Neon makes harbour conditions visible and accessible on the web

Many environmental monitoring operations are good at recording data but aren't always good at making it easily available. NIWA's Neon data-to-web service, provides a simple, low-risk upgrade. This enables existing monitoring operations to step up to Internet level, making it easy to access directly usable information via the web, with automated reporting and alarming.

NIWA has recently provided this upgrade to South Port Ltd (SPL), New Zealand's southern-most commercial deep water port, to give its staff, and other port-users, easy access to local wind and tidal information via the web.

Bluff-based SPL relies on accurate local tide and weather information, to manage its shipping and general port operations safely and efficiently.

The data can be viewed while you are mobile, with an Android Smartphone or Tablet. It enables pilots and other operators to access wind and tidal information in near real time while working on or around the harbour.

Ships can get advanced warning of any extreme conditions before entering the harbour.

The instrumentation

For SPL the upgrade equipment was an extra box which we attached to the original data logging equipment, without affecting its operation. NIWA installed a Neon Remote Terminal, at each of SPL's two existing weather and tidal monitoring stations. They work with the existing wind speed, wind direction, sea level, water speed and direction instruments.

One station, located on a tower out in the harbour, monitors the conditions near the harbour entrance. The other is located on a wharf at the man-made 'Island Harbour'.

At the harbour entrance, mounted underwater is an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) which looks across the shipping channel and measures the speed and direction of water currents as the tides ebb and flow. It also measures the rise and fall of sea level.

An ADCP continuously takes fast, accurate measurements of sea level, and water movement in three dimensions, in near real time. These indicate the actual tidal forces acting on a ship and enable crew to ensure that the keel will always have sufficient clearance. 

Later, SPL will integrate the Neon data into its website.  

Screen graphics show what's happening at the wharf and out in the harbour

The Neon out in the harbour, and the Neon at the wharf, record and process wind and tidal data, then push it to the Neon server for storage and access. Authorized personnel with an Internet browser can look at this information on the server, in real time, or examine older data, perhaps looking for trends. When set up, alarm messages are automatically sent to notify staff if wind or tide should exceed acceptable programmable limits. Customized reports have been set up and are automatically sent to selected people.    

Automated reporting

On the Neon server you can easily set up a schedule to automatically send reports to specific parties. All or any of the information can be automatically delivered at any time and frequency, in a variety of formats, such as email.  

A tidy low risk upgrade

A Neon upgrade is a tidy, inexpensive, low-risk way to make the data from new or existing monitoring systems accessible on the web and ideal for coastal monitoring. Additional instruments at the same location can also be connected into a Neon system to create an extended and effective environmental monitoring solution.

For two or more different locations the Neon system is easy to 'upscale'.


placeholder image
Principal Technician - Instrument Systems
Viewing the maritime conditions you 'can't see' is easy with Neon (Andrew Willsman, NIWA)
A live ‘window’ on what was happening out in the harbour at the time, showing wind speed and direction, sea temperature, level and the speed and direction of the tidal water current. The clear presentation makes it easy and quick to assimilate the information.
Data is only a click away. Clicking on the parameters you are interested in brings up a table or graph of data over any period of time you choose. This graph shows sea level (red) and tidal current (blue) over two days.
A screenshot of a live ‘window’ on what was happening at the wharf at the time, showing wind speed and direction and sealevel.
To measure cross-channel water currents, the Argonaut ADCP transmits beams of sound pulses and calculates current velocities from the received ‘echoes’ reflected from suspended particles. [NIWA]
The old and new mounted side by side in the SPL building at the wharf. The original is on the left and the new Neon Remote Terminal is on the right. [Rod McKay, NIWA]
Neon automated reporting. [NIWA]
Research subject: Instrumentation