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 that provide ship captains and crew more visibility than ever. Ships have always been equipped with sensors that collect data. Now that data can be optimized and sent in real time to a captain, his or her colleagues, other ships in the network or the shipping company’s communication headquarters on land. The sensors monitor everything from a ship’s speed to the temperature of its cargo, allowing for an optimized shipping ecosystem. Despite the fact that ships carried an estimated total of 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 internet of things solutions can be implemented in maritime operations have 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 incredibly 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 REX (Route Exchange) that displays an interactive map. This map lets the company’s captains provide other seafarers their route intentions, and even gives 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% a year.
“Knowing each ships’ intentions, we can optimize our speed and avoid unnecessary, long re-routing,” 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 major benefit are 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 get below or above the optimal mark, a crew member can be notified and begin looking into the problem immediately. The peace of mind that perishable goods are constantly being monitored will increase the likelihood of return customers.
Additionally, these systems can not only monitor cargo and the ships that carry it, but also gives stakeholders the ability to obtain and analyze real-time data from production warehouse to final recipients.
The maintenance of an offshore supply vessel is expensive and time consuming. It costs anywhere between .5 ($58,000) and 1 million Norwegian krone (NOK) ($116,000) per day to have a vessel offline, according to the paper Big Data and Industrial Internet of Things for the Maritime Industry in Northwestern Norway written by researchers in Norway. According to the paper, a maintenance project involves dry docking a boat, pre-ordering parts and contacting personnel. In one example, a five-week operation was budgeted at 25 million NOK, or nearly $3 million.
Ericsson’s Maritime ICT Cloud is a good example of an industrial internet of things platform that can be used to monitor expensive equipment, and fix any problems before they get out of hand. It connects embedded engine- and hull-monitoring systems with bridge communications in a way that reduces 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,” Douglas Watson, a maritime executive, wrote 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.”