Advancing SMART undersea cable systems with Fulbright fellowship

Bruce Howe, research professor in the Department of Ocean Resources and Engineering, has been selected as a 2024-2025 Fulbright U.S. Scholar by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Program. The Fulbright Program is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program.

From March to June 2025, Howe will be stationed in Portugal to continue his efforts to advance the installation of a Science Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications (SMART) seafloor cable system between Portugal and the Madeira and Azores archipelagoes. 

“It is a great honor and provides recognition of hard work over the years developing SMART Cables,” said Howe. “The Fulbright will give me the opportunity to sit back, look at the big picture, and develop strategic directions.”

This opportunity will enable Howe to address in-depth issues related to the Portuguese Atlantic CAM SMART Cable system, the French funded New-Caledonia-Vanuatu Tamtam SMART cable system, and to work with sponsoring United Nations agencies in Europe. He will also be working with other countries and organizations to advance prospective systems around Europe and globally.

SMART cable systems integrate environmental sensors, such as temperature, pressure, and seismic motion to monitor climate change including ocean heat content, circulation, and sea level rise, provide early warning for earthquakes and tsunamis, and to monitor seismic activity for earth structure and related hazards. 

Operational submarine telecommunications cable span the globe with 20,000 repeaters every ~70 km that could host sensors—initially, temperature, pressure, seismic acceleration. Current cables (green lines); in progress/planned cables (white); and historical earthquakes (red). SMART repeaters are shown every 300 km, actual about 70 km.
Submarine telecommunications cable span the globe.

“All of this relates to disaster risk reduction and the informed sustainable development of coastal and offshore infrastructure, including the cables themselves and their mission of global connectivity,” said Howe. “The goal is to save lives.”