Adapptor and Western Australian DPIRD Reduce Shark Risk in Near-Real Time with Personalized App Built on AWS

Executive Summary

The Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) collaborated with Adapptor and Hatchd to create the SharkSmart WA app to help keep beachgoers safe and informed. Adapptor develops iOS and Android mobile apps and infrastructure. The system uses Amazon EC2 for compute and Amazon S3 for storage.

Keeping People Safe from Sharks

With almost 7,500 miles of coastline, Western Australian residents and visitors have many beaches to choose from. For the state’s 2.5 million residents and its popular ecotourism industry, the beach is an important part of the Australian lifestyle whether for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving or fishing. While the risk of a shark attack is considered low, it’s important to help people enjoy these amenities while understanding the facts about the hazards that sharks present.

To help beachgoers enjoy the beach and ocean with confidence, the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has created a comprehensive and advanced shark mitigation strategy. It includes community engagement, operational response, data collection, and innovative technology working together to improve public safety and raise awareness. 

In a major step forward, the agency worked with Adapptor, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Select Consulting Partner based in Perth, Australia, to develop the SharkSmart WA mobile app using AWS. Adapptor specializes in developing transformative apps and infrastructure for businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies. “Adapptor understands our systems and the importance of making the app simple, powerful, and accessible,” says Michelle Youngson, project officer in the Shark Response Unit – Sustainability and Biosecurity at DPIRD. “In addition to designing and developing the app, Adapptor created a robust infrastructure on AWS to unify diverse data streams and deliver notifications reliably at all times of the year.” Hatchd, an AWS Select Consulting Partner that had previously partnered with DPIRD to create the SharkSmart website, handled the user experience development part of the project.

“In addition to designing and developing the app, Adapptor created a robust infrastructure on AWS to unify diverse data streams and deliver notifications reliably at all times of the year.”

- Michelle Youngson, Project Officer, Shark Response Unit, Sustainability and Biosecurity at DPIRD

Delivering Real-Time Shark Information Using AWS

Western Australia’s integrated shark notification and response system provides near-real-time information on shark activity to land managers and the public based on tagged shark detections and reported sightings. The public could already access shark information on the SharkSmart website and Surf Life Saving Western Australia (@SLSWA) Twitter feed, and land managers could also sign up for text alerts. However, the agency recognized that an easy-to-use mobile app could deliver a better experience. “The public wants this information in a way that’s personal and user-friendly, especially when they’re heading to the beach,” says Youngson.

To build an app that would work seamlessly with the existing SharkSmart website and the shark mitigation ecosystem as a whole, Adapptor recommended using AWS as the foundation for SharkSmart WA. “AWS was the right choice because of the diversity of data that DPIRD collects and the need for scalable, responsive application performance,” says Richard Giles, general manager and product director at Adapptor.

Delivering Alerts for More than 3,000 Potential Shark Hazards to Date

SharkSmart WA seamlessly aggregates data from multiple sources into a personalized, intuitive experience for users. These include tagged-shark detections from the Shark Monitoring Network, the public shark-reporting system, and the Shark Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drumline system (which captures sharks non-lethally and sends alerts). Also included are databases that cover over 7,000 coastal features (including 1,200 Beach Emergency Numbers signage), SLSWA patrolled beach information, and real-time weather information. “Adapptor helped us build on the data integrations that existed on our website, enabling us to add new sources of information quickly using APIs,” says Youngson. “It makes it easy for us to keep data updated and relevant for our users.” 

To manage highly variable data ingestion and notification volumes, Adapptor created a scalable, flexible infrastructure using AWS services. An algorithm that runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) determines how events trigger notifications to users based on favorite locations and other preferences. Multiple processes handle API function requests concurrently for high scalability and performance. Adapptor also takes advantage of Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for object storage. 

The mobile apps interact with an application server built on a MongoDB Atlas cluster on an Amazon EC2 instance. Another Amazon EC2 instance hosts Amazon ElastiCache and Redis for an in-memory cache to ensure timely delivery of push notifications. The system features built-in resilience to ensure that notifications are delivered even in the event of a server outage. 

Users get personalized information in near-real time about shark activity before or during their visit. Location services and coastal feature data help them report shark sightings quickly and accurately. An intuitive map interface helps people mark their favorite coastal spots, learn where safety features such as shark-monitoring receivers are located, and plan their trip to the beach. 

In the 15 months since the app launched, it has been downloaded over 55,000 times and has generated over 500,000 push notifications, alerting users to almost 3,000 possible shark hazards. For the beach-loving population of Western Australia, the peace of mind provided by SharkSmart WA on AWS is priceless.



DPIRD’s role is to ensure that primary industries and regions in Western Australia are key contributors to the state government’s agenda for economic growth and diversification, job creation, strong communities, and better places. DPIRD collaborates with stakeholders to develop strategies for ocean users on the risks associated with sharks, managing operational responses, community engagement, and the scientific non-lethal SMART drumline trial to improve public safety.

About Adapptor

Adapptor builds mobile apps. From enterprise logistics to mobile ecommerce, and from artificial intelligence to augmented reality, Adapptor has a history of transforming businesses through mobile technology. In the last decade, Adapptor has built apps for Grand Cinemas, Wilson Parking, Perth Airport, Wesfarmers, CBH, and Western Australia DPIRD.

Published April 2021