But most people know that diving can be dangerous. About 100 people a year lose their lives from the sport, and thousands more put their lives at risk when they get separated from their partner, and find themselves in a remote location at sea.
Thanks to an Israeli company, recreational, professional and military divers can now connect, share and stay safe underwater. The company Underwater Technologies Center (UTC), founded in 2003, has developed the world’s first underwater SMS-like text messaging device.
The device known as the Underwater Digital Interface (UDI), lets users send text messages underwater, or alerts when in danger.
Worn on the wrist like a dive computer, the device introduces new elements to underwater communications, navigation and safety. It will hit American dive shops this month, and is expected to cost about $1,600 per unit.
Currently the only other way divers can communicate underwater today is through an expensive and cumbersome voice communications device, says Netta Kerem, UDI’s CEO.
Relying on the physics of acoustic waves, UTC has developed an affordable solution that is capable of sending pre-programmed text messages to individuals or diving groups underwater, he tells ISRAEL21c.
And most importantly, perhaps, is that it is also equipped with a panic S.O.S. button that can alert other divers when someone is in distress. It is also comes with a homing device that steers divers back to the boat.
Manufactured in Ness Ziona, where the company is also based, UDI’s technology employs the physical properties of acoustic waves and the Doppler effect.
“It is easy to convince anyone who knows anything about diving, how our company is unique,” says Kerem, who has an engineering degree from Tel Aviv University.
First of all, says Kerem, the UDI “enhances the fun of diving. It happens all the time after a dive, where up on the boat the divers talk about what they wished they could’ve shown their friends while underwater.”
The UDI device now lets divers share underwater marvels, through one of 14 pre-programmed text messages. A message could read: “Look at this fish”, “I want to explore this area”, or even, says Kerem jokingly, “Will you marry me?”
That would be a romantic way to propose to someone wouldn’t it? Kerem suggests.
But the hottest part of this technology, says Kerem, is the safety issue. “The device gives a dramatic improvement in safety, and all that the diver can dream of having,” he explains.
If a diver is low on oxygen, or caught in seaweed, he can press a panic button, which sends a real-time signal to other divers. An antenna can also be hooked up onto the berth of a boat, which can help aid in dive and rescue missions, notes Kerem.
The UDI device came about when the company’s founder had his own close call when diving. One diver in the group had vomited while underwater and couldn’t call back to alert his partner. “He wondered why there wasn’t more sophisticated equipment for divers available,” says Kerem.
The safety element of the UDI is clear. And it might also give encouragement to those who were afraid to take the plunge and try diving. Kerem agrees. “It dramatically reduces the level of fear and tension when diving,” he concludes.