September 2021 OES Beacon

IEEE OES distinguished lecture Series: 23, July 2021

Fusion reactors, Fuel Cells and Distributed Acoustic Sensing – What do they have in common and what might DAS now offer?

John Potter, IEEE OES distinguished lecturer, Professor, NTNU, Norway & Director, Strategic Communications Centre for Geophysical Forecasting

An IEEE OES distinguished lecture was delivered by John Potter in collaboration with IEEE OES Italy and Norway Chapters on 23 July 2021.  The lecture was the first ‘hybrid’ physical/virtual DL event in quite a while, presented in person at the University of Pisa to a live audience and simultaneously online.  The talk was titled: Fusion reactors, Fuel Cells and Distributed Acoustic Sensing – What do they have in common and what might DAS now offer?  The online version will be available to view and enjoy at:

John Potter is a marine scientist with degrees in mathematics, physics, polar oceanography and glaciology from Bristol and Cambridge Universities in the UK. An IEEE and MTS Fellow and International Fellow of the Explorers Club, he has extensive senior management & technology development experience and a holistic ‘big picture’ vision with a focus on environmental conservation and sustainability. His specialisations include underwater acoustics, Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT), polar oceanography, ambient noise and marine mammals. Prof. Potter is the founder of the Acoustic Research Laboratory in the National University of Singapore, has received numerous international awards for his marine research and technology projects and is an IEEE OES distinguished lecturer. It is no longer true that he neither owns nor operates a television.


Has Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) finally reached a performance level to become a game-changer? Together with other wonderful and near-miraculous technologies, such as fusion reactors and fuel cells, we have become accustomed over the years to hearing that these technologies are just about to break onto the scene. But perhaps we really do live in a special moment in time. While many would claim this is always true in some sense, it is undeniable that there is an accelerating confluence of technologies that are revolutionising the way that we sense and manage the marine environment. We are now seeing the end of more than a century of under-sampling, the conclusion of an age where data were few and costly to obtain, allowing us only short and narrow glimpses into the workings of our vast global ocean-atmosphere system. With the growing maturity of autonomous maritime systems, the fusion of in-situ and remote sensing capabilities and the advent of new sensing modalities such as DAS, we are entering a new age of Big Marine Data, automated data collection and near-real-time processing and cloud-based virtual observatories.

Figures from the online lecture:

Fig. 1 The Centre for Geophysical Forecasting is a new centre for research-driven innovation, centre hosted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, that seeks to pivot existing geophysical competencies into new blue economy opportunities. The NTNU research vessel, Gunnerus (left) and a skilled team of researchers (right) worked together to test the feasibility of Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) from a fibre optic cables in Trondheim fjord.
Fig. 2 The vision is that Distributed Acoustic Sensing might provide a vital in-situ sensing capability with vast geographic coverage and high spatial resolution that would make a cloud-based Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Observatory possible, with near-real-time monitoring of ships, large whales, storms and earthquakes, fusing many different sensing modalities to give a holistic picture.