Summer is here and beaches in the Illawarra are already filling up with families enjoying a classic Australian holiday season.
While shark attacks remain a remote possibility, a new app developed by a Minnamurra teenager and the SMART Infrastructure Facility makes it possible to calculate for the first time, beach by beach, the safest places to swim and surf.
The SharkMate app was the idea of Sam Aubin, a Year 9 student at the Illawarra Grammar School, who was concerned that fear of sharks resulted in 100 million of the animals being killed each year.
He wanted to use technology to ease the fear and reduce the slaughter.
Sam’s app uses a range of data – water temperature, air temperature, rainfall, historical shark sightings – and uses it to calculate the likelihood (a score from one = low through ten = high likelihood) of a shark sighting at any given beach with each beach given a score from one to 10. The app can also push information and notifications to smart watches.
He is now working with Dr Matthew Berryman, from the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong, as part of the Digital Living Lab to develop the app and has helped secure funding and hardware for the app with further government funding applications to be announced.
“The partnership with the SMART facility has facilitated the extensive development and innovation in this area. The SMART facility is truly the forefront of technical innovation in the Illawarra.” Sam said.
Dr Berryman added “The idea over time is to scale the number of beaches available on the application. At the moment, the app covers 20 beaches, mostly between Sydney and the Illawarra.”
Earlier this year, judges at the Future Problem Solving Program’s International Conference 2017 were so impressed, that they awarded Sam’s app unprecedented 100 per cent rom all 18 evaluating criteria.
Sam was also awarded Grand Champion in his age division, at the competition at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse in the US.