Coastal intelligence plays a crucial role in understanding and managing coastal environments. It provides valuable insights necessary for sustainable coastal development, conservation, the efficient operation of ports and harbours, and disaster management. By harnessing data from various sources such as remote sensing, oceanographic measurements, and socio-economic surveys, coastal intelligence enables scientists and other key stakeholders to make informed decisions and take proactive measures to protect and preserve coastal resources.
In British Columbia, coastal intelligence plays a key role in protecting our coastal environments. Coastal areas are also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and increased storm intensity, which is where coastal intelligence is essential in assessing these risks, developing adaptation strategies, and planning for sustainable coastal development.
Victoria-based MarineLabs is a coastal intelligence company and real-time data provider, transforming marine safety and gathering data that helps build climate-resilient coastlines. They have received funding from Innovate BC through Ignite and the Innovator Skills Initiative, and they’ve also taken advantage of our Venture Acceleration Program. We caught up with MarineLabs Founder & CEO Dr. Scott Beatty to learn more about their technology and how it’s making an impact in British Columbia and beyond.
Tell us about MarineLabs. What do you do and why do you do it?
Scott: Founded in 2017, we’re a B.C.-based company offering the world’s highest resolution real-time wind, wave, and weather data as well as AI-driven insights from fleets of cloud-connected, rugged instruments. This data optimizes port and vessel operations; and long-term data insights help communities prepare and adapt for coastal flooding and other hazards due to sea level rise and climate change driven weather volatility.
Through our subscription service, CoastAware™, MarineLabs provides real-time wind, wave, and camera data that helps port operators and vessel pilots make important decisions when bringing large ships into port. It also assists coastal engineers in assessing the impact of wave and wake conditions on planned marine infrastructure. Ports and vessel operators use MarineLabs’ data to ensure safe and efficient waterways, reduce the risks of marine accidents which may cause spills or cargo loss, and minimise wasted fuel.
MarineLabs also offers a first of its kind vessel wake analysis service that is transforming port and harbour marine traffic policy. The service uses AI to identify vessel wakes in every wave undulation while attributing the wake events to nearby ships. The customer receives an insight report that tells who generated wake events, how often, and how impactful were they on the surrounding environment.
Last year MarineLabs was in the news for detecting the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded off B.C.’s coast. Could you tell us more about how your data is helping to better understand when, where and how rogue waves form, and the risks that they pose?
Scott: In 2021, MarineLabs’ technology captured the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded, a finding so significant, it was profiled everywhere from CNN to National Geographic. The record-setting 64ft Ucluelet wave was recorded by one of our buoys deployed at Amphitrite Bank in 100ft of water, approximately seven kilometers offshore of Ucluelet. We studied the wave data in collaboration with University of Victoria with the results published in Nature – Scientific Reports. Rogue waves are more probable in what they call “confused seas” which tends to be a very stormy and violent ocean surface, but there are many factors to be discovered.
With the increase in coastal sensors, our technology will continue to record rogue wave events, which will expand our understanding of what generates them and how probable are they in different seas; It might be possible to create a rogue wave risk index that could inform ship operations much like the avalanche risk index helps mountain operations. While rogue wave measurement is a part of what MarineLabs’ technology can do, our data provides a lot more insight, including long-term coastal data for coastal resilience planning and real-time, hyper-localized data for accurate decision making, making for safer marine operations.
In 2019 MarineLabs received an Ignite Award from Innovate BC. How did the funding help your company?
Scott: The Ignite grant really helped MarineLabs at a critical time, when we learned that our customers wanted a differently configured product than we currently offered. And we knew the R&D path to iterate but it required risk, and we needed funding to execute the R&D. The Ignite award not only brought direct research support from Dr. Brad Buckham and his research program to complete the research, but it also helped us hire Dr. Majid Soleimani nia as a postdoc from University of Victoria who has become an amazing leader within our company and has been driving incredible progress within our engineering and operations ever since.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while growing your company and how did you overcome them?
Scott: MarineLabs was founded in 2017 by myself and a co-founder when we were partners in a consulting firm specialising in ocean wave energy and coastal engineering. We routinely needed validation data for coastal modelling and found that existing solutions for coastal measurements were too costly, too large, too complicated. We started by talking to early customer groups and developing and testing iterations of small buoy technologies. A big challenge was when my co-founder moved on to a different career path, while I pushed on. It was a challenging time that took perseverance and tenacity to overcome when there was very little salary to support my family. With the support of grant programs like Ignite and others, training from accelerator programs, and mentorship from our earliest investors, we were able to harness inspiration from small satellite companies like Planet, realising that MarineLabs is a real-time data company, not just a hardware developer, and quickly found that our data streams are valuable. We now have 15 employees; we’ve been profitable for two years; and we operate an expanding fleet of real-time sensors spanning North America with an incredibly reliable technology stack that provides critical data for marine safety.
What’s next for MarineLabs? Are there any updates on the horizon?
Scott: MarineLabs recently launched CoastAware™ BuoyCam, the first scalable, end-to-end ocean camera data product that provides subscribers access to 360-degree real-time views through images from our North America wide fleet of sensor locations. BuoyCam improves the way search and rescue, vessel pilots, and coastal aviation companies navigate the coast and open seas. Now they’ll have access to a visual reference to better understand conditions like fog, debris in the water, and rough conditions, making it safer for vessel pilots and making ports safer. The CoastAware BuoyCam service is currently in 16 beta testing locations along Canadian coastlines, in both the Atlantic and Pacific regions.
Additionally, we have just signed a Partnership with the multinational Kongsberg, to deliver a product that provides ship and port operators access to critical berth-depth data in real time. This will help ports that are prone to siltation after climate change driven storm events. Terminal operators will be able to monitor the status of the berth pocket and avoid unnecessary ocean floor dredging to clear the way for incoming ships, a practice that costs billions of dollars annually.
There are many more updates in the months ahead, both on our technology and business roadmaps. Stay tuned by checking out marinelabs.io and following us on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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