Industrial internet of things use cases: The IIoT at sea
The industrial “internet of things” has found its way to sea, with connected sensors and unified platforms designed to provide increased visibility for crews. Ships have for some time been equipped with sensors that collect data. Now, that data can be optimized and sent in real time to a captain, their colleagues, other ships in the network or the shipping company’s communication headquarters on land. These sensors monitor everything from a ship’s speed to the temperature of its cargo, allowing for an optimized shipping ecosystem.
Despite the fact ships carried an estimated 9.6 billion tons of cargo in 2013 – around 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% of global trade by value – the maritime industry lags behind alternative transport industries in terms of its use of information and communications technology, according to Ericsson.
Instances where industrial IoT solutions can be implemented in maritime operations can have a significant impact on route optimization, maintenance costs and asset tracking. Here is a closer look at those use cases for implementing an IIoT solution out at sea.
Ships have been using high frequency radios to communicate with other vessels for years. This communication between ships is important in determining the most efficient routes and avoiding collisions. Unfortunately, this once-revolutionary technology lends itself to the potential of user error. Now, a ship’s position can be tracked live and location information can be sent to other ships on the same network. Captains and offices on land can track a ship’s movements using a laptop or tablet to analyze whether they should pursue more optimal routes. Basto Fosen ferries use a software called Route Exchange that displays an interactive map, which lets the company’s captains provide other seafarers their route intentions and provides an estimated time of arrivals in real time, according to IoT @ Sea testbed results.
The first results from IoT @ Sea in Olso, Norway, suggested expected fuel savings of up to 15% per year.
“Knowing each ships’ intentions, we can optimize our speed and avoid unnecessary, long rerouting,” said captain and safety adviser Gisle Stava to OpenSource Delivers. “If there is a potential conflict with the risk of a collision and my ship has right of way, I, as a captain, can change course with drag-and-drop on the screen. As soon as I confirm my selection, the captains on the other ships will see the new course and see the danger is over.”
On a large scale, sensors help track the location of a ship at sea, on a smaller scale they are able to provide the status and temperature of cargo containers. One benefit is real-time metrics on refrigerated containers. These containers must be stored at constant temperatures so that perishable goods remain fresh.
Each refrigerated container needs to be equipped with temperature sensors, a processing unit and a mobile transmitter. When temperatures differ from the optimal mark, the crew can be notified and begin looking into the problem.
Additionally, these systems can monitor cargo and the ships as well as provide stakeholders the ability to obtain and analyze real-time data from production warehouse to final recipients.
The maintenance of an offshore supply vessel is seen as expensive and time consuming. It costs anywhere between $58,000 and $116,000 per day to have a vessel offline, according to “Big Data and Industrial Internet of Things for the Maritime Industry in Northwestern Norway,” written by researchers in that country. The paper noted a maintenance project involves dry docking a boat, pre-ordering parts and contacting personnel. In one example, a five-week operation was budgeted at nearly $3 million.
Ericsson’s Maritime ICT Cloud is seen as an example of an industrial IoT platform designed to be used to monitor expensive equipment and help fix problems before they get out of hand. It’s designed to connect embedded engine- and hull-monitoring systems with bridge communications in a way that is said to reduce inefficiencies, risks and overall cost, delivering an internet provider protocol for proprietary maritime systems and providing the connectivity for those systems.
Additionally, providing crew members with a means to contact land-based operators can have an inherent effect on the way ship data is gathered. In a recent survey, only 56% of crew members said they have access to instant communications when at sea, according to Safety4Sea. Having reliable means of communicating can be a major advantage.
“There may be no direct commercial gain to increasing crew connectivity on board,” wrote Douglas Watson, a maritime executive, on LinkedIn. “But executives tell us they get far more information back about their vessels than they ever got before establishing reliable contact with crew. When the crew has better access to communication, they exchange more operational info about the state of the vessel, adding more data to what’s gathered from sensors to inform operational decision making.”