Digitalization is bringing along a whole lot of new terms and buzzwords. People sometimes wonder if this is just an influx of marketing terms rather than a blow in the way we are working and doing business. From one point of view, this scepticism, especially in the industry is justified: the IT world has failed to fully deliver on several occasions. So why is it this time different? And what is this Internet of Things thing?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is it really new?
The Internet of Things (IoT) and it’s industrial counterpart (IIoT) are two of the buzzwords that the press is raving about. So how is this different from the good old condition monitoring system on the main engine of a ship? The truth is, it is not so different and it is even not so new. The idea of the IIoT dates back to 1968 with the invention of the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) which incorporates some programmable logic that, based on some input, e.g. from sensors, computes some output, e.g. to actuators. Though the 1980s and 1990s, with the introduction of Ethernet and the Internet, people started imagining and inventing a world where devices would produce and consume data, connect to each other and allow for the extensive automation of processes.
So if it’s not new, what’s the point of it?
The vision is not new and has been maturing in the dreams of several people in the last 50 years. But the technology that enables the IIoT is certainly much newer. Two technological concepts are key to the implementation of the IIoT: the identification of each device and the cloud. These two innovations are door openers to one of the biggest hurdles in implementing the IIoT: scaling. When each device can be actively or passively identified, inventories or networks of devices can be created. Systems can be designed, emerge and scale. Furthermore, the cloud is enabling the sharing, storage and processing of data from innumerable sources in unprecedented scale. Devices can be added and removed with ease, communicate with each other and the cloud, provide business intelligence and artificial intelligence cloud applications with invaluable volumes of data. So imagine that the odd condition monitoring of the past is now capable of making its information available to the cloud, along with other sensors and devices, allow systems to process the data and control machinery, stakeholders to acquire relevant system views, scale from the main engine to the ship, the fleet, the supply chain. Moreover, the architecture of these systems is such that allows for new sensors and new applications to integrate easily. It is today much easier and cheaper to use commercially and broadly available components and open protocols to devise new sensors and controllers by combining software and hardware. Obviously, this is the bread and butter of innovators and startups.
Maritime IIoT applications
Arundo provides software to enable enterprise-scale machine learning and advanced analytics applications. The Arundo Maritime Suite helps reducing fuel consumption, optimize routes and improve cargo tracking through fleet benchmarking. By assessing the most efficient assets and understanding how these conditions can be replicated to other ships, it is able to reduce operating costs and provide the crew with tools for improved decision making. Furthermore it makes it possible to have customized alerts about sea levels, weather, cargo conditions and equipment anomalies.
One of the main criticisms of IIoT is that as it expands, it creates increasingly more cyber attack vulnerabilities. Cydome Security attempts to provide a response to this: it offers a cyber solution seamlessly safeguarding the maritime IoT ecosystem, including guidance, sensor, control, command, communication systems and linkage to coastal infrastructures.
ioCurrents takes on reducing operating costs and increasing data visibility through its MarineInsight analytics platform that gathers, analyzes and transmits data in real time. It consists of two main components: the DataHub, an onboard mini-computer that collects and analyzes data locally, and a remote analytics cloud platform. Vessel data come from a variety of equipment such as engines and generators but can also collect data from equipment with a digital interface, including Z-drives, transmissions, fuel and water tanks, winches, and PLCs. In addition, custom sensors can be installed to monitor temperature, vibration, and other vessel environmental parameters.
Parsyl on the other hand takes on the supply chain issues. It offers an IoT quality assurance and risk management solution that helps shippers, suppliers and insurers understand the quality conditions of sensitive and perishable products as they move through the supply chain, both in transit and storage, from source to final destination. Parsyl’s platform includes its proprietary Trek multi-sensing devices, a mobile app, an optional plug-in gateway, and web-based insights and analytics tools.