Deep-Sea connectivity – no longer sci-fi
Krystyna Wojnarowicz at Nor-Shipping 2015
An industrial “Internet of Things at Sea” would involve interconnecting ships and shore in real time. With deep-sea connectivity still expensive, isn’t this science fiction?
Not at all: the industrial Internet of Things revolution could see the transport industry being one of the early adopters. We’re very close to being able to build an Internet of Things at Sea that allows us to connect and exchange data all the time and anywhere via Internet enabled technologies. For once, maritime seems well positioned to have a head start, as we already have sensors producing all kinds of data onboard ships. However, as of yet it isn’t really being collected and analyzed properly in real time.
Ashore, the Internet of Things can enable this by pushing data continuously to and from the cloud. At sea however, continuously pushing data from ships into the cloud and to shore is difficult and expensive (and even undesirable due to security concerns) using current marine communications solutions. However, two new developments promise to change this.
Deep-sea connectivity via high throughput satellite networks could massively increase data capacity and help unlock the potential for ship-wide data gathering.
However, nano-satellites will likely be the real enabling technology, providing cheap, global connectivity for the entire maritime industry.
As small as a shoebox, relatively inexpensive to build (from off-the- shelf components) and launch, they can fill in the present coverage black spots. More importantly, though, unlike traditional satellites with 10- to 15-year lifetimes, nano-satellites can be replaced with software- and hardware-updated versions every two years. This will provide the almost continuous technology refresh rate required for the success of the industrial Internet of Things at Sea.
“Edge” or “fog” computing is the other enabling technology. It brings processing power closer to the sensors aboard ships. The collected data is analyzed in real time onboard, then some is used directly to support crew decisions while only what is needed ashore is batched up and shot into the cloud.
This requires much less satellite bandwidth and associated costs, but also some extra computing capacity on board. Luckily, sensors and processing are relatively inexpensive. You can use small, powerful and inexpensive Linux computers, which need little power and space. Locating them onboard will also help to solve data security and ownership issues for ship owners. Edge computing using open architecture delivers seamless interoperability at low cost.
The Danish Maritime Authority has been exploring the Maritime Cloud idea, and I believe you recently collaborated with them on an e-Navigation test bed.
Yes, we are actively involved in developing and supporting the Maritime Cloud, an open source framework for maritime communication. We utilized an edge computing approach in this test bed, which uses an iPad app connected to a Linux server located onboard vessels to demonstrate automated Sea Traffic Management. We deployed the test bed onboard five vessels owned by Bastø Fosen ferry company in the Horten-Moss Strait, the most heavily trafficked seaway in Norway. To test the app, we also created land-based installations at Bastø Fosen’s traffic center and at the Norwegian Coastal Administration where they also oversee traffic.
The app, called REX, short for Route EXchange, allows captains to share routes in real time to optimize navigation. It connects bridge crew to a system that takes into account each ship’s characteristics, including how long it takes to accelerate and decelerate. Besides aiding quick decision making, the app can also be used as a planning station to plan routes and adjust them well ahead of departure.
The test bed indicated fuel savings of up to 15% per annum.
Based on this, I believe that industrial Internet of Things-enabled solutions such as REX can lead to the building of a global system of sea traffic management and a smart intermodal transport system.
Big Data: systems and software that analyse multiple data streams for insight.
The Internet of Things at Sea: global maritime network infrastructure interlinking physical and virtual objects through the Internet.Nano satellites: small satellite no bigger than a shoebox and weighing 1-10 kg.
The Maritime Cloud: an open source solution for maritime communication.