The potent combination of Brexit and Covid-19 have ensured that shipping and logistics are rather more prominent concepts in politics, media and the public consciousness than they perhaps have been historically. From underpinning the global vaccine rollout, to keeping food and drink on the shelves amidst fast-changing labour markets and international trade tariff landscapes, these complex industries are behind the success – or failure – of some of the most crucial facets of our everyday lives.
But what has all this got to do with the Internet of Things (IoT)? Well, just as in so many other sectors, the IoT is transforming how the shipping industry operates. Here are just some of the maritime applications of the IoT.
Smoothing regulatory compliance
The shipping industry is a heavily regulated one, and shipping organisations must capture and supply a vast amount of data in order to demonstrate regulatory compliance. From emissions to cybersecurity, an array of key metrics must be tracked. And because the IoT is fundamentally a mechanism for collecting and harnessing data, it can play a valuable role in automating and streamlining these processes.
Making maintenance predictive, not reactive
We’ve mentioned predictive maintenance many times on this blog – because it is a truly transformative intervention for any organisation which relies on expensive or sophisticated physical assets – like those in the shipping industry. By transitioning from only undertaking maintenance once something has already gone wrong, to proactively identifying when maintenance is most likely to be needed, and least likely to be disruptive, businesses can drastically extend the useful lifespan of their physical assets, and more smoothly integrate maintenance into their regular operations. The knock-on financial savings can be huge. The IoT provides the crucial underlying infrastructure, monitoring key maintenance metrics and providing automated alerts when specific points are reached.
Inventory and cargo management
There are several different facets to this on a typical ship. First, of course, there’s the cargo itself – which might comprise thousands of separate containers. Then, there are myriad categories of crucial hardware, from spare parts to medicine – all of which need to be meticulously tracked to ensure that levels are appropriate and that they are to hand whenever needed. The IoT can have a powerful impact of this kind of management, by automating inventory tracking and reporting.
Meanwhile, for individuals or businesses waiting for a crucial shipment to arrive, location-tracking sensors can enable them to precisely monitor where their delivery is located – anywhere in the world. In turn, this can dramatically enhance customer relations and transparency.
Ensuring precise environmental control
Environmental conditions on board any ship are crucial – both for the crew and for the cargo. Ships need to monitor and control everything from temperature to air quality on an ongoing basis – throughout a large and complex environment. Just as in smart buildings on dry land, connected sensors can automatically track such conditions – and automatically control devices such as thermostats, air conditioners, fans and so on – in order to keep environmental conditions just right.
Saving fuel and driving environmental efficiency
Just as in any other aspect of the transport industry, shipping organisations are under pressure to manage their fuel as efficiently as possible, for reasons of both cost and environmental sustainability. Sensors integrated with the vessel’s population system have been shown to deliver between 10% and 15% of fuel savings per day following an initial period of calibration, by improving engine management. Other IoT solutions can alter engine performance to match environmental conditions like wave height.
The shipping and logistics industry is critical for getting organisations and individuals the things they need, when they need them. And in turn, the IoT industry is playing a critical role in helping those vessels perform better and better.