We live in a digital society where we all want to be connected – anytime, anywhere, on land, at sea and in the air.  Connectivity is no longer seen as a cost burden but as an enabler of the digital society. Global production and supply chains are increasing in complexity encompassing different industries with each own business models, processes, regulatory frameworks and authorities.

Internet of Things (IoT) is set to play a key role in creating transparency and enhancing efficiency of the global supply chain. Players within the supply chain that can use data to improve their operations and are able to create partnerships, are set to gain significant competitive advantage.

In 2018, Inmarsat carried out a research program to understand how IoT is adopted within the supply chain. An independent market research firm, Vanson Bourne, conducted the study. They interviewed 750 respondents across different sectors, i.e. agriculture, energy, maritime, mining, transportation and in the retail and financial sector.

Based on their answers, the respondents were categorized in four groups:

  1. Laggard
  2. Starter
  3. Progressive
  4. Leader

They also interviewed 125 maritime respondents worldwide. Interestingly, 79% of the maritime respondents fell into the laggards and starters group. Although the maritime industry is adopting IoT, they are not adopting it progressively.

The research showed that:

  • $2.5 million is the average shipowner investment in IoT solutions the next three years. 24% is planning on investing more than $3 million and 14% less than $100.000.
  • 100% of shipowners / managers surveyed will be using IoT solutions to meet emission regulations.
  • 51% of the respondents said the biggest obstacle in adopting IoT is the lack of timeliness of data. There is a time lag between obtaining the data from the ship and analyzing it on the shore side.

Another interesting report from Danish Ship Finance and Rainmaking analyzed trends on startups. They identified 160 startups currently operating or targeting the maritime industry. Startups are great testing grounds for new business models; they can experiment with new technologies, test new solutions and orchestrate value at a lower cost than established companies. The report categorized the startups in four groups:

The first two categories, “Performance Management” and “Vessel Optimization” focused on improving vessel efficiency through vessel tracking, vessel optimization. The other two categories, “Value beyond the vessel” and “Reinventing the operating model”, focused on optimizing the supply chain exploring new business models.

The report showed an exponential growth in the funding and the maturity level of the funding of startups. This is promising as investors would not be funding startups if they were not valid business models.

Based on the two reports, one can conclude that the challenge with IoT adoption is not on the demand side; ship owners and managers see the value of IoT and have  budgets. The challenge is not on the technology side either; there are many IoT suppliers and IoT startups. The main challenge is bridging the demand and supply side and getting data from ship to shore in a cost effective way.

In the current situation, a shipowner /manager will go to a third party application provider for an IoT solution. The third party application provider will install sensors onboard of the vessel. Then, data is send from ship to shore over the primary bandwidth of the ship owner / manager. This process repeats, the first application provider approached could be for voyage optimization, the second one for emission monitoring, and the third one for ballast water monitoring. As a result, the ship owner / manager will have several IoT systems and equipment on board and data is send multiple times from ship to shore. On the shore side the data is stored in different clouds and  is not interoperable locked into different application providers. Hence, the current way of getting data from ship to shore is not scalable and expensive. The smart ship needs an IoT platform that streamlines this process.

We envision a streamlined IoT platform, in which the shipowner / managers has one agnostic “box” on board the vessel that collects serial, analog and digital data. Data is transferred from ship to shore through dedicated bandwidth. Data is stored in a centralized, cloud-based database providing an Application Program Interface (API) and a dashboard for the shipowner /manager, so they can use and analyze the data. In addition, other application providers can tap into the cloud and data can be shared. This IoT platform provides a scalable and less expensive way of getting data from ship to shore.

To wrap it up, IoT adoption is growing in our industry with many new, innovative ventures. What we notice is that the smart ship needs dedicated bandwidth. Connectivity should no longer be a hidden cost for the shipowner /manager and should be included in the service of the application provider.

The smart ship is here to stay and will need high-speed connectivity, a scalable IoT platform and of course, cyber resilience.

Above text is an edited version of Miss Dana Jongens’ presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA London Conference.

View her presentation here:

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

About Dana Jongens, Safety Services Manager, Inmarsat Maritime

Dana Jongens is Safety Services Manager at Inmarsat Maritime, responsible for ensuring Inmarsat’s continued provision of consistently high quality satellite communication services for maritime safety of life at sea and maritime security taking advantage of new and innovative technical developments in these specific areas. As part of her role, Dana supported the successful application of Fleet Safety for GMDSS Recognition. Every single day, hundreds of thousands of seafarers place their trust in Inmarsat’s safety services, knowing that it will be there when it matters most. Dana has over 10 years of experience in the maritime industry and before joining Inmarsat, Dana held business development positions at various organizations within the port of Rotterdam and London. Dana has a Master degree in International Business from Tilburg University and studied at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo. She resides in the United Kingdom and is based at Inmarsat’s London headquarters.