OpenCape Offers Potential Technological Solutions for Shark Awareness

HYANNIS – A Barnstable-based nonprofit organization that owns and operates Cape Cod’s open access fiber optic network is offering potential solutions for beach connectivity and shark awareness.

Following the recent shark attacks, including one fatality, OpenCape is proposing to build out from its fiber network to the National Seashore Beaches to enhance communications capabilities.

Earlier this month, Arthur Medici, of Revere was died from injuries suffered during an attack off Wellfleet. It was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.

In August, a New York man was attacked off Truro and is recovering from his injuries.

“The OpenCape fiber network runs along the National Seashore. We haven’t built out to into the Seashore because we just simply haven’t had the money to do that,” said OpenCape CEO Steve Johnston.

Johnston said OpenCape is collaborating with Sandwich-based Centerline Communications to utilize its Distributed Antenna System, which does not require large towers, to improve communication capabilities on Outer Cape beaches.

“We could, without putting up huge towers on the National Seashore, make connectivity available to the beaches, to the lifeguards, to the National Seashore buildings so that we don’t have the scenario where something happens and we can’t get a cell signal to call for EMS or public safety,” Johnston said.

Centerline Communications built Gilette Stadium’s DAS network.

“The goal here is to reach and effectively service the National Seashore with the least possible environmental impact, maintaining the majesty and beauty of one of the greatest protected natural areas in the world,” Johnston said.

Johnston said technology could also be used to help prevent attacks and not just provide a quicker response to attacks that have already happened.

He said extending the OpenCape network could help to proactively monitor the waters for great white sharks.

OpenCape has also been discussions with Clever Buoy, which is launching a pilot system in Newport Beach, California.

The system uses sonar buoys that sit on the surface of the water and collect sonar sent from the ocean floor to detect sharks.

The sonar detects the sharks by measuring its unique movement. A microprocessor in the buoy confirms detection and can relay instant signals to lifeguards, public safety agencies and the public.

“Call boxes on beaches and things like that are really more like Band-Aids,” Johnston said.

He said that steps need to be taken as the region’s economy, especially the Outer Cape, depends on visitors going to the beach.

The technology could also help spur its economic efforts with new innovations.

“I think taking an innovative approach like this sends a strong signal that whether it’s Blue Economy or looking beyond hospitality this is the kind of technology we want to use to maintain what has made our region famous,” Johnston said.

Johnston said preventing attacks should be the ultimate goal.

“I’m not saying we can 100 percent guarantee prevention, but I think we can do more to be proactive and use technology to ward off these kind of attacks,” he said.

OpenCape has been in communications with National Seashore and town officials along with local legislators.

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