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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Shipboard internet of things helps shippers keep their cool and owners save fuel

Wed 31 Oct 2018

Shipboard internet of things helps shippers keep their cool and owners save fuel
Globecomm has developed a comprehensive IoT system for a fleet of more than 300 container ships

Globecomm Maritime creates systems for global monitoring of refrigerated cargoes and leverages satellite communications expertise to collect fuel and performance data

The internet of things (IoT) promises a world of efficiency, convenience and cost savings, particularly in markets characterised by remote but critical connectivity.

Shipping is a particularly demanding place to deploy machine-to-machine technology, not only because of the harsh environment in which many vessels operate, but because shipowners are highly sensitive to the cost of satellite communications. IoT makes this possible by prioritising critical data and only transmitting what is necessary.

IoT solutions depend on real-time communications around the clock so in the shipowner’s cost-benefit analysis, the value of the cargo must justify the cost of constant monitoring.

Refrigerated shipping containers are designed to maintain a certain temperature to protect the perishable goods inside – as long as they are supplied with power from a truck, ship or from a diesel generator. There is real value in being able to advise the cargo owner that the temperature inside the container remains within the expected parameters and IoT technology is the best way to do it.

This challenge led one of the world’s biggest shipping lines to engage Globecomm in developing a comprehensive IoT system for a fleet of more than 300 container ships.

Globecomm engineered a pioneering solution for the maritime marketplace incorporating IoT data-sensing transmissions from individual containers into data notifications delivered by satellite to vessel operators. This cost-effective design was built through the decades of engineering experience Globecomm has meeting the communication needs of its customers.

Like all IoT deployments, the project required a close partnership between the systems integrator, communications carrier and technology provider.

Each refrigerated container is equipped with temperature sensors, a processing unit and GSM mobile transmitter connected to an onboard cellular base station, linked to an onboard satellite antenna. Each transmits regular bursts of data to the base station, which assembles the information into a stream of temperature readings related to the identifying number of the container.

The satellite terminal streams this data to a Ku-band satellite, which delivers it to the mobile carrier’s core network, from where it is transmitted to the shipping company’s IT systems.

The ‘killer app’ is that the shipping company can ask the crew to adjust the temperature inside the container if the vessel is running ahead or behind schedule, enabling produce to hit the market in peak condition – and avoiding potential claims for damage.

To make that happen, Globecomm leverages its fully-managed global Ku-Band VSAT network which roams automatically between multiple satellites to reach 95% of the world’s shipping lanes and a worldwide network of fibre-optic-linked teleports to receive the data.

Managing the connections on board ship is achieved by its Nimbus smartbox which maximises uptime and minimises costs, delivering a high quality of service by compressing and prioritising enterprise traffic to keep data usage under control.

While Nimbus keeps the data flowing, shoreside managers can access the system remotely via the Cirrus portal. Vessel operators can use the Globecomm Connect application to monitor and detect VSAT availability, and in the event of a service fail-over, ensure that signal data has automatically switched over to the back-up L-band in case of interruption.

Working with its project partners to harness the internet of things, Globecomm was able to provide the next generation of quality assurance, helping the customer improve the efficiency and profitability of its container shipping operations.

It also used its IoT expertise in a subsequent project aimed at directly impacting vessel operating margins.

During the roll out of the cargo monitoring network, the customer approached Globecomm with a desire to address their largest expense: fuel costs. The goal was to maximise fuel consumption efficiency by optimising routeing and engine RPM.

Globecomm provided the back-end collection of data including vessel speed, position and heading which the customer combined with weather, schedule and port availability information to optimise speeds and adapt routes as needed, to provide cost savings running to thousands of dollars per day.

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