Traditional tide gauges face challenges in cost, installation and maintenance, which reduce their reliability and accessibility. A new technology, GNSS-IR, offers a novel approach to water level monitoring, facilitating near real-time measurements that are crucial for understanding coastal environments, waterway safety, and our natural resources, which overcomes these key issues for users.

GNSS-IR: National Oceanography Centre. Water level monitoring technology. Image: Sea waves crashing on coastal rocks.


Water level monitoring is essential to a wide range of industries and organisations involved in understanding our coastal environments, inland waterways, and the management of natural resources. This can include: the safe navigation of ships, cargo vessels, and boats into and out of ports, coastal zone engineering projects and infrastructures, ecological, industrial, and environmental impact, and preparing for emergencies such as rising sea levels, coastal erosion, flooding, and more. 

However, traditional tide gauges and wave buoys have been expensive to install and maintain, limiting their usage and meaning sparce data is only available to a narrow set of end users. Traditional options were also installed directly in the water, making them susceptible to damage or fouling from the harsh marine environment and passing vessels. This often resulted in the gauges being out of action for periods of time or a degradation in the measurements. 

It was vital that an alternative, modern method that could complement existing systems of obtaining the necessary data was created. This would meet the need of circumventing these issues to better support the safety requirements and economic implications of maintaining safe waterways. 

The solution

Created by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), a new monitoring technology overcomes the challenges users previously faced to measure water levels and significant wave heights in near-real-time.  

This technology utilises shore-mounted GNSS receivers and NOC’s own GNSS-IR software, removing the need for tide or water-level gauge hardware to be placed directly in the water. This greatly reduces the susceptibility to damage and bio-fouling compared to traditional tide gauges by installing it away from passing vessels and the harsh marine environment.  

The technology is also easy to install and low-cost, enabling more gauges to be placed in a higher number of locations – increasing the data quality and quantity produced. It also extends monitoring capabilities to hard-to-reach areas, improving accessibility to water level data for users, both inland and coastal. 

Key benefits

  • This technology can be used as an alternative to traditional tide gauges and wave buoys in water level and wave height data collection. 
  • It is low-cost, utilising Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware. 
  • It is capable of near-real-time water level and significant wave height measurements. 
  • The elevated, on-shore installation position minimises effects of fouling and damage by water vessels. 
  • Easy installation opens up opportunities in remote locations or challenging environments where traditional tide gauges are not feasible. 
  • Alternatively, this technology can also be used alongside traditional tide gauges to enhance capability by providing cost-effective, continuous levelling information, required for maintenance. 
National Oceanography Centre diagram of new GNSS-IR water level monitoring technology

Potential applications

Water level monitoring for coastal ports


This technology can help with monitoring tide measurements and significant wave heights to maintain safe shipping channels and aid operational management.

Inland waterways

This software enables the monitoring of local water level changes in near-real-time to inform actions for community safety and property protection. 

Water level monitoring for inland waterways
Water level monitoring for offshore renewables. Image: a worker climbing an offshore wind turbine.

Offshore renewables

Near real-time monitoring of wave conditions can improve personnel safety and inform the best access times to turbines for example.

Lifeboat stations

Affordable localised tide data can aid critical life-saving decisions. 

Water level monitoring for life boats and lifeboat stations. Image: a lifeboat on the water next to a town.
Water level monitoring for flooding insurance. Image: a flood sign next to a flooded road.

Insurance providers

Providers can benefit from utilising near real-time water level and wave height data for quick verification of claims and customer assistance.

Speak to us about licensing

If you would like to discuss this technology or collaboration opportunities with our team, please get in touch below.

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