Return to food for thought Return to food for thought About the use of smartphones and  tablets in dive and ROV control rooms
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In a safety flash published in 2022, an IOGP member stated that one of the primary duties of the diving supervisor is to carefully manage the divers' decompression to ensure their safe return to the surface. Therefore, considering that distractions during decompression phases should be avoided, and following an incident where a supervisor missed a diver’s 3m stop because he was playing games on a smartphone, this IOGP member has prohibited cellphones in the dive controls. While it is fully supported to consider that the diving supervisors’ primary function is to ensure the safety of the divers under their responsibility and commendable to ensure that everything is in place to ensure that this is done appropriately, the decision to forbid cell phones in the dive control because one supervisor failed to fulfill his duties is debatable for several reasons we can develop here. The first point to consider is whether cell phones are toys or can be regarded as efficient tools. This is an opportunity to remind us of the evolution of communication systems since the 1990s and ensure the usefulness of smartphones and tablets: In the early 1990s, the only communication systems available to divers and ROV teams on board most vessels were VHF radios. The first satellite phone for public use was built by Motorola and was only made available in 1998 by the company "Iridium" ( Communications with these phones were extremely expensive, so only project leaders could use them to communicate with the shore base. Additionally, satellite coverage was limited to the most active business zones, leading many teams to continue using radios. Concurrently, the late 1990s marked the era when the first public cell phones became available. Radiophones were previously available; however, their high cost, large size, and significant weight limited their use to cars or offices. Additionally, their coverage areas were restricted, confining their usage to specific locations. The first public cellphones supported only voice communication and basic text messaging. However, it was possible to use them to transfer emails through specific, expensive services. Regarding the internet and email, it is important to note that although the concept and initial attempts emerged during the 1960s and 1970s, the true democratization of these technologies began in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This period coincided with the development of portable computers and user-friendly operating systems such as Windows, macOS, and Linux, which were accessible to individuals without specialized computing knowledge. Internet connections began to be available on board vessels between 2000 and 2010, depending on the company. Initially, these connections were limited to on-board management and were later extended to other team members with metered access. It is also important to note that during this period, many clients and companies mandated the presence of a satellite phone in the dive control. Wireless systems, such as Wi-Fi, which were first introduced in 1997, started being installed on vessels around 2010. This was facilitated by the development of satellite communications, which offered services at more reasonable prices compared to those in the 1980s. The widespread adoption of Wi-Fi on vessels occurred concurrently with the emergence of tablets and the new generation of cell phones, known as "smartphones." These devices, featuring touch screens, are at least 10 times more powerful than the notebooks used in the 1980s. In conclusion, it is evident that electronic technologies evolve rapidly, and overlooking this fact is a significant oversight. Smartphones and tablets have become integral to the lives of many, particularly among younger individuals, and this reality must be taken into account. With the Wi-Fi connection now installed on most Diving Support Vessels (DSVs), tablets and smartphones can be used to provide the following functions:
Radiophone Motorola model MCR 9500 XL Year 1988
Communication with the appointed diving doctor: A tablet or smartphone has the advantage of enabling video conversations through systems such as WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Skype, Skred, Telegram, and many others. This provides the doctor with the possibility to guide the “diver medics”, who are not real nurses and require professional guidance. The cameras provided to the latest generation of these devices allow sending high-definition pictures to the doctor, which may enable him to observe in detail a wound or the external condition of the casualty. Note that conference call programs such as Microsoft Teams, Meet, Webex, FreeConferenceCall, and many others allow the doctor or the diving team to organize a video meeting with multiple participants. Additionally, documents and instructions can be sent, which can be visualized on the device through these programs or traditional email. As well as photos can be taken and sent directly to him. Note that, in addition to the tablet or smartphone, it is recommended to provide the following tools: Unscrambled phone communication will be necessary if the divers are diving with heliox. This is possible with diver communication systems, such as the one sold by Fathom ( Of course, in such a case, the doctor needs to use a second line to listen to the diver medic in the chamber. Also, monitoring the parameters of the casualty is essential. This is possible with tools such as the D-MAS Remote & HyperSat from Dan Medical (, that allow effective clinical interpretation and support from outside the chamber, including from doctors onshore, or at a base location (see the picture below). Also, smartphones and tablets with access to the cellular network can advantageously replace those using a satellite connection when the operations are carried out onshore or inland. Regarding this point, note that many petroleum companies allow connections to the local cellular network on their oilfields so that people working in these locations do not need to use satellite phones.
Communication with the company management It is evident that the various functions available on smartphones and tablets can be used to communicate with the company's management or the technical department of the company. For example, a technician on the job site can be guided by a specialist to solve a difficult problem using the video call function, or a video conference call can be organized from the site where a problem is being discussed and solved.
