8 June 2023 EdgeKit, Successstory

EdgeKit: AI-driven coral reef research in the Maldives

Suzan Imhoff

We are an ocean planet - 3 billion people depend on coastal and marine biodiversity [1]. One essential ecosystem of the sea, source of many medical researches [2] and protector from coastal erosion, are coral reefs. To help restore diversity in animals in these habitats and to accelerate ocean science, Swiss company „Stream Ocean“ is now deploying AI-driven camera modules at coral reefs in the Maldives.

A popular indicator for the health of a reef is its variety in species [3]. An AI identifying all animals passing by is therefore an efficient way to not only see if protection programs are succeeding in real time but also to better connect stakeholders their fundings.

Live monitoring of eco systems under individual conditions however is very costly with projects usually not swimming in funding. Furthermore working outside of human settlements trying to collect data can also generally be a challenging endeavor.

The hardware of the towers today mainly consists of a solar panel, a tripod-construction minimizing anchoring requirements, a micro-HD camera, a battery for power-storage and an internet router.

Due to scarcity of resources in the Maldives, the tower itself is often built from scrap metal. 

The last thing that was lacking was a computer solution putting it all together with individually designed solutions unfortunately costing around 30.000$ for development alone, material in production adding another 10-12.000$ [4].

„We met at a fair and quickly noticed we’re on the same page“

Through our custom online configurator and professional support Stream Ocean was able to put together a perfect solution for their needs at minimum cost.

The NVIDIA-driven „EdgeKit“ became part of the project in 2022 and is today storing and processing all collected data. Its cloud-based dashboard called EdgeFleet makes it possible to watch hard drive usage and online status of all towers in real time as well as other important information. Helpers thereby know when to get ready to exchange disks or when something is wrong without having to actually visit towers out in the wild.

EdgeKit also comes with the benefit of using such small amounts of power that even if the weather was cloudy in the Maldives, the towers would practically never run out of power [5].

Thanks to EdgeKit's live online price calculation, expenses can also immediately be estimated  without having to wait for an individual offer. 

See the live configurator

 „We have just installed our first EdgeKit devices in the Maldives and we are very satisfied. Please enjoy this image of a black tip shark that we just viewed today.“ (David Lunsford, CEO of Stream Ocean)

On the first day of deployment, EdgeKit helped to immediately identify a black tip shark, a great sign of success for a coral reef-protection-program.

Usually, the process of acquiring a custom solution in this field involves a kick-off meeting and a contract holding all given information and needs of the customer, followed by conceptual work and development of the circuit boards. A prototype is built and design verification tests are done. It gets certified and production goes into planning. The cost and production of such concepts can be high as mentioned above.

Our process of development in this project was different:

  • In a first call the specific use case was discussed and different solutions were considered with the expertise of Stream Ocean and the technical know-how of PCB Arts combined. Topics discussed included where to place the computer (underwater in a tube or above the surface) and maximum size of a computer system
  • A configuration was chosen together
  • The micro computers were built within a few weeks not needing to depend on malfunctioning supply chains because we're keeping most of the parts in stock
  • The EdgeFleet system was initialized on all computers before sending them to Stream Ocean, including a change in EdgeFleet’s code as a free service

„It's important for us to provide reliable technology because the towers are installed and won't be touched by humans for months.“ (Saber Kaygusuz, Head of PCB Arts)

Besides the possibility of customizing all EdgeKits in color and individual laser cut logos, all computers are running on NVIDIA Jetson technology. NVIDIA Jetson is the world's leading platform for autonomous machines and other embedded applications. It’s ideal for AI-based machine vision applications and to perform AI vision tasks such as image classification, image segmentation, object detection and more. It is compatible with open-source computer vision software and machine learning libraries like OpenCV or in this case the YOLO-algorithm.

Furthermore, EdgeKit specializes on edge computing or more specifically: edge AI. Edge is about processing data closer to where it's being generated, enabling processing at greater speeds and volumes, leading to greater action-led results in real time like in the project at hand.

Do you have any questions regarding this project or our technology? Send us an e-mail! We’ll reply asap. mail@pcb-arts.com


[1] „Biodiversity underpins all fishing and aquaculture activities, as well as other species harvested for food and medicines. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods […]. Fish continues to be one of the most-traded food commodities worldwide. It is especially important for developing countries, sometimes worth half the total value of their traded commodities.“ - UNICEF’s Convention on Biological Diversity, https://www.cbd.int/article/food-2018-11-21-09-29-49

[2] „Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment […]. Scientists estimate that there may be millions of undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs. This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.“ - US National Ocean Service,  https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html

[3] “Scientists have long hypothesized that biodiversity is of critical importance to the stability of natural ecosystems and their abilities to provide positive benefits such as oxygen production, soil genesis, and water detoxification to plant and animal communities, as well as to human society. […]  Although theoretical studies have supported this claim, scientists have struggled for the past half-century to clearly isolate such an effect in the real world. This new study does just that.“ - USGS, https://www.usgs.gov/news/biodiversity-critical-maintaining-healthy-ecosystems

[4] In this case of 10 EdgeKits for Stream Ocean’s project

[5] EdgeKit needs about 20 watt, depending on the configuration