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Technology friend or a Foe- The new Internet! IOT!!

Dear All,

We have been talking about various technological advances in mostly all aspects of Ship construction and operation. Continuing the series, we will talk about a technology which is even though quite old compared to other advancements we have discussed earlier, however It has recently entered the Shipping industry and more specifically the ships.

What we will be talking about is a different kind of Internet, which is called INTERNET OF THINGS also called IOT and how it has started changing the ships/Seafarers

We are very familiar with the term “Smart Phone”, and if we ask why is it called smart is because it can collect information and communicate with outside world (there are many Apps which makes the phone smart). Most of us would have heard about and used other gadgets which are able to collect information and communicate with outside world for e.g. Smart TV, Smart Refrigerator, Smart Air conditioner etc.

IOT is there in our world for quite some time and below shows a small timeline of the development of IOT before understanding what it is about actually


Kevin Ashton (Director of Auto-ID Labsat MIT) introduces the term “Internet of Things” and had used this term in his presentation for Procter and Gamble


LG announces Internet Digital DIOS – world’s first Internet-enabled refrigerator. Which actually did not succeed as it was too ahead of time.


The 1st International Conference on the Internet of Things (IOT 2008). The event was the first conference of its kind and took place in Zurich, Switzerland. It covered the topics of Internet of Things development. Around 250 individual authors from 23 countries submitted their IOT review papers.


Google announces a brand of smart glasses. Google Glass was a head-mounted device manufactured to fit the shape of eyeglasses. It featured a display that had the ability to show information hands-free, and a natural language voice recognition module to connect to the Internet via spoken commands.

After 2013, there have been many advancements in the IOT technology and presently in 2020, the IOT technology is completely ready to be used in all kindly of industries.

The IOT technology, basically by now you might have understood that it involves a lot of data transfer and exchange which in turn needs an internet with good bandwidth which was a challenge till recently. Even if we had the bandwidth the cost was nearly prohibitive for using IOT in large scale.

The internet in all ships were not available, hence IOT till recently was a distant dream for the owners, operators of the vessels as the technology gives immense data on the operation of the vessels to reduce costs and increase productivity.

With the introduction of Vsats and other communication methods and with communication cost becoming almost negligible with the ships, now is the time we are having Smart Ships!

Captain Rajesh M Unni, founder and CEO of Singapore based Synergy Marine Group that manages 272 ships globally, said conventional merchant navy ships are going to be replaced by smart ships (supported by digital technology) in future. As these ships demand an entirely new set of skills, it will pose a challenge to Indian seafarers, he warned.

“If you are a mechanical engineer, there are a lot of embedded systems that have come on top of the machines [on a ship] and there is a lot of info being built on the software side.

A couple of years ago, his group founded Alpha Ori Technologies, a Singapore-based firm which is into IOT, big data and building platform for the shipping industry. Then their team went on developing ‘SMARTShip’, a patented digital platform that turns normal vessels into smart ships.

So far, his team has installed its proprietary smart ship platform on 37 ships, globally. Further 100 ships, both old and new, will be turned ‘smart’ by the end of the year (Credit-Times of India, Kochi Edition 2nd Dec 2019)

There are a growing number of companies operating in maritime IOT offering services across five main areas: vessel tracking, emissions control, predictive maintenance, supply chain visibility, and safety and welfare.

A Drone is on its way to Deliver store to a ship at Singapore Anchorage
Drone Delivering stores to ship at anchor!

Drones are another high tech product as a result of the IOT technology which have now started supplying stores at Singapore anchorage as recently as in April 2020.

Why should we have Smart Ships /ports? What are the specific advantages and what’s in it for seafarers?

1) There is huge potential of use of IOT technology on container vessels and terminals

2) Big Container terminals had shifted to “Smart Port” technology where container, loading discharging and stacking were all done remotely.

3) The error of incorrect, loading, discharging or staking is minimized as all containers, the cranes are connected digitally.

4) The turnaround of ships is much faster as the containers are loaded and discharged faster

5) IOT greatly improves the condition monitoring of machineries where the sensors on those machineries give digital signals in change in parameters which are not visible to human eye and hence preventive maintenance can be done prior to the break down.

6) In container trade, the containers are also now Smart containers in which containers can give track and transmit information like temperature, humidity, velocity, altitude, light, vibration, wetness/dryness etc.

7) With the above data, the technology can exactly tell where is the container, what condition is it, when was the cargo damaged if it was, how many times the door of the container was opened etc. The list is endless.

8) IOT can be used in wrist bands which are specifically designed to worn at sea. The wrist band will track the health conditions of the seafarers when out sea and warn in case of a probable stroke or heart attack where help can be days or weeks away. If an owner decides to have all onboard wear such devices, the ship owner can collect anonymous data to better plan health and welfare of its seafarers.

Are there any negatives of the IOT technology?

1) There is one always with increase in technology is loss of jobs-low level repetitive jobs are the 1st to be lost to technology.

2) Port rotation is becoming faster hence the seafarers are board are almost continuously working and if the discharge/load ports are close by as it is most of the cases the schedule becomes very hectic.

In summarizing, IOT has come, better late than never but it has come to stay and will transform everything it touches to “SMART”.

Will meet you in my next post with yet another topic in maritime industry touching seafarers lives, till then Keep experiencing the IOT world of Alexa and Siri!

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