Part of New Bedford's fishing fleet.
Boston Globe Boston Globe via Getty Images

Cheap, fast sensors could help save New Bedford's fishing industry.

By Barb Darrow
April 8, 2016

We’ve all heard about how the Internet of things can ease daily life. Your connected fridge can order milk when the carton runs low. A system can automate the payment and collection of parking meter fees. That means less wear and tear on the consumer and, in the case of parking, for enforcement agents as well. Less schlepping is a good thing in this case, right?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connected roads. Boston, for example, is looking at how technology can help the city dynamically manage both traffic lanes and the adjacent curbs.

“We’re trying to move beyond simple discussion of parking and road regulations to a model of road and curb management,” said Nigel Jacob, co-founder of the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, while speaking at an event at MIT earlier this week.

Read more: Who owns all that IoT data?

For a city that wants to facilitate periodic street fairs or farmers’ markets, a system that could automatically turn a block into a parking-free zone for a certain period and manage lane closures with associated signage might be helpful.

Approximately 60 miles south of Boston in New Bedford, Mass.—a.k.a. “the hub of southeastern Massachusetts” as its Mayor Jonathan Mitchell has called it—the city has done a ton with smart, connected sensors.

During a surprise snowstorm on Monday, New Bedford was able to keep snow plows off the roads because on-truck sensors detected that the road surfaces were warm enough to melt the snow as it fell. That’s a real cost savings for a cash-strapped city.

There are plans afoot to use IoT technology to help commercial fisherman slash costs and comply with fishing regulations, Mitchell noted, citing work that Inex Advisors founder and partner Christopher Rezendes has been doing with local fleet owners and operators.

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Inex’s IoT Lab, with backing from Analog Devices adi , is looking to put instruments on vessels to ease and track fish counts, a key concern in this heavily regulated industry. “What gets caught where and by whom matters a lot and can make a trip either profitable or unprofitable,” Mitchell said.

New rules mandate that as of May 1, vessels catching certain fish must carry a human monitor to watch the quantities and species of fish caught. The presence of that person, who must be paid, will make many trips prohibitively expensive for many of these fisherman, Rezendes told Fortune on Thursday.

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A possible solution is to use cheap, fast sensors aboard the boat to document the catch. Inex is currently working with the commercial fleet operators to help them comply with the catch share regulations and also to monitor “bycatch,” translating to the unwanted fish or other wildlife caught in fishing operations.

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