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Municipal Innovation Council sees successful first year of Smart Beach project

2023 brings real-time communications testing and a potential second beach location

With recorded wave swells this September of up to 2.3 metres in height, the Smart Beach project is already demonstrating the changeable—and potentially dangerous—nature of Lake Huron. And now that sensor buoys are out of the lake before the arrival of winter weather, data collected during a successful first summer of the project gets to work.


Over the winter, researchers will use this data to train a machine learning model to understand and predict when waves and rip currents form at Kincardine’s Station Beach.

The three-year Smart Beach pilot project, administered by the Municipal Innovation Council (MIC), is aimed at developing a real-time warning system that will provide beachgoers with information on local water conditions, including rough surf and the presence of rip currents to improve beach safety in the Great Lakes.


This summer, the Smart Beach team collected wave, current and wind data using a RAEON (Real-time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network) buoy on loan from the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor.


High surf can present a danger to swimmers and information (like that shown in the graph below) is helping the Smart Beach researchers understand when beachgoers decide to enter the water. Data including wave, current and wind conditions are publicly available and data collected over the first year will be used to develop machine learning and wave and current models during the next phase of the project.

Significant wave heights of 2.3 m recorded at Kincardine's Station Beach
Significant wave heights (H) or the highest one third (1/3) of waves recorded during September 2022 from the RAEON buoy off Station Beach, Kincardine.

Cameras collected anonymized images that help the team understand how wave conditions impacted how people used the water and whether beach access design strategies could further promote safe waterfront activities.


Two local students were also on the ground to engage with beachgoers: over the summer they collected nearly 100 in-person surveys at Station Beach to understand where visitors are coming from, their knowledge on beach safety and what they perceive as dangers at the beach.

“What a successful first year for the Smart Beach project,” said Dr. Chris Houser, Dean, Faculty of Science at the University of Windsor and lead researcher on the Smart Beach technology.
“We saw strong public engagement as our team surveyed beachgoers and worked closely with partner groups and the Municipal Innovation Council—and we are in good shape to move into year two of our research.”

Next year, the team will:

  • Test a communication tool that will provide real-time information on swimming conditions and warn people where the hazards are at Station Beach

  • Build on the Smart Beach awareness and education campaign that will continue to focus on water safety

  • Deploy a RAEON buoy at the same location to collect more data that will help to strengthen the model

  • Install another camera system near the Kincardine Pier that will collect data on the north side of the jetty

  • Potentially expand the Smart Beach project to another beach in the MIC member municipalities

Learn more about the Smart Beach project and the municipal innovation work happening in Bruce County by visiting the Nuclear Innovation Institute’s website at: nii.ca/municipal-innovation and join the conversation on Twitter (@OntarioNII), on LinkedIn (Nuclear Innovation Institute) and on Facebook (@OntarioNII).