Project 102: Blue Water (BW), United Kingdom



1/2. Basic Project Identification

Highlight Summary:
“Pouring oil on troubled water” is a familiar phrase but “inferring oil on calmed water” had been the preserve of specialist oceanographers until BW arrived affording accessibility from mast-mounted video for continuous protective monitoring of important natural sites and leisure areas.

Selected category:      6 Water

Reference website:  

Project contact:

·  Name:                     Dr Neale Thomas

·  Organization:          FRED Ltd

·  Address:                 Aston Science Park

·  City, State:              Birmingham

·  Zip Code:                 B7 4BJ

·  Country:                  United Kingdom

·  E-mail:          

·  Telephone:              +44 121 471 4149

·  Fax:                         +44 v121 471 4149


3. Background, Process, Innovations, Achievements

Background, goals & objectives:
All natural waters carry materials with limited solubilities sufficing to deposit hydrophobic surface signatures as separated slicks. Indeed slicking is a ubiquitous natural state unless vigorously perturbed by gusting winds and breaking waves. Obvious examples include hydrocarbons, fish oils, algal blooms and bacteria but otherwise inert suspended solids also modulate wave patterns in addition to directly delivering optical contrast fingerprints.

Natural films also act as concentrating carriers of pesticides, metals and microbiologicals as potential health hazards. Dilute films are more effective in wave damping than condensed and collapsed ones, so detection thresholds to O(ppb) are accessible in principle, at least in terms of depth ratio for surface monolayers riding on 1-10m water columns, Most typically optical contrast will be judged from binarised diffuse greyscale mainly as visible band measures but IR and UV are being considered, as is glint density for wave-slope spectral comparisons with high resolution radars.

Immediate intention is to verify these basic principles prior to commercialisation as continuous area monitor for quality assurance and to gauge digestive / dispersive accommodation as well as more obvious warning of catastrophic incursions.

BW will also augment policy protocols entailing expensive spot-sampled laboratory assays by targeting need as location and frequency of assays.

Project Team and Skills:
BW Partnership ( FRED as IPR holder serves as subcontractor

Technology/innovations component(s):
Whilst achievement of adequate technology specifications will be crucial for commercial conversion, the real significance of BW resides in its true novelty as a valuable extension tool for “environmental epidemiology” of water bodies.

The central principle here is that whilst slicking is certainly stochastic when sampled on the small and short scales of established assays, there are larger and longer intrinsic and quasi-coherent scales set by local boundaries and diurnal cycles for which morphologies and persistence reflect the balance between inputs and removals by dispersion and digestion.

The aspiration is that by monitoring behaviour over extended periods from weeks upwards, expectation patterns of behaviour will be accumulated by which departures can be gauged as to whether they may be merely outliers or be deemed significant as deterioration or improvement trends in site health as balance between loading and capacity.

Targeted Groups/ Beneficiaries:
Tourism agencies / operators and municipal authorities for boosted public confidence and awareness, also as promotional opportunity. Health / environmental and regulatory authorities for improved insight and economic utilisation of sampling protocols. Discharge operators (industrial, agricultural, …) for demonstration of best practice in fulfilment of due diligence for care in the community.

Achievements :
BW exists as an R&D project with primary purpose of proving its underlying principles.

Phase one has confirmed adequacy of CCTV for capture and algorithmic retrieval of slicks as fuzzy features.

Phase two, in progress, is to demonstrate robust reliability for representative site implementations.

Phase three, emerging, is to furnish friendly presentational interfaces.

However, phase one was arguably the pinch-point for credibility because whilst the others demand professionalism they do not entail any significant inventive steps beyond widely established capabilities. The really clever bits still to be demonstrated entail introduction and validation of generalised measure indices for estimation of quality, trend and thresholds for assay sampling.

That said, harsh reality is that the so-called HCI (Human-Computer Interface) will dictate commercial outcome because only by generating product-based resource will the science be given a proper chance to prove itself in the sustainability stakes.

Problems addressed/overcome:
A major challenge in all EC projects is ensuring precedence for integration over individuality and whilst supply-chain complementarity reduces risks of competitive conflict there are always inevitably issues arising from individual aspiration agendas.

BW is by no means particularly problematical in this respect but fact is that any delay or difficulty is immensely frustrating to the inventive party held to ransom against IPR deadline costs on patent protection never knowing whether his baby really was worth its bathwater until deals have actually been done ~ or not because deals are seldom done until the real risks have been largely eliminated courtesy of prolonged proving!

In sum, the science is certainly satisfactory and the algorithms are arguably adequate but neither will count as consequential until commercial consoles have been proved to procure public participation. That’s undoubtedly the major barrier for Blue Water!

Verifiable indicators:
BW’s verifiable indicators as enhancement heads must be self-evident from the foregoing account although it must be emphasised they are as yet prospective and not “achieved”.

Perhaps add here that an important emphasis within the EC project is public education and awareness as an evolution of Blue Flag, their longstanding icon of public trust on safety of bathing beaches. The expectation is that friendly consoles will be installed not just as a makeover of old-fashioned meteorological display stations but to use BW’s pole-mounted cameras as lures for inquisitive kids of all ages to access … not merely images and explanations but also as internet gateways for improved awareness … and not just on the friendly faces of the EC but to access pages and pictures featuring all kinds of tourist and resident services and entertainments. This complementary agenda must conceal BW’s scientifically sophisticated core content if its beneficial capability is to win its deserved adoption rapidly and widely enough to match the financial rigours of delivering novelty to the market and consolidating its presence there.

multi-tidal alongshore shearing of an initially linear streak (boat-wake) into a zigzag pattern whose statistics provide a platform for diagnosis of the site’s dispersive / digestive capacity.


