I’ve had a lot of great conversations recently with leaders, partners and observers of the maritime industry – and I’ve been inspired by our interactions.
What I’ve noticed is a real and growing interest in how technology can help the industry confront some of its biggest challenges. For someone like me, who represents IT solutions in this space, I’m thrilled by the interest I’m seeing.
But I’m also recognizing that not everyone has a clear grasp on what people like me mean when we discuss technology opportunities.
For instance, it’s not just about engineering feats. Building bigger and better ships and creating deeper berths – those changes can absolutely have a positive effect. But they require huge investments and buy-in from multiple players – governments, regulators – to achieve.
What I’m talking about is using existing IT – tools such as cloud, mobility, IoT, data analytics, automation – to improve operations, drive efficiencies and create cost savings for the business – right now. These digital tools are being adopted by companies in nearly every industry, and the maritime sector is ripe for the same transformation.
I want to call specific attention to two emerging technologies that, in my opinion, simply can’t be ignored by maritime any longer:
Big Data Analytics
We’re living in a data-driven age. Maritime companies have access to sensors capturing data about everything from vessel engine performance to fuel usage, and they can tap into data streams supplying info about weather, routes, port activity, workforce and more. By wading into this data sea, companies can have more-educated oversight of their operations.
But having access to data (and this isn’t a cut-and-dry process either) and actually being able to turn it into something useful is far from the same thing. With big data analytics platforms, companies can extract trends and correlations, make predictions and adjustments and even develop new products based on hard facts. The potential is huge.
My colleague, Data Scientist Jerry Overton, commented on another neat use for data and machine learning in maritime: “International trade is risky – importers may not pay and exporters may not deliver…,” he pointed out in response to my recent post. “Machine learning can find meaningful patterns buried in the noise. The economic factors of a country can be used to better predict and reduce the risk of an international trade.”
IoT and Automation
Spend a minute Googling “autonomous shipping” and you’ll see an enormous interest in the use of unmanned, fully connected vessels to move goods across the sea. It’s a potential game-changer for the industry – and one that depends on technologies companies can embrace right now.
While organizations are starting to invest in the Internet of Things, with sensors on certain pieces of equipment, for instance, they can really go beyond this basic use to include geolocation data, cargo monitoring, freight tracking, laser sensors, high-res cameras and more. All of this IoT data can be fed into the big data analytics platform and visualized in a way that helps command centers make better decisions.
And automation doesn’t only result in crew-free shipping. It’s really about finding and enabling processes that can be done automatically by machines. This frees up skilled crew members to focus on more important tasks.
I see these two related areas as a starting place for any maritime organization looking to move forward in the digital age. It’s here. It’s affecting, disrupting, changing and reimagining industries and companies all around us – and with the right guidance and direction, maritime won’t be left in its wake.
Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing the process of IT modernisation in the maritime industry and hopefully bring to light some new ways of thinking about this industry. Join me on the journey, and please add your thoughts here on the blog space or by connecting with me on social media (LinkedIn). I look forward to interacting!
Anna Cebaseva, a CSC client relationship executive supporting global engagements in maritime, brings a new perspective to this historic industry. As the only services integrator with a dedicated maritime focus, CSC offers leading solutions to maritime organisations navigating the journey to the digital enterprise.