Internet connected ships are taken for granted outside the industry, but the reality is completely opposite.
With the maritime industry placing more emphasis on data, getting it from ships to land has become a crucial, yet overlooked part of the process.
It starts with having shipboard Internet, something that was unheard of as recently as 10 years ago. The role of shipboard Internet is rapidly changing. Once dominated by a ship’s crew, it is now being leveraged as a business tool.
Mr Morten Lind-Olsen, CEO at Dualog, a maritime digital platform, predicts more companies in the shipping industry will look to leverage shipboard Internet in the years to come.
“A ship’s crew was the main driver of on-board Internet in the first place. Today, Internet on ships is more a business-driven tool,” Mr Lind-Olsen says. “Companies now get the priority of bandwidth. Firms have realised it can be leveraged for improved business and vessel performance.”
The evolution of Internetequipped ships has been relatively slow when compared to other technological innovations. However, more ships have become Internet enabled during the past decade. And while there is increased shipboard connectivity these days, the nature of satellite communication means Internet speeds remain relatively slow compared to the land.
“If you go back 10 years ago, you would hardly find any Internet aboard ships because of bandwidth problems. Internet has slowly arrived since then, but it continues to be limited by bandwidth,” Mr Lind-Olsen explains. “This isn’t going to change at the same pace as it has on the shore side.”
Bandwidth growth is increasing at an exponential rate, while growth at sea has been quite linear over the past 15 years. Many people are not aware of this large discrepancy. With a majority of the world’s population on land, there hasn’t been a surge of investment to improve bandwidth at sea. Mr LindOlsen points out that investment in satellite technology remains predictable and will likely stay at the same levels in the coming years.
“Even if the gap between Internet speed at land and sea continues to grow, there are currently a lot of new initiatives that offer improved bandwidth at sea. Today most shipping companies can afford to have a reasonable Internet connectivity on board,” Mr Lind-Olsen notes.
However, limited bandwidth at sea isn’t necessarily the obstacle it appears to be on the surface. Dualog, amongst others, provide a digital platform that is designed to operate in a limited bandwidth environment to ensure firms can get the data transfer they need.
“I don’t see limited bandwidth as a constraint,” Mr Lind-Olsen says. “At Dualog, we have technology that has been developed over the years to operate with narrow bandwidth. There are usually multiple ways of communicating, one narrow and expensive and the other broader and affordable. The key is leveraging these to the best effect.”
The data collector Maritime firms are more focused on Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and data collection now than they have been in the past. Ship owners want to take advantage of everything that can be done with data. But it means they have to be able to collect the information, an oftentimes overlooks aspect of the process.
“Dualog can act as the data collector. We are able to cover a missing
link and this role is underestimated quite a bit,” Mr Lind-Olsen explains. “We also help ensure ships bring only the data that needs to come ashore makes it there in order to maximize bandwidth. And we do it in a secure environment because security is quite important as well.”
Data is the new oil was a saying that was repeated throughout the Norway-Asia Business Summit. The idea behind the thought being companies can now find value in data to improve their processes which ultimately provide cost savings. While only an analogy, it is one Dualog sees itself fitting into.
“If data is the new oil, then Dualog is the drill. You have to drill to get to the oil and this technology is an important part of the oil and gas industry. Similarly, a ship will have a large amount of data, but getting it from sea to shore can be a challenge. Our platform allows firms to access the data in a similar way a drill provides access to oil wells,” Mr LindOlsen muses.
Of course, the comparison has its limitations. For example, oil and gas industries have regulations in place for drilling that dictate what companies can and can’t do. This is still a work in progress when it comes to data.
“At the moment, there is a complete lack of standards, both technical and other measures, in collecting data. There is a lot of room for improvement here,” Mr Lind-Olsen says. “The data itself isn’t enough for most companies. It needs to be analysed and put together in a manner that can benefit the performance of the shipping industry.”
Dualog has a clear philosophy on working with customers, most of whom are focused on optimising data collection and sharing this information. The firm also understands the unique challenges currently facing the maritime industry when it comes to data.
“Some data is commercial data you need to own, but the business as a whole is now looking at consolidation. We want to create standards for the data itself, how it can be utilised and making it available on the shore side in the best possible manner,” Mr Lind-Olsen says. “We are not the analyser of the data and we will never do that. However, we can help present it in a manner that makes it easy to analyse.”
Long-term strategy Dualog’s service extends beyond bandwidth optimisation and data collection. They are just elements of IT services and tools that can help with efficient vessel management. Mr LindOlsen believes IT in general is something many companies in the maritime industry don’t place enough emphasis on.
“The shipping industry need a long-term strategy for IT that includes the ships. This is not something that can be done on a 12-month budget,” Mr LindOlsen says. “While you don’t necessary need a lot of IT competence aboard the ships themselves, they have to be involved in the strategy. Many companies are focusing on data, but not everyone understands the role an IT strategy plays. Data generation, collection and its ability to be analysed are all connected to a broader picture.”
Founded in 1994, Dualog now has offices in England, Denmark, and Singapore in addition to Norway. Similar to what the company recommends to its clients, Dualog has focused on a longterm strategy in terms of global growth and expansion. It has been supported by other Norwegian businesses on its journey.
“We don’t have the means of the big companies, but we have had a lot of cooperation thanks to Team Norway. They really deserve a lot of credit,” Mr Lind-Olsen notes. “The Norwegian community in both Singapore and Japan have laid the groundwork for us to succeed in Asia. It isn’t just talk. These entities have contributed greatly to the business community.”
Above: Dualog recently signed a strategic development agreement with Tokyo-based NYK line. Present at the signing ceremony were representatives from Dualog and NYK accompanied by Government Officials from Japan and Norway, among them: Mr Morten Lind-Olsen, CEO of Dualog and Mr Svein Steimler, European President and CEO NYK Group, while Norway’s State Secretary for Trade, Industry and Fisheries, Ms Dilek Ayhan and Mr Hiroshi Tabata, Japan’s Vice Minister Transport, Tourism and International Affairs were looking on.