TPO Newsroom

Smart Module for Communications Processing and Interface US Patent 9,297,925

Smart Module for Communications Processing and Interface US Patent 9,297,925


Engineers at NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center have developed a patented data collection and reporting system, the Smart Module for Communications Processing and Interface,  for use on data buoys or similar ocean- or land-based platforms where environmental data are being collected.  The benefit of the Smart Module design is that it may be readily retrofitted to a data buoy, weather station, or other similar applications, in order to add additional data acquisition capabilities or features, without disturbing existing communications and data logging equipment at the location.  This saves both time and money for testing and certifying new equipment at existing data gathering sites, some of which may be quite remote and difficult to access. By eliminating the risk of compromising an entire system by adding new components, the Smart Module makes adding new capabilities to existing platforms relatively simple and extremely cost effective.

Design Background:

The innovative design consists of a small, very low power, building block type module that may be used to interface new sensors, or conduct testing of new processing schemes, without heavy system development, test, and costs typically encountered in modifying the larger more complex system.  In addition, the small very low-power device contains core functions of data collection, processing, and communication.  Thus, it can be re-purposed to other uses, such as a backup module (e.g., for GPS position reporting and environmental data transmission and control from shore).  Depending upon the final application, several of these devices could also be organized into a wireless sensor and communications network.


  • Includes a device which measures data signals, receives data streams, records, processes, and communicates data via wireless links, from remote ocean locations to shore based systems or other nearby communication systems.  

  • Combines Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components, satellite services, real time operating system and custom firmware to accomplish data acquisition and reporting needs not readily and commercially available or as economical.

  • The present invention includes a data collector, processor, transmitter, location reporting, and data storage device which provides bi-directional satellite communications anywhere in the world.  The combination uses very little power and is economical as compared to other devices.  

  • It may be used for many unattended remote data collection and reporting needs (e.g., to measure and report remote marine data for marine weather analysis, forecasts, and warnings).

  • The device may include wired and/or wireless connections to interface with sensors, a user, or other devices.

  • The present invention has other applications as well, including as a back-up system, which may be readily installed when other systems fail.  It may also be used to provide a back up locator if a data buoy fails or is dislodged.  In a fail-safe mode, the system of the present invention can upload a GPS location to an IRIDIUM satellite every day for nearly three years, on battery power.

  • May be used in a modular arrangement, where multiple devices may communicate with one another in wired or wireless modes.  

  • The device may be used as a Smart End Device, to log data from a sensor or sensors.  Another device, communicating wirelessly or in wired mode, with one or more Smart End Devices, may serve as a Smart Coordinator, accumulating data from other Smart End Devices and uploading the packaged data via satellite modem.  

  • In order to reduce the number of different module types in the field, the Smart Modules may be provided with similar or identical hardware, and then programmed in the field to act as Smart End Devices (logging data from sensors) and Smart Coordinators (accumulating data from Smart End Devices) and uploading the data via satellite.  In this manner, the inventory of different device types is reduced, and redundant capabilities are provided in the field.  If one Smart Module fails in whole or in part, another module may be configured, even remotely, to take over chores of the failed module.


Number of views (9879)/Comments (0)



1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910


Our mission is to foster preeminent science and technological innovation through federal investments in research and development (R&D), partnerships or licensing opportunities at NOAA.