In shipping’s rapid digitalisation process, the industry has started to embrace innovations and the “think big, start small” mentality. The embodiment of technological prowess coupled with innovative thinking and fast scale-ups are, of course, startups. London-based startup accelerator Startup Wharf counts 100+ maritime startups working on different solutions to optimise shipping markets, the supply chain, crew management, vessel tracking, etc.
Our official Startup Hub sponsor, Marlink’s Head of Strategic Business Development Gennaro Faella, told us why startups are important to his business:
“At Marlink, innovation is largely driven by our in-house technology, engineering and product teams. We are also inspired by our network of hardware and technology partners, but startups and strategic partnerships are critical to implement Marlink's Smart Connectivity strategy which supports our customers ongoing digitalization and business efficiency. It is this constant cycle of collaboration with customers, partners, internal experts and startups that helps us to continuously develop new innovations and applications for our shipping customers, ultimately solving their key problems in the areas of ship operations and remote management efficiency, supply chain and logistics digitization, and crew and ship technology management.”
So we spoke to the 4 startups (Jan Hanken, CEO of Idatase, Shachar Tal, Founder of Loginno, Mathias Schröer, Head of Solutions Delivery at Contiamo, and Pascal Visser, Partner at Pentar) to find out more about their company’s origins and innovative solutions presented at this year’s Shipping2030 Asia.
Semantic digital twins
Coming from an IoT, AI, and general technology innovation background, Jan Hanken of Idatase brings an industry agnostic solution and viewpoint to the table.
“What we’re seeing is that logistics has a distinct problem, which is that in this space, data is interchanged every second basically”, Hanken told us. “This is a global problem and it is hard to tackle with traditional methods and traditional data analytics. From our perspective, coming up with a proper distributed approach to analytics and semantic standardisation so that one thing means the same across all the systems, is the only way that we can move on from traditional approaches to innovative ones. This is basically where the opportunities lie for us – distributed computing, distributed analytics and the ability to create a proper semantic foundation to all things IIoT (industrial internet of things) analytics.”
If you have this advantage over your competition, you are already a huge step ahead.
To ensure understanding across all business stakeholders, Hanken’s solution NetLume makes the connection.
“NetLume enables rapid prototyping and true iterative scaling of data analytics in IIoT environments based on creating a common frame of reference for all necessary stakeholders, like business, engineering and data analytics experts and increasingly also AI itself”, Faella said. “We need to realise, that in IoT, no matter the good intent, initiatives are more likely to fail than not! 3 out of 4 projects flat out never make it into production. In big data analytics this number stands at 85%! So, differentiating solutions with perspective from those without early on is of utmost importance.”
But of course, without technological innovation, such systems would hardly be possible.
“Nowadays, you are capable through data analytics and through much better computing resources to look at the processes and optimise”, Hanken explained. “This is something that would not have been possible earlier so of course this is a game-changer. One of our current projects is for a big car manufacturer in Germany, where we are looking into their e-trucks used by the municipality of a European capital city. Among other things we are analysing the factors affecting the lifetime of a battery. Out of this, you can calculate an optimal real time routing for all the trucks all over the city. These things wouldn’t have been possible without digitalisation because we wouldn’t have the situational awareness nor the basic systems necessary to measure how your assets are behaving. And if you have this advantage over your competition, you are already a huge step ahead.”
Contopia: the smart container utopia
“As an entrepreneur in the Israeli ecosystem, I can see that we really have everything here from every vertical, from cybersecurity to AI. But being a maritime industry startup is very unique”, Shachar Tal, Founder of Loginno told us.
In a slow-moving industry like shipping, Tal explained, a startup, designed to move fast, needs to “have a lot of patience”.
“Traditionally, maritime companies have been laggard – the last to install digital systems and the last to use available technology –, but this has changed over the last few years”, Tal noted. “The industry really caught up with (at least) the innovation side of things. Today, when we talk about innovations, corporate startup partnerships, the maritime industry is not laggard. It’s not completely innovative but a good one in the middle. I, for one, am very happy that it reached this stage, so you have a company like Maersk, for example, who built up their own innovation ecosystem, their own innovation division, and you have people who understand startups. Marlink is a very good example of this, a company who is interested in innovation all the time, so it is a good environment for a startup to thrive.”
