A-Z of Voyage Informatics – Part One

StratumFive has become a major provider of digital solutions in shipping over more than a decade in operation. From sophisticated tracking and security applications through to voyage optimisations enabled by the digital revolution and what is now called maritime informatics we continue to evolve. We challenged ourselves to come up with a handy A-Z of some of the most important terms. Here is Part One.

  • Artificial Intelligence – (AI) is the ability of a computer or a robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans. In fact, AI is a broad term covering several subsets or types of artificial intelligence. As shipping looks ever more at a model embracing AI there are 4 different key kinds. These are “reactive machines”, which are a kind of simple robot, and they react to what goes on around them. There is a “limited memory” machine, this retains some information from observations, an AI car would store lanes, markings etc. As an AI ship would understand COLREGS and systems of buoyage. Then comes a very big leap forward, we have the “theory of mind” – there are robots being developed that can hold conversations, and respond to interactions. These will improve and be refined, and then we have the ultimate AI machine, that with “Self awareness”. These are machines that have human-level consciousness and understand their existence in the world. They don’t just ask for what they need, they demand what they want…and you probably don’t need a PhD in robotics to see that may come with some challenges!
  • Blockchain – is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. It is a time-stamped series of a record of data that is managed by several computers that are not owned by any single person or company. So is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. This is perfect for digital contracts, and as shipping is document intensive and has time consuming processes, then Blockchain is a means of enhancing compliance, improving client relationships, reducing costs and boosting speed, while making the process more secure and transparent.
  • Collaboration – we all probably know what collaboration means, its a simple concept about working together to do something. That rather simplistic ideal becomes slightly more complex when it comes to maritime informatics. Digital collaboration has many different aspects to it, and actually places a number of demands on parties. However, if done right, if started on the right footing then the results can be transformational. To get the process working takes communication, project management, sharing of data, access, security and all underpinned by a sound strategy. Collaboration means the deck department having insight from the engine room, it means the HR team knowing what the accounts are doing. It means your clients having the data and intelligence they need to inform there decisions. Each step should make something better, developing an “ecosystem” (more of that later) which is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Digitalisation – is the process of leveraging digitisation to improve business processes. So we digitise the information we need, making it digital – and then we can do something with it. That is the digitalisation bit. The key to rewarding digitalisation is not just optimising any one aspect of a voyage, but instead bringing together datasets from multiple and sometimes unexpected sources. To ensure we able to give seafarers, crew and operators the answers they need. While giving clients, regulators, and even society, the answers they want.
  • Ecosystem – in the natural world an ecosystem is a community or group of living organisms that live in and interact with each other in a specific environment. Think of a beautiful reef teeming with life. In a digital sense an ecosystem a network of inter-connected companies or even ships, and extends across multiple industries.  As shipping becomes increasingly “smart,” corporate partners are beginning to work together to create “interconnected offerings”. Such a coming together of offers can prove more valuable than a single company’s isolated product or service. So the ecosystem brings rewards for those in it, and for those using it. Stratum Five is at the heart of a maritime ecosystem which leverages all kinds of inputs to improve life for seafarers, more rewarding for clients, safer, more efficient, cleaner and better.
  • Financials – shipping is a brutally commercial business, and as such any development which does not boost the bottomline would struggle to gain traction. For that