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Oh Buoy! Local Company Using Waves For Energy

BLUE TECH: Ocean Motion Shifting Maritime Paradigm

Ocean Motion Technologies, Inc. is successfully riding the tide of the rising sphere of Blue Technology – the advanced technology sector of the maritime industry driving sustainable innovation across emerging markets of the Blue Economy and focused on promoting sustainable ocean activities.

Jack Pan
Founder and CEO
Ocean Motion Technologies, Inc.

Ocean Motion is a La Jolla-based Blue Tech company in the early stages of “powering a paradigm shift” to what founder and company CEO Jack Pan, an oceanographer, data analyst and entrepreneur, said is called Big Blue Data and the Ocean of Things (OoT, similar to the Internet of Things).

Founded in 2018, Ocean Motion Tech makes a patented, small-scale ocean wave energy device that can be installed on most commercially available oceanographic data buoys and moorings. The devices are adaptive, cost-effective and designed to last, so more geographic regions under a variety of sea states can use the technology.

Currently an NPP Postdoctoral Fellow at National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pan received his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He has worked as a consultant and team lead at JPL and led the development of satellite remote sensing projects on coastal ocean monitoring. Pan has also participated in several polar research expeditions to Antarctica.

Pan said the idea for Ocean Motion came during one of his research expeditions to Antarctica as a PhD student at Scripps, conducting maintenance on data buoys powered by solar panels and battery packs.

Since its beginning, the company has been focused on small-scale power needs at sea for scientific/maritime buoys and moorings, offshore aquaculture, and coastal security and defense.

Initially, Pan self-funded Ocean Motion, with additional early-stage investment from the California Energy Commission’s CalSEED, the Eastman Foundation, CleanTech Open, VentureWell, Blackstone LaunchPad/Techstars and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD Basement.

The company’s primary seed funding came in 2020 when Ocean Motion received its first United States Department of Energy (DOE) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Award. Later, Ocean Motion received another SBIR Award from the National Science Foundation.

Pan’s company focuses on meeting power demands for big data at sea in ocean observation for tracking climate change, offshore aquaculture monitoring and surveillance for coastal security applications through marine hydrokinetic energy.

Designed to Survive at Sea

“It’s designed to survive rough weather conditions and supply additional power for big data collection at sea,” Pan said. “The device has an AI dynamic control system, utilizing smart sensors coupled with proprietary deep-learning models to help the device adapt to ambient wave fields and produce optimal power in low and high wave environments.”

The company is working closely with pilot customers to target beachhead markets that focus on off-grid applications in the blue economy that shares similar power requirements and instrument/sensor form factors, “namely, power needs for ocean observation, maritime monitoring, offshore aquaculture monitoring, surveillance and reconnaissance activities at sea for coastal security and defense applications,” Pan said.

Earlier this fall, Ocean Motion was one of six small business-led marine energy projects receiving a collective nearly $6.8 million from the DOE, in a second phase of its SBIR funding and its Small Business Technology Transfer program.

Selected by the DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), Ocean Motion is considered one of the top projects in the country that can drive innovation in marine energy and help achieve the U.S.’s clean energy goals.

“The WPTO has been tremendous for supporting the blue economy,” Pan said. “They have created innovative support networks and funding mechanisms to enable our community to continue advancing the state of art in ocean energy. The (DOE) support has been instrumental to our overall R&D and commercialization efforts. It has allowed our team to rapidly develop our products and implement them in the field with our pilot customers.”

Pan is focused on staying at the forefront of climate change and sustainable energy. He has pioneered new ways to track glacial meltwater in the polar regions using satellite imagery and advanced machine learning — techniques that help decision-makers and stakeholders to better understand, predict and respond to a changing climate.

Pan says that incumbent power supplies for small-scale applications at sea perform at less than optimal levels and their routine maintenance cost is far larger than the initial unit costs. Those challenges severely limit advances in ocean sciences, defense and security monitoring, and offshore aquaculture. Ocean wave energy is a natural choice for these use cases, but most wave energy devices are not designed for small-scale applications, and they can only function within a narrow range of sea states, Pan said.

Lowering maintenance costs and supplying additional power at sea could lead to a boom in ocean data gathering and analytics. The era of Big Blue data is expected to be driven by an OoT comprised of data buoys, cheaper and more reliable sensors, underwater vehicles and aerial drones, he said.

Ocean Motion Technologies, Inc.

FOUNDED: 2018
FOUNDER AND CEO: Jack Pan
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Blue Tech
EMPLOYEES: 6
WEBSITE: oceanmotion.tech
CONTACT: oceanmotion.tech/contact.html
SOCIAL IMPACT: Ocean Motion’s innovation will enable governmental agencies, scientific organizations and community project partners to do more with their funding, including gathering more accurate data to improve environmental models used to make critical decisions.
NOTABLE: Founder and CEO Jack Pan is an avid world traveler and photographer.

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