Shipping systems have gotten a bit more collaborative lately as the Industrial Internet of Things moves onboard. This new technology involves network-connected sensors, unified platforms, and increased transparency for ship’s crews. When it comes to data, the captain and the shore crew can get everything from real-time cargo reports to ship hull speed—conveniently transmitted across a variety of devices.
This type of ship-ecosystem monitoring technology and the IoT in general, might be old news to some industries—but for shipping and cargo in general, it’s a bit of a transformation. The maritime industry has historically lagged behind all others in terms of information technology and communications, so having the ability to manage cargo, hold temperatures, and other vital ships’ systems remotely is an evolution for both ship management and safety.
Apparently, data collection and ship systems management are just the beginning for the IIoT and the shipping world. Here are a few more promising use cases for implementing IIoT offshore:
While ships have been using high-frequency radios with great success for generations, the technology is quite limited. In the past, UHF radios were the sole form of communication between offshore ships, and the technology was used to relay location, speed, and weather conditions to fellow sailors for safety and routing information.
With the advent of the IIoT in shipping, a ship’s position can be tracked in real-time and shared with other ships in the area so they can make informed decisions about optimal crossings, timing, and other safety considerations. Shore-based support can plot a ship’s movements to analyze more effective routes from the comfort and connectivity of a well-connected office.
Network-connected sensors provide both large scale tracking of entire containers as well as real-time temperature control for refrigerated cargo.
The sensors are integrated with a processing unit and a mobile transmitter to compile data and alert the crew when problems arise. The systems monitor cargo and ships, but also provide logistics personnel the ability to keep an eye on specific cargo for quality, routing, and other real-time data from production through delivery.
When a vessel is laid up or dry-docked, it is not shipping goods—and therefore not making any money. Additionally, repairs for cargo vessels can get prohibitively expensive—and often, problems that would have been manageable become nearly debilitating by the time a working vessel takes a break for maintenance.
The IIoT and integrated maritime cloud-based software systems collect and transmit data related to the condition of ship’s systems, so captains and shore teams can manage problems and conduct maintenance before the damage becomes catastrophically expensive.
Perhaps an unforeseen benefit to having all this connectivity on board is that crews are more connected to shore than ever before—about 56% of crews now have access to instant communications while at sea. While the social media and instant messaging habits of crew members are not likely to impress their bosses, the emotional state of maritime personnel that goes for long stretches of time without seeing family and friends has likely seen a tremendous morale boost from the advent of the IoT at sea.
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