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The role of data and purpose in smart connected vessels – and who owns it?

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The adoption of intelligent infrastructure and smart logistics has experienced a few hurdles, but nothing truly unexpected. Recently, the Maritime Informa Connect team were discussing data, and how maritime and logistics companies have been maximising the value of their connectivity and data. We had more questions than answers and decided to reach out to our network for the answers - Andrew Faiola was more than happy to oblige.

Andrew is currently Head of Mobility at Newtec, where he is responsible for the company’s strategy for aviation, maritime, and land mobile.

Previously, Andrew spent 15 years at Intelsat, the world’s leading satellite company, in a number of different direct account management and leadership positions, most recently leading the Mobility Solutions sales team for Europe, Middle East, and Asia.

Ahead of Shipping2030 Asia, Maritime Informa Connect spoke with Mr. Faiola about digital transformation, connectivity, and the who really owns a ship’s data.

Read the full Q&A below.

Iain Gomersall: With regards to digital transformation in the shipping industry, would you say that wholesale transformation is required, or is the shipping industry facing a change management exercise - just several magnitudes bigger?

Andrew Faiola: We often look at shipping as a unique industry. In many ways it is but it is an industry, like many others, going through large changes in the way in which business is done.

It's a very traditional industry that’s been behind the digital transformation curve compared to other industries. I'm not sure there is a big difference between wholesale transformation or change management exercise, but at the end of the day, many functions of the shipping industry will be digitalised.

To me, it’s a question of whether individual companies and other parts of the ecosystem do that in an incremental way, or in a big-bang kind of approach. This will depend on several factors and requirements.

Q: Connectivity is here - what does the future look like for information and data provision?

Mr Faiola: As connectivity has begun to be ubiquitous in many segments of the maritime environment, shipping companies have realised it is another tool to make their businesses’ run more efficiently.

Connectivity opens a door, it removes barriers to being able to share information across platforms, within companies and between different parts of the ecosystem. As the door has opened, what might have been a trickle in the past, is now an unleashed deluge of data.

The trick now is not going to be the connectivity, but about how to manage that deluge of data and pick out what is important. It’s not so much about big data, it’s really about smart data and being able to find the insights in the data that can then be actionable to the benefit of the business.

Q: You're responsible for the Newtec's strategy for aviation, maritime, and land mobile. What sort of barriers are you experiencing with regards to adoption?

Mr. Faiola: One of the macro barriers, is seamless supply chain management - going across maritime, aero and land mobile.

When you think about transporting goods around the world, you're doing that in a multi-modal way and adoption is one of the largest barriers one will experience when dealing at a global level. You may have many service providers, different types of connectivity environments, and transmission technologies, to name a few.

Moving a package from seller to end user, if you are able to stitch together multiple vendors and suppliers in a seamless way – to know where things are and how they are being treated - is an extremely complex. I think the magnitude of the task is a barrier unto itself.

If you drill in a bit deeper, there is a whole set of “real” barriers for organisations adopting connectivity into an environment that previously didn’t have connectivity. You’re opening yourself up to a whole new set of risks and environments such as security, information assurance and data protection, that didn’t exist before.

What seems like a simple case of, we're now going to have great broadband connectivity on our ships, becomes a whole new set of compliance challenges.

It's really not as simple a decision as we wish it was.

Q: Successful innovation needs data and purpose. Who will win shipping’s battle for data? Shipowners? Operators? Ports? End customers?

Mr Faiola: I don't necessarily see it as a battle. In terms of first principles whoever, or whatever, is producing the data, owns the data. That's the first piece.

Now the data is being produced, if it sits in isolation, it's not going to be as useful to stakeholders.

In the aviation environment, Rolls Royce supplies engines to many different airlines. These airlines don't necessarily want Rolls Royce to share the data which is generated from their aircraft, with other airlines that are also using Rolls Royce engines.

However, Rolls Royce want to be able to aggregate data from all their engines across all airlines and aircraft that are using particular models of engines. The larger the data set they have the more insights they derive from that. Ultimately, that enables them to deliver a more reliable, higher quality service to all their customers.

I think the shipping environment might be experiencing a similar dilemma.

How are we going to get over that hump?

If a ship has a powerplant on it which is producing a large amount of data, who owns that data may depend on the commercial structure around the vessel.

In my opinion, it's less about a battle for data but rather a tug-of-war – we just need to find a balance of how companies share data.

There is also a general understanding that when you talk about the raw data that this sits with the owner or producer of that data. If you are manipulating that data to create actionable insights however, then ownership of that does not necessarily sit with the producer of the data. But, I should expect that the owner or producer of the raw data is benefitting in some way so as to make that sharing of the raw data worthwhile and of value.

Whether it’s consulting companies or a company we have not even heard of yet, it will be about who can dip into these lakes of data, manipulate the information, and pull out actual insights that people can use to run their businesses better.

It could very well be a company that has come from another sector or environment. They could bring something totally new to the industry, something that has been well proven in other industries, and that is able to deliver data intelligence for companies in the maritime sector.

Q: How do shipping businesses remain sustainable and within regulatory framework conditions, yet still promote innovation and remain competitive in current markets?

Mr Faiola: Necessity is the mother of invention, and a lot of innovation comes from having to comply with the regulatory framework.

Shipping companies tend to adopt new technology for two reasons; 1) to save money, 2) for compliance.

I think it can be a virtuous circle as a lot of the new innovations we are seeing have been adopted to save money as current market conditions are stressed. It’s no surprise to see shipping companies are having to find ways to cut costs in order to remain profitable.

At the same time, with things like IMO 2020 in mind, companies are having to adopt technologies in order to stay compliant in terms of a regulatory standpoint.

Q: At Shipping2030 Asia you will be moderating a panel on "Smart Connected Vessels and Fleets". The session will cover a wide variety of topics from: Connectivity and automation, to intelligent infrastructure and smart logistics. What steps would you suggest to a ship owner that is at the start of their digitalisation journey?

Mr Faiola: It isn’t always the best thing to be first, sometimes it makes sense to be a fast follower.

I think at an event like Shipping2030, where shipping companies can come together in a collaborative way to learn from each other, would probably be the first suggestion that I would give to a ship owner.

We’re now at a stage in digitisation where there are plenty of successes as well as failures.

If you are starting your digitalisation journey now, it would be wise to look at your peers who are further along their journey than you. What’s worked for them, and what hasn’t. From here, make decisions taking this information into account.

With this in mind, the clock is ticking. The current economic environment is unforgiving and companies that are too slow to react are going to have trouble.


Andrew Faiola joins a distinguished speaker panel at Shipping2030 Asia (Part of Shipping Transformation Asia). Join us to hear from the industry leaders and change makers pioneering change in the shipping industry. 

Learn more about Shipping2030 Asia here.

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