4. Project Oganization, Backing & Economics

“Owner(s)” of project:
Some combination of the above

Owner, collaborators- further information:
BW presently exists as an EC-IST RTD proving project and the partnership reflects this purpose. BW’s inventive origin residing in FRED was spawned from a decade of consultancy on wave-stilling strategies for reduced subsea noise. After the “defence dividend” decimated income from “gizmo games”, FRED turned to possible civilisations of such skills.

Imaging for continuous field assessment of surface water quality accesses major gains in economy and assurance over established sample-and-assay protocols. This evident commercial prospect persuaded BMT (see website) to act as coordinator for an EC proposal and the EC in turn were persuaded by BW as evident extension prospect for their European Blue Flag policy on bathing waters.

FRED and BMT packaged the partnership from their complementary networks. FRED sourced academic partners skilled in image analysis and physicochemical transport dynamics of coastal oceanography. BMT sourced commercial partners skilled in maritime technologies and user-interfaced web-based presentational software. BMT also recruited key beneficiary partners - a municipal tourist authority and a major utility corporation.

FRED now needs commercial connections to cover costs of patents and prospective products in return for equitably shared rewards.

Submitting organization or person: :

Location of project implementation:
Evaluation and validation in progress as follows:

Cyprus (Yermasoyia Miramare) - seaside bathing area Sardinia (Porto Torres) - power station cooling water Italy (River Po) - power station cooling water

Scale of project site:

Scale, further information:
Surveillance areas typically cover 1-100 ha or more

Beneficiary residents and tourists - handfuls to 10s of 1000s pa / unit

Savings on blind spot sampling - 10s of 1000s US$ pa over 5 years but dwarfed by resort income enhancement from boosted confidence

BW has a top tourist authority and a major utility as pilot beneficiaries

Start and/or duration of project:
March 2000 for execution over 30 months

Economics/Finance, Cost of project:
Blue Water has an FP5-IST project value US$3M, 2/3rds from the EC

EC-IST caters only for RTD proving of principles and prototypes

Funding is needed for demonstration and commercial conversion

Source(s) of financing by %-age:
Any combination of the above

More on finance:

Endorsement by Stockholm Partnerships is a crcuail component in confidence building for attraction of key conversion investment.

Self-Sufficiency / Longer term financial plan
Blue Water has amply demonstrated scientific self-sufficiency as multidisciplinary proofs-of-principle peer-published in learned literature.

The pinch-point for BW’s survival will be its earliest possible adoption as transfer technology venture. Such endorsement is vital for consolidation of patent protection needed for assurance of reasonable return on the risk of conversion investment.


5. Lessons of the Past & Looking to the Future

What next?
CCTV surveillance expanded explosively in the past decade to become an enforcer endured by populations in everyday transport and urban arenas and not just for institutional assurance but also for leisure security. Likewise autonomous stations monitoring vehicle impact on urban air quality.

However, water watching for environmental, safety or security purposes has not been pursued by any authorities ~ indeed, it would be so unusual as to be deemed eccentric apart perhaps by angling enthusiasts. Now however, there is the prospect of the BW concept being adopted worldwide for what will be a new channel of information about the natural environment and our impact on it ~ indeed, with increasing incidence of climate warming revenge events also its impact on us! This development is entirely to the credit of the EC for the courage of their conviction in adopting BW for a proof of principle project. Anything with even the slightest sniff of novelty gets nowhere nowadays without institutional endorsement and that’s why endorsement by the Stockholm Partnership will be crucial to BW’s pull-through from proofing via prototype to product.

Potential for replicability :
Not yet (only 18 months intoan RTD principle-proving project) but interest has already been expressed for adoption in the Galapagos to augment early warning protocols on threatening incursions of pollution.

The Melbourne Docklands Authority also expressed interest in BW for monitoring marina waters for pollutants and for litter to minimse waste on uneccesary clean-up forays, also as a policing aid against boating misbehaviour within their environs.

Of course BW can be replicated because its underlying principles are generic. Indeed BW is not merely replicable but readily extensible to infra and ultra wavebands for speciation guidance from insolation and fluorescence. More furturistically, BW is also envisaged as a homing trigger for LIDAR interrogation of volatiles in adjoining air and even for wave spectral assays via glint density for modulus estimation.

Do’s and Don’t?:
With BW's aspiration skirt already lifted well above its Achilles ankles, any more would be inelegant and could be unsightly until we know it really is adorned with decent consolidation knickers!

BW deserves to survive and prosper on merit as a communicable coveyance for wider and deeper public perception of sensible science via webbed intelligent consoles.

Nowadays sadly, worthiness always needs commercial cladding to cover its costs with added value, envisaged here to come from promotional pages akin to those o commercial webservers but configured to featire especially resort-centred servcies, events and amenities. A souvenir slick picture was enclosed with the original submission and hopefully has been retained via the following arcance html instruction.

Technology Sharing/Cooperation Prospects:
FRED is not merely willing but is already engaged in hot pursuit of alliances crucial for perseverance on patent protection through the upcoming expensive phases of national applications and renewals.

Best bet as candidate partners will be sector specialists established in imaging / sampling for detection / inspection / monitoring / analysis most probably for environmental purposes or possibly as spinout for a visionary industrial applications supplier looking to diversify on the back of climate warming for example.

Media Coverage

Stockholm Participation?
Given adequate assistance, a demonstrator console could be available to capture BW’s essential elements as outlined above using images relayed from a waterside camera into the exhibition centre.

Some aspects would have to be contrived for illustrative purposes, if necessary using net-relayed images from a remote site and backed up by CD-ROM records as sensible contingency … and of course a poster display oriented to accommodate Partnership priorities.