The Intelligent Ship – defining a new reality

25 May 2017

I am seeking for the bridge which leans from the visible to the invisible through reality.”
-Max Beckmann


The maritime industry is experiencing a generational shift. Digital technologies will create fresh opportunities and challenge the traditional competitive business models. To quote an example, when Apple introduced the iPhone a decade ago, it redefined the entire telecom industry and created an alternate smartphone segment. In a similar fashion, the shipping industry is on the brink of its defining moment.


Can a ship think?

Imagine the ability of a ship to decide a route based on a forecast of an upcoming storm along its path. Again, imagine another scenario where the route calculations center on a higher yield from knowledge of real-time cargo availability, bunker pricing and global movement of goods. Is this a definite possibility?

In this era of the internet of things (IoT), the shipping industry is undergoing a major revolution; where advanced technologies can help support predictive maintenance and informed real-time decision making. The objective of the next generation SMARTShip is to accurately forecast demand and match it with supply and thereby increase productivity, yield and efficiency while decreasing downtime, operation costs, and wastage. Such a transformation requires state-of-the-art software and hardware support systems that can help integrate control systems, electro-mechanical systems, computer servo systems within the ship efficiently. Safety and Reliability will continue to dominate the narrative along with operational efficiency and predictability.

Opportunities and Challenges

Through advanced state-of-the-art technologies, these next generation SMART ships will have the ability to combine ship voyage information with real-time data about weather, the ocean as well as historically available data to make SMART decisions. Some of these novel technologies include real-time descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics using Machine Learning; Drones for robotic tank and underwater hull inspections and; Big Data Analytics for being able to connect data from disparate systems to drive economic value. Combined with innovations in 3D printing that can be used to print key spares on board on demand and opportunities in virtual reality that can provide the ability to 'feel' the shipping ecosystem remotely, SMART ships can be an intelligent and safe solution for the current demands of the marine industry.

The maritime sector is rapidly adapting to these hi-tech changes. Numerous challenges still need to be overcome for across-the-board digitalization to realize fruition. One of the biggest tasks ahead is to confront the inertia of ship owners. Digitalization is not ironically 1-0 when it comes to effectiveness. It is a trajectory, and one needs to invest in adopting technology. The decision makers are well-removed from technology, so oddly they don’t miss what they don’t understand. Besides, the initial investment is capital intensive, and the ecosystem must evolve before standards are built. The industry also needs to focus on cultivating top talent which is relatively hard to find in this sector. Therefore, collaboration with technology companies like Alpha Ori is a faster solution to secure the required talent pool and, harness their capabilities to solve industry problems and market needs.Some of the other issues which demand significant attention are the reliability of equipment, the complexity of the installation and a cyber secure robust connection.

Alpha Ori SMARTShip IoT Platform

Alpha Ori’s SMARTShip IoT Platform plays a pivotal role in building solutions to enable remote control, real-time monitoring, configurable alerts, and notifications. The SMARTShip IoT platform is connected to the cloud, and tightly integrated with big data analytic platform while connecting all machinery and data points on board. Thousands of data points onboard the ship are connected via local server and plugged into Cloud to activate advanced real-time M2M communication, remote monitoring, diagnosis & guidance from shore-based Command & Control Center (C3). Additionally, Alpha Ori’s Big Data Platform uses the data from the Ship in combination with publicly available data to drive insights into operational efficiency.

We at Alpha Ori genuinely believe in making a difference using future technologies. In addition to creating value for ship owners, we believe in making the life of crew on board safer, helping them make better and informed decisions, making their stay more meaningful, ensuring that there is no room for harm to the environment and guaranteeing that people return home safely. All these milestones become achievable when the balance begins to tip for the intrepid. As the 'law of diffusion of innovation' states, the early adopters here will lead the way forward.


Sam is the Chief Product Officer at Alpha Ori Technologies (AOT). Alpha Ori is a B2B Technology company operating in IoT (Internet of Things), Ship ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and Big Data Science. For any comments reach out to sam@alphaori.sg

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