Meet the slimiest thing on the internet of things: SK Telecom’s connected eel farm

That unagi you scarf down at your local sushi restaurant may soon have a link to the internet of things. SK Telecom is working with eel farmers in its native South Korea to develop a system of wirelessly connected water sensors that can be monitored and managed from a smartphone.

The first pilot of the IoT aquaculture management system is being tested on an eel farm in Gochang, South Korea this month. A set of sensors in dozens of 20-foot-wide eel tanks wirelessly transmit data on water temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen levels to a sensor hub (in fact, the system probably works similarly to your smart home), which in turn connects to SK Telecom’s LTE network using a machine-to-machine radio.

Source: SK Telecom

That data is sent to Mobius, a cloud platform developed by SK Telecom for consumer and industrial internet of things apps. Mobius then routes that data to an aquaculture management server for analysis and to a smartphone app where the eel farmer can monitor the sensors in real time.

Apparently eel farming is a tricky business as even a small change in temperature, oxygen level or acidity in the water can be fatal to juvenile eels in a matter of hours. According to SKT, eel farms typically solve this problem with manpower: farmers manually check their water sensors at two to six hour intervals and then make the necessary adjustments to the tanks. With the aquaculture IoT system in place though, that process is largely automated. If a sudden change is detected in the middle of the night that could result in eel carnage, the fish tank management servers in the cloud immediately notify the farmer through smartphone alerts.

How eel tank water sensors connect to SK's Mobius platform (source: SK Telecom)

How eel tank water sensors connect to SK’s Mobius platform (source: SK Telecom)

The internet of things has already expanded into many parts of the agricultural world, from wine vineyards to dairies. It’s only natural that it expands into aquaculture, especially in Asia, which dominates the world’s fish farming harvest. SK Telecom and Korea’s Small and Medium Business Association plan to expand its Gochang pilot to 450 other eel farms in Korea in 2015, using eels as a springboard creature for other types of fish farms.

You would have to think the big fish – pun intended – for this type of tech would be just over the Yellow Sea in neighboring China, which accounts for 61 percent of the world’s aquaculture industry.