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SharkMate app aims to predict the risk of sharks for beach swimmers

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The SharkMate app predicts the likelihood of a shark being spotted.
The SharkMate app predicts the likelihood of a shark being spotted.

Image: university of wollongong

Around many Australian beaches, visiting sharks can be a danger to swimmers and surfers alike.

Debate has been heated about how to manage the issue in the country, with the practice of shark culling a particularly contentious point. 

Someone with a potential solution is 15-year-old Sam Aubin, who has developed an app called SharkMate, currently available on iOS. The app aims to warn people about the probability of a shark sighting at a beach.

“We present a number out of 10 to our users, which indicates the risk level at a beach. We get this risk level from many different factors which have been proven to increase the likelihood of a shark attack,” he said.

There are 13 factors which are are analysed by SharkMate’s algorithm. These include the presence of life guards, historical shark data, water temperature, rainfall, and river mouth proximity.

“I wanted to create a solution where surfers could go out to the water and don’t have to worry as much about the possibilities of a shark attack,” he said.

Samuel Aubin's SharkMate app could help with shark monitoring.

Samuel Aubin’s SharkMate app could help with shark monitoring.

Image: university of wollongong

Aubin started work on SharkMate by learning through tutorials and online tools, before recruiting others to help with the development of the app.

He has since partnered with University of Wollongong, which featured a team working on Project Airship, a low-cost shark monitoring program. In May, Aubin worked with the team to see if shark spotting could work in real-time.

“It’s a blimp that goes above the beach, and has a camera mounted on it which looks for sharks by using machine learning,” Aubin explained.

The trial over Kiama’s Surf Beach was successful, with the blimp able to detect a shark in real time and send a notification to an Apple Watch app. 

SharkMate currently has 150 beaches available, but in future Aubin is “looking to scale that up across Australia but also the U.S.” He’s also looking at expanding SharkMate to Android and a web-based version.

Given the sheer abundance of beaches on Australia’s coast, systems like these could be a nifty solution to monitoring sharks.

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