Sven-Eric Brooks is a business manager and IoT evangelist. He has studied at the University of Warsaw and holds an executive MBA in shipping and logistics from Copenhagen Business School. He has over 20 years of experience in the maritime industry with expertise in integrated bridge systems, smart and connected vessels and chip operations. He was business director at Northrop Grumman Sperry marine before joining KVH in 2020 as senior business development director, IoT. He lives with his wife and two sons in the countryside south of Hamburg, Germany.
We talk about IoT and the digital transformation that it enables for ship owners and digital service providers, digging into the practical experiences. We discuss data, automation and augmented work spaces and speculate on the future of autonomous shipping.
IoT isn’t a single monolithic solution. It encompasses a myriad of different applications that are founded and grounded in machine to machine connectivity. All these solutions will require a level of connectivity and a level of edge and cloud presence. And cyber security around this.
But ultimately, it's machine to machine connectivity. It's enabling people to work with data, enabling people to automate processes on the back of this data - but not necessarily without the human element. IoT does not neglect the human element, it actually includes the human element; it helps people in their daily routines and jobs. Our goal should be to uncover the potential of IoT, whether it's from a ship owner side, or class societies, and registries, the OEM side or service companies. Everybody has a role to play in maritime IoT these days.
KVH is primarily a connectivity provider. It started out in the crew welfare space, providing connectivity and content to cruise and ship management ship owners around the world for them to enjoy - web surfing, music and watching TV. But also connecting the vessel with the shore-based team.
KVH Watch is something new and distinct in the industry. It's the only dedicated and secure IoT connectivity service that allows for remote monitoring of assets and real-time interventions in the middle of the ocean.
The Information Technology Network on board of the vessel is split off from the operational technology - everything that touches the physical world or the machinery - and making that data available in a safe and secure environment.
For example, equipment manufacturers can monitor their sensors and improve the quality of their sensors and improve the quality of their maintenance agreements. Class societies can also deliver a remote survey experience to ships around the world. Software companies can offer vessel performance optimization services based on KVH Watch. And shipyards can monitor the the performance of their design in the field
There are multiple angles to IoT and the wealth of solutions and companies that are delivering digital services already today, and have extensive roadmaps and delivering more content further down the road, may tell us that shipping isn't as far behind the curve, as it's sometimes played out in the media.
The maritime industry could do with a bit of a better lobby, at least when it comes to public media. But we also have the challenge that we're dealing with probably the worst combination of all factors, compared to ground transportation, or air transportation. And ground transportation connectivity isn't an issue - you're always accessible. You're working in a very well developed environment. Likewise with air transportation, it’s a highly centralized industry. A handful of players in that industry define the standards, making it relatively easy to push standards through and adhere to them.
In the maritime industry, however, we have highly expensive and capital intensive assets sailing around the globe. Difficult to track, always moving targets in areas that may lack connectivity - forcing a reliance on VSAT, for instance. It's anything but centralized - it’s highly fragmented. Ships are built everywhere around the globe in so many different combinations and so many different configurations that there are virtually no standardized ships around. There are so many equipment vendors that each combination that you find on board of the vessel is unique.
These challenges naturally correspond to certain opportunities. If you need to roll out a digital service to a fleet of 20 vessels and you're dealing with your typical third-party ship manager, you may well need to deal with 20 different owners, you have different techniques. different technical setups, different antennas, different connectivity plans, different equipment onboard of the vessel. And that makes it really difficult for a digital service provider, e.g. a vessel performance optimization supplier, to deliver their services on board of those ships. Every single vessel becomes a project on its own. All these challenges accumulate to the point that companies are stepping away - it's just too difficult to roll it out to standardize solutions, or to build proper scalable digital services that are really powerful, because you never know whether you can actually deploy them in the field.
With KVH Watch, these external factors can be eliminated. There is one single dedicated gateway, which is cybersecure. You can book your port, and, and you can transfer your data and you can deliver your service on board that vessel in the safest manner. This ‘liberates’ IoT and increases the uptake of digital services and solutions in the maritime industry.
There are lots of promising maritime startups in Singapore, the UK and the Netherlands for example. They need the core sensor data to accomplish their mission.
In land based industries like automotive and oil & gas, technicians today can get support in remote environments. They can also get a personal conference experience and chat with experts remotely.
Several shipowners are now testing wearables that augment the workspace. In the navigator’s workspace they can see additional information marked up around vessels in their vicinity. In the engine room you see different types of equipment being highlighted and identified by the camera system, allowing you to pull in additional information of that system - such as operating guidelines or maintenance lists and technical handbooks. In essence, a merger of the physical world with a virtual world is happening.
The next three to five years may see half of the world's fleet taking big steps towards using data, AI and automation, as well as augmented workspaces.
“IoT does not neglect the human element, it actually includes the human element. It helps everybody in their daily routines and the daily jobs” - Sven-Eric Brooks.
“When it comes to IoT, the shipping industry needs to take more inspiration from land and air transportation, and also building automation.” - Sven-Eric Brooks.
“I would expect that within the next three to five years, half of the fleet are going to carry out remote surveys in conjunction with remote repair activities.” - Sven-Eric Brooks