable systems in late 2012 after Works​hops in Rome (2011) and Paris (2012). Chris Barnes and David Meldrum were selected as the first Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of JTF in December 2012.

SMART Cables endorsed by UN Decade of Ocean Science:
" ... the en​dorsement of your Decade Action entitled “Science Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications (SMART) Subsea Cables: Observing the Global Ocean for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Risk Reduction, ID 94” as a project forming part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030"

Submarine Telecoms IndustryReport (Issue 10 | 2021/2022)
- Mr. Chaesub Lee, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, contributed a foreword that includes the SMART Cable effort.

Submarine Telecoms Industry Report (Issue 8 | 2019/2020)
- Mr. Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU contributed a foreword
- JTF contributed an article on SMART Cables.

 The joint task force published a very detailed and peer-reviewed article in journal “Frontiers in Marine Science" - SMART Cables for Observing the Global Ocean: Science and Implementation (August 2019).  This is a Community White Paper prepared for the OceanObs'19 conference 16-20 September 2019 in Honolulu, USA.



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About POGO: Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans, POGO, is a forum created in 1999 by directors and leaders of major oceanographic institutions around the world to promote global oceanography. Of particular focus is the implementation of an international and integrated global ocean observing system. POGO is a partnership of institutions involved in oceanographic observations, scientific research, operational services, education and training. POGO has 38 member institutes, including several consortia, from 20 different countries, and works closely with other international and regional programmes and organisations.​​

About the Joint Task Force

​The JTF is tasked with developing a strategy and roadmap that could lead to enabling the availability of submarine repeaters equipped with scientific sensors for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster risk reduction (tsunamis). It will also analyze the potential renovation and relocation of retired out-of-service cables in this realm. With the installation of new trans-ocean and regional telecommunication cable systems equipped with sensors, a global network could be established providing decadal real-time data for ocean climate monitoring and disaster mitigation (particularly from tsunamis).

An Executive Committee with 9 members has representation from the Science and Society, Engineering, Legal, Business Model, and Publicity, Outreach and Marketing committees. Executive teleconferences are held approximately monthly and the JTF Plenary teleconferences every 1-2 months. Presentations are made at relevant industry and science conferences; major workshops are arranged at least annually.


The JTF is composed of nearly 100 experts from the science, engineering, business and law communities.
Chair: Bruce Howe, Professor and Chair of Ocean and Resources Engineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Vice-Chair: Michael Constable, Principal of Infra-Analytics Ltd.
Members/Executive Committee/Secretariat: download here.
Committees: download here​​

Terms of Reference

  1. Study and evaluate scientific, engineering, business, and societal benefits, opportunities, challenges and risks associated to the use of submarine telecommunications cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning, as well as legal aspects of such use;
  3. Develop a strategy and roadmap that could lead to enabling the availability of submarine repeaters equipped with scientific sensors for climate monitoring and disaster risk reduction such as pressure, temperature, salinity/conductivity, seismic, hydroacoustic and cable voltage in the near future;
  5. Analyze the development of projects that could include renovation and relocation of retired out-of-service cables for disaster warning, ocean and climate monitoring;
  7. Cooperate closely with the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) to investigate and report on the technical feasibility of incorporating the required scientific sensors into the design, manufacture, installation and operation of submarine repeaters in a safe manner without affecting cable systems and telecommunication signals, and avoiding risks that could affect the normal operation of the cables;
  9. Consider a business model of how sensor data from submarine cables could be provided and could be made available for scientific purposes and societal benefit;
  11. Identify financing models and opportunities to promote the development of ocean climate monitoring and disaster warning systems by the use of submarine cables;
  13. Consider ways to further promote the implementation of the legal regime, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other instruments, for the protection of submarine cables, including awareness building and mobilization of support at the national and global levels;
  15. Organize similar workshops to report on the progress;
  17. Ensure that the outcomes of the above efforts/activities take into account and are consistent with international law, as reflected in UNCLOS;
  19. Invite ITU to consider providing secretariat support for the joint task force.
Dowload here the CALL TO ACTION


