The current industry buzz in the maritime field is predicting that the new technologies are set to change the face of shipping. The autonomous vessels, virtual reality, drones, robotics and cyborg crew, all these are going to change the role of technology in the marine industry and in an inevitable way, the roles for people and the skills that the industry require in their personnel is also going to change in the future too. In the next paragraphs we are going to develop this subject, by giving real examples from the industry.
How to better understand data through new computer capabilities
Let’s start with a first example. With the use of ‘Machine’ learning technologies, marine and maritime owner-operators are better understanding their customers. By this means, the Internet of things (IoT) – which, uses the internet to interconnect uniquely identifiable, electronic devices, software, sensors and actuators - is increasingly utilising deep learning computers and high-volume data analytics for monitoring onboard machinery for performance management and predictive maintenance purposes, and is making in-roads into shipping with liner operators such as the Maersk Group, who are leading the way in using the technology for container tracking and reefer monitoring.
On the other hand, ‘machine’ learning is also being investigated as an application to enable autonomous surface vessels to navigate without human interaction, using intelligent algorithms and IoT technology to provide onboard computers with problem solving skills and predictive capabilities which, can be used in images, video, and audio recognition.
Assisted transportation using autonomous vessels
The facts shown in a recent study suggest that assisted transportation using autonomous vessels is in fact a realistic technology trend for 2018, with these vessels providing greater assistance to onboard crew operations. Many industries already use different types of flying autonomous craft or ‘drones’ in order to provide surveyors with information on difficult to reach areas on buildings and structures. Using drone technology on ships is not a common action at present, but as commercial models make more robust models, needed to meet the requirements of maritime applications, including delivering parcels to ships close to coastlines and navigating in ice conditions to provide more accurate information to masters, this is likely to become a vital part of day-to-day operations.
Virtual reality in a virtual maritime domain
2018 is expected to be the year when the first commercial virtual reality (VR) training programs will be available to market, but that is just the beginning of the potential uses for this technology which, has its roots in computer games. On cruise ships, offshore vessels and commercial shipping, VR has potential for use in passenger and crew entertainment. To further enhance onboard crew safety, operator-owners are beginning to investigate developments in cyborg crew - wearable technology – which, can be used to monitor heart rates, accumulated steps or sugar levels etc, in real-time, to ensure the health and wellbeing of crews.
Without doubt, there will be a great impact created by these developing technologies and will have prolonged ramifications for its future. Some are already well advanced, while others are still in early development. Almost all of these are already in use in other industries and just need a trigger for them to be adopted in maritime.
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