Secured communication on board the vessel Several software applications can be installed on smartphones to use them for close communication without relying on the internet. This allows the supervisor or another onboard manager to send messages on board without passing through the phone, intercom, or radio. “Bridgefy” ( is a system developed for rural zones where internet coverage is poor. It uses bluetooth to send either encrypted or unencrypted messages to distances up to 114 m (330 ft). “MeshMe” is another app that can work via Bluetooth or WiFi for internal and external connections (Refer to Google Play - “The Serval Mesh” ( also uses phones as relays and enables members of a community to make private phone calls and send secure text messages easily. “Signal Offline Messenger” ( is a Wi-Fi-based app that allows people to communicate within a range of up to 100 meters. Messaging could be one-on-one or in a group. Messages sent via this app are delivered in a secure way. “Wi-Fi Talkie Free” allows users to organize communication between smartphone devices at distances of Wi-Fi signal without using an internet connection or a cellular network. ( Many similar apps are available for Android or Apple systems.
Pressure gauge and other sensing device data transmissions Gauge and sensor manufacturers are gradually designing systems with displays on tablets and smartphones. Auto Meter ( digital-gauges-apple-ios-android.HTML) is a manufacturer of digital gauges with displays on Android and iOS devices. Matheson ( gas-equipment/smart-devices/) is another pressure gauge manufacturer that provide systems with displays on smartphones or tablets using bluetooth connection. This system is appropriate for situations where the cylinder or point-of-use station might be in another room or outdoors (oxygen). The system also allows monitoring of gas reserves stored in a yard far from the job site.
Video surveillance There are many apps and hardware devices that can be used to monitor areas via cell phones and tablets. They offer features such as local streaming, cloud streaming, recording and storing footage locally or remotely, and motion detection and alerts. Many programs use the internet, allowing the user to monitor a remote area from the job site. Also, a wireless video transmitter and receiver can be used to display video from a camera on a tablet via WiFi. Numerous systems are available on the market that are often used on drones, and for multiple applications such as reporting and surveillance. Their maximum range is approximately 300m, which is widely sufficient for transmissions on the job site. We can, for example, consider the three following brands, but keep in mind that many other manufacturers are present in this market: DJI transmission ( Hollyland Cosmo C1 SDI/HDMI Wireless Video Transmission System ( adapter/165408.html). Stonkam ( Wireless-Transmitter), that provide systems for underwater vehicles, making them usable offshore and in rough conditions. It is evident that the advantages of these systems are their flexibility and reasonable price, considering that many systems are sold for less than $1000, and that some tablets are sold at prices below $200. They can be used to transmit video signals to the dive control or the construction manager's office, making the installation of video cables, which is sometimes problematic on vessels of opportunity, obsolete. Note that some of these Wi-Fi video transmission systems also work with classic combos.
Wireless control of machines As tablets and smartphones are often used to control drones, they can also be used to remotely control other machines. In an article called ”Smartphones and Tablets in Manufacturing," published on the website Control Engineering ( tablets-in-manufacturing/), it is explained that the natural progression is for industrial applications to explore the possibility of adopting smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices in manufacturing environments.
Portable satellite phone Motorola model 1998
Cellular phone Nokia 5110 Year 1998
It is the reason why, instead of forbidding them in chambers, the CCO Ltd diving management study #8, “Set a policy for electronic devices in chambers”, recommends controlling them and implementing similar measures to those already in force in the airline industry. Click on the cover to open the document.
The list of applications offered by mobile phones and tablets is long and growing, so I have probably overlooked many functions that these devices can provide. We can, therefore, logically assume that they are useful tools and that taking them away from supervisors and other managers should be seen as a step backward, both logically and historically. Taking this point into account, we can consider that even though video games are among the numerous software programs provided by these tools, these applications do not represent the majority and are also available for personal computers (PCs). The problem is, therefore, not linked to the computing devices themselves but to how people use them. It is obvious that people who play with their phones or other devices while on duty are not worthy of the positions they have been assigned. Therefore, instead of attributing mobile phones and tablets as the primary cause of the incident described in this safety flash, it is possible to perceive an issue stemming from the insufficient education of dive supervisors. Contrary to popular belief, "education" encompasses more than just training. It also implies understanding one's duties, the personnel under one's supervision, and the surrounding individuals, which are crucial qualities for those in leadership roles. In addition to this educational problem, we can note the authoritarian management methods of the authors of this document and some other people who, instead of investigating an issue and looking for balanced and appropriate measures, prefer using infantilization procedures to solve it. As a result, we can see a conflict between the professional qualities required for the diving supervisor function and the authoritarian and infantilization measures of forbidding the use of a communication tool that can be helpful based on the mistake of only one person who proved not to have the necessary skills and human qualities to operate as supervisor. Therefore, we can consider that this poses a serious question about how these people consider diving supervisors and divers, as well as themselves, as this proves these managers have a severe superiority complex. In conclusion, we can say that management procedures based on infantilizing personnel to control them better prove inefficient and result in incompetent personnel because they are based on fear and careerism instead of knowledge, moral virtue, and the welfare of people.