March 2022 OES Beacon

Who’s Who In The IEEE OES – Manu Ignatius

Manu Ignatius, IEEE OES Member, OES Singapore Chapter Chair; CEO, Subnero

Covering the robots of SAUVC, 2019, Singapore

Having spent my entire childhood in the coastal state of Kerala, southern India, I loved spending time outdoors in the rivers and sea near my hometown with my friends. One of our usual hangout places was a neighborhood river bank. Even though I had spent all of that time near waterbodies, I never knew the role played by Earth’s oceans in our day-to-day lives. All of that changed in 2009, when I met Dr. Mandar Chitre at the National University of Singapore while doing my postgraduate program. Fast forward 13 years, I am now the CEO of Subnero, a startup whose vision is to be the de facto standard for underwater communication and in-water sensing networks. So, where do I start?

On our way to the Everest Base Camp, Nepal

During my school days, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, I never really thought about it. As long as something was fun and challenging, I was always game. I pursued engineering for my undergraduate studies, thanks to my parents who thought it would be a good fit for me due to my interest in building (and equally in demolishing) things. I graduated in 2004 from Mahatma Gandhi University College of Engineering, Muttom, Kerala in Electronics and Communication engineering. Shortly after, I joined a technology company where I was involved in developing network stacks for WiFi routers and embedded devices. While the theory of digital communication was part of my undergraduate studies, seeing some of the techniques applied in the real world piqued my interest. Within the next year or so, I knew wireless communications and networking is a field I would like to focus on for my career. In 2009, I enrolled in the master’s program at the National University of Singapore Electrical and Computer Engineering Department with a focus on computer communications networks.

Bromo Semeru Tengger national park, Indonesia with my better half

That is where I got introduced to ARL (Acoustic Research Laboratory) and all the cool things that they do there with underwater wireless communications, acoustic sensing, underwater robotics, etc., thanks to Dr. Mandar who is the head of the lab. There I learned that there are so many challenges in the various aspects of oceanography and ocean sciences, that these fields required background in a variety of other fields. Especially, the fact that underwater wireless communication is exponentially challenging when compared to its terrestrial counterpart. And I always loved a good challenge. That allowed me to combine my love of water bodies with my chosen career path – wireless communications and networking.

Although it was my interest in wireless technology that started my journey, it was some of the people I met at various stages of my life, who opened my eyes to this profession as more than just a career in underwater communications. They are highly motivated and passionate about their domains and some of the best minds in their fields. More importantly, they actively contribute back to the community. While I was lucky to have met them, learn from them, many others are not. That led me to join the IEEE OES Singapore Chapter.

Currently, I am an active member of the IEEE OES. Over the years, I have been heavily involved in many of the activities organized by the IEEE OES Singapore chapter such as The Singapore AUV Challenge (SAUVC), OCEANS 2020, Singapore conference, etc. I currently hold the social media coordinator position and work closely with the VPPA of IEEE OES to promote OES’s activities through our social media channels.

Apart from my involvement in the academic community, I am also an active participant in the marine industry scene in Singapore. My role as the CEO of a marine technology company gives me plenty of opportunities to work with some of the well-established names in the industry and consider myself lucky to be able to witness the evolution of the industry.

Schooling Baracuda, Koh Tao, Thailand

Like many others in our community, I am also an avid scuba diver who specializes in underwater photography. My other hobbies include photography (which I pursue professionally at times), trekking, and travel. These interests have taken me to various places around the world from bottom of the seas to top of the mountains, that otherwise I would never even have heard of, sometimes in search of unique shots to click.

Looking back, I think very few people can grasp the significance of something that covers more than 70% of our planet. I was one of them and I keep learning new things every day. I hope I can pass along some of my learning to inspire the next set of pioneers in the field of oceanography and ocean sciences through my work at OES and Subnero, by also showing them how much fun this can be.

If you are still reading this and are not bored (yet), check out my website at thedragonflypage.com/ or my portfolio (photography) at portfolio.thedragonflypage.com/ or www.youtube.com/c/ManuIgnatius and follow me at @dfly_manu (Instagram)