SMART Subsea Cables for Observing the Earth and Ocean, Mitigating Environmental Hazards, and Supporting the Blue Economy, Bruce M. Howe et al., Frontiers in Earth Science, February 2022, Volume 9, Article 775544​

SMART Cables for Observing the Global Ocean: Science and Implementation, Bruce M. Howe, Brian K. Arbic, Jérome Aucan, Christopher R. Barnes, Nigel Bayliff, Nathan Becker, Rhett Butler, Laurie Doyle, Shane Elipot, Gregory C. Johnson, Felix Landerer, Stephen Lentz, Douglas S. Luther, Malte Müller, John Mariano, Kate Panayotou, Charlotte Rowe, Hiroshi Ota, Y. Tony Song, Maik Thomas, Preston N. Thomas, Philip Thompson, Frederik Tilmann, Tobias Weber and Stuart Weinstein on behalf of the Joint Task Force for SMART Cables
Scientific Monitoring And Reliable
Telecommunications (SMART) Cable Systems:
Integration of Sensors into
Telecommunications Repeaters
, Stephen Lentz and Bruce Howe, OCEANS’18 MTS/IEEE Kobe/Techno-Ocean 2018,May 28-31, 2018.  The underlying paper (abstract) will be published as part of the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering soon after the conference.
N. Ranasinghe, C. Rowe, E. Syracuse, C. Larmat, M. Begnaud; Enhanced Global Seismic Resolution Using Transoceanic SMART Cables. Seismological Research Letters ; 89 (1): 77–85. doi:
Harnessing submarine cables to save lives, the UNESCO Courier, October - December 2017, n.3
This study researched four categories (International Development Agencies, Foundations, Governmental Agencies and Private Companies) of potential funding source for the Green Cables Initiative.  For each category, potential funders were identified and were rated as to the likelihood of funding.  This report is available here.
Howe, B. M., and Workshop Participants (2015), From space to the deep seafloor: Using SMART submarine cable systems in the ocean observing system, Report of NASA Workshops, 9–10 October 2014, Pasadena, CA, and 26–28 May 2015, Honolulu, HI. SOEST Contribution 9549
The report and related material are available here.


The scientific and societal case for the integration of environmental sensors into new submarine telecommunication cables

Our ocean and climate are experiencing global changes that will affect us and our descendants. Without access to the seafloor for fundamental oceanographic measurements, scientists cannot quantify and respond to the dilemma facing humanity. As we begin to make submarine telecommunication cables environmentally aware “green cables”, we look to a future where cables serve a dual purpose, both as communications infrastructure and a scientific backbone for monitoring tsunamis, earthquakes and the world’s seafloor temperatures and circulation.
This report (2014) was developed by the JTF Science and Society Committee under the leadership of Rhett Butler, University of Hawaii. 
Download here.

Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Strategy and Roadmap
This report presents a strategy and roadmap to move forward this vision of incorporating sensors into submarine cables. Nowadays, submarine telecommunication cables that traverse oceans transmit the global Internet, but are deaf, dumb and blind to their ocean environment around them. A future is envisioned when telecommunication companies integrate ocean-observing sensors within their submarine cable systems. This new sensory data would crucially advance our knowledge in monitoring global climate change and tsunamis in the deep ocean. 
This report (2012) was written by Rhett Butler, University of Hawaii. 
Download here
Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Opportunities and Legal Challenges
Recognizing the newness of such uses of undersea telecommunications cables and the complexity of national and international legal-regulatory regimes, this report examines opportunities and legal challenges arising from dual-purpose telecom-marine data cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning. 
This report (2012) was written by Kent Bressie, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. 
Download here

Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Engineering Feasibility Study 
This report investigates technical feasibility of modifying repeaters to support science instruments for incorporation into commercial telecom cables systems. Allowing and improving long term measurement and data collection, a “Green Repeater" equipped with science instruments will indeed contribute to the effort of better understanding the oceans and the changing climate. 
This report (2012) was written by Peter Phibbs and Stephen Lentz, Mallin Consultants Ltd. 
Download here