World first automated real-time surf updates

The evolution of the humble surfcam will see a major milestone this weekend when Australian surfcam network Coastalwatch begins rolling out its new realtime Wave Height/Wave Period technology. The Coastalwatch software analyzes live video segments from its cameras to track wave movement through the break zone providing actual wave height and wave period. This means that eventually, Coastalwatch’s 100+ camera network of web-accessible surf cams will be continuously updating its surf reports throughout the day, overcoming the current global phenomena of a surf reporter filing a report at 7.00am listing the surf size as 2ft, yet by 11.00am it may have built to 4 – 5 ft.

As an added bonus, the first camera to be used in unveiling the new technology is at Snapper Rocks on the Australian Gold Coast, and when it goes live this weekend, it will coincide with this week’s Quiksilver Pro contest at Snapper Rocks – so viewers around the world will be able to watch the contest live.

Coastalwatch Managing Director Mr Kim Sundell said, “We are very proud to be able to release this product, which is a result of two years of significant research by the team. The difference to other computer generated wave forecasting and measuring models is that our software processes live vision and updates the actual wave height and period every 10 minutes. It is the only system in the world that can provide accurate timely data on near shore wave conditions. This now allows you to track a forecast swell and how it’s trending in real time”

He went on to say “Coastalwatch will roll out this technology on selected cameras on our network and over the next few weeks we’ll be enabling our ten most popular cameras.”

“The technology doesn’t require anything more than a reasonable quality AUD$1500 (approx US$1,330 at time of publication) Sony camera and the ability to archive the footage so it can be processed remotely. So there is plenty of opportunity for us to work with other surfcam networks around the world, either by licensing our software to them or by processing it for them over the Internet and feeding it back to them in real time.

“The technology actually has a range of other uses for a whole range of users as it measures wave energy and we’re already working with the United States Navy and the lifeguards in both California and Hawaii, and we think that’s just the start of taking this overseas with other partners, such as coastal engineers and so on.”

Initially, it takes about eight hours to get the camera calibrated so it understands spatially in the world where it is and its height above mean sea level.

CoastalCOMS is the research arm of Coastalwatch and has developed the Wave Height/Wave Period technology as part of a new range of coastal monitoring products. The company has already begun commercializing the technology in America and is seeking partners globally. Other products include Shoreline Monitoring, People & Boat Counting and a Hazard / Risk Index. These were developed in conjunction with Griffith University, Surf Life Saving Australia, Surf Life Saving Queensland and the Gold Coast City Council. It was also supported by the Queensland Government through the Smart State Innovation Projects, which was completed in 2009.

Coastalwatch is Australia’s best online water sports resource, aiming to provide the most comprehensive surf and weather information via online and mobile platforms. Coastalwatch’s network of over 100 live streaming cameras, coupled with ocean forecasting, surf reports, beach reports, tide and weather information make it a one-stop-shop for all coastal information.

Interested potential partners can contact Kim Sundell via email

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