According to shippers and shipowners, EDI just doesn’t cut it when it comes to 2018 logistics. Everybody wants to know where everything is in real time, and sadly that is not the case with containers.
“Loginno focuses on the physical aspects of shipping containers and turning those digital. The containers’ position around the world and whether they were accessed or not can be seen on our platform. The entire visibility and security aspect of the physical side of containers are translated to the digital world using IoT, sensors, communication, etc. This type of information to date is not available as standard. You have EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and that’s the entirety of organisations that deal with containers moving around. According to shippers and shipowners, EDI just doesn’t cut it when it comes to 2018 logistics. Everybody wants to know where everything is in real time, and sadly that is not the case with containers.”
Weighing in on the Loginno’s container tracking solution, Faella said: “End-to-end supply chain and logistics digitisation are top priorities for transport customers. What sets Loginno apart is its extreme focus on the technological expertise of its team, which uses Marlink to open potential complementarities in terms of Internet of Things (IoT), cargo forecasting, security, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) for logistics. As a container tracking solution, Loginno is compliant with current regulations, as this is the key to success in this highly regulated market. The solution has the capabilities of a very demanding "brain". This is much more advanced than a normal GPS tracker; Loginno offers rather an intelligent locator.”
“We coined the term Contopia (Container + Utopia) for when an entire fleet’s container ships are smart. And when I say smart, I mean that they are able to talk to us”, Tal told us. “Think of containers as having brains, eyes, ears, and mouths, and throughout the voyage in real time, it can talk to us about two very important things. One, about the cargo inside – the container can tell us at any point in time whether the cargo inside is in good condition. The other thing it can talk to us about is the environment of the container. Is it standing in a hot place? Is it being listed? Or is it on a crane at a port? It can even collect metadata, show hundreds and thousands of containers handled by the same entity and how well they are doing it in comparison to other ports in the world.”
“Turning chaos into order”
Also from an industry agnostic background, Mathias Schröer, Head of Solutions Delivery at Contiamo, shared his insights with us:
“The logistics and maritime industries have vast, complex distribution networks that are highly integral to their customers’ business. These networks are expected to run seamlessly; securely distribute large quantities of goods quickly; and adapt to customers’ changing demands, often at short notice.
Meanwhile, a huge amount of data is being produced – from vessel geolocation data to humidity sensors within containers to customer bookings. Much of the data is highly complex; the source and systems may vary; and the format of the data can be vastly different. This makes data harmonisation difficult and puts many challenges in the way of this data being used to power decisions and processes.
However, this is a challenge worth facing. Addressing the opportunities provided by digitalisation, specifically by big data, will lead to significant measurable impact for shipping companies. As a first step, harmonisation of this data can be used to provide unprecedented transparency both internally and with customers and partners. Secondly, customers can turn the vast and disparate data landscape into a powerful predictor of decision-influencing factors. In short, data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence can be applied to turn the unpredictability into routine; to turn chaos into order.”
The uniqueness of Contiamo’s solutions impressed Faella: “The company has built its own technology platform and can therefore integrate the data sources of several customers and partners. Our shipping customers find it difficult to identify a solution that allows them to integrate multiple platforms into different parts of the supply chain. Pilots with Contiamo have demonstrated the impact of real-time data integration, the development of models for data science, and the use of these models in user interfaces for the customer, partner, or for internal purposes. It enables the end-to-end process from data creation to data processing and provides customers with more real-time visibility.”
Leveraging data science, IoT and other digital tools has changed the game in logistics.
“There are two main ways data science and IoT is transforming the maritime industry – increased transparency and greater predictability”, Schröer told us. “Concerning transparency, shipping companies are using sensors within containers to measure environment factors, such as temperature, humidity, O2/CO2 balance and air pressure. This data is being streamed directly into user interfaces that are made available to customers. These customers can access these metrics and are experiencing an unprecedented level of transparency into, not only the location of their goods, but their wellbeing. In some cases, shipping companies are able to go a step further – leveraging smart containers and IoT – to allow customers to control those environmental variables in real-time.
Much of the data is highly complex; the source and systems may vary; and the format of the data can be vastly different. This makes data harmonisation difficult and puts many challenges in the way of this data being used to power decisions and processes.
The advent of data science is allowing maritime companies to bring increased predictability to their distribution networks. Companies can use increasingly accurate data science models to predict customer demand, identify likely breakpoints in their networks, and forecast maintenance requirements for vessels, containers and machinery. With increased predictability, shipping companies can improve their processes. They can optimise the transportation of goods and empty containers to ensure supply always matches demand; optimise maintenance schedules to reduce downtime and operational inefficiency; and they can optimise their distribution networks to bring greater reliability and increase speed.”
Curing “inefficiency and sub-optimisation”
Pascal Visser’s passion for the maritime industry is one of the drivers that inspired him to innovate it via Pentar.
“Operating in the maritime industry, on the one hand feels like a little boy’s dream, very concrete, huge equipment, global”, Visser told us. “On the other hand, certain trends are substantially changing the way the industry works. I believe that trends such as climate change should be at the forefront of the maritime innovation, and IT is the driver of the innovation. Currently though, most of the processes still have a huge manual, human interface component to them, leading to inefficiency and sub-optimisation.
“I do, however, see a number of potential disruptors such as online platforms supported by blockchain for commercial processes and planning. And of course, the global internet-of-things can help the industry know and predict the status of individual parts and enhance preventive maintenance. My personal favourite is artificial intelligence leading to robotics and autonomous shipping, and hopefully fuelling the so needed energy transition.
The maritime industry has had a focus on enlarging vessel capacity, bringing down costs and optimising different processes. Now, companies seem to be well aware that they need to transform themselves into digital players using all the data they have collected in the recent years. But they are now trying to do everything at the same time: replacing legacy, moving to the cloud, robotising processes, digitising platforms. This creates huge project environments that are hard to control and lack focus. Innovation should start small, in labs for instance, where you can try out different innovations before scaling them up into the organisation. This will provide focus and time to make sure the innovations are absorbed and prove of value.”
The input from the pilots was so strong that we decided to throw away the platform and start all over again.
Convenient and compatible with mobile devices (smart phones, glasses, and tablets), Faella said that Pentar “provides a software-as-a-service augmented reality platform that optimises maintenance processes through live video calls, file sharing, live on-screen drawing, and more. It is a tool for remote field operations that reduces time, money and travel as well as dependency on key employees.”
Faella also noted that Pentar’s solutions can “increase the success of service intervention by approximately 50% the first time and reduce onsite training time by 40%”.
Its development, however, took dedication.
“During the first six months of 2018 we have performed a number of pilots with clients to learn from real life experience and receive feedback to make the solution stronger. The input from the pilots was so strong that we decided to throw away the platform and start all over again”, Visser told us.
“We provided our smart glass solution to a large maritime player’s two vessels”, Visser shared. “We wanted to prove that the percentage of fixes done by the crew on board during transit could be raised substantially. When problems occurred, they could immediately set up a real time connection with the on-shore expert centre. In a number of cases, they were well able to support the engineer on board with solutions he could implement himself. This meant that the expert did not need to fly in, reducing travel costs and downtime.”
Marlink’s and Faella’s support for the Shipping2030 Startup Hub is driven by the desire to collaborate.
“Together, we can create value that neither Marlink nor the startups will be able to deliver on their own. Therefore sponsoring the Shipping2030 Startup Hub is a great opportunity to demonstrate and promote new innovations for our top shipping & logistics customers. We recently announced strategic partnerships with two start-ups which presented their innovations earlier this year at Shipping2030 Europe in Copenhagen. We now want to repeat this in Singapore to scout, partner and potentially invest in new start-ups to jointly develop innovative solutions for our maritime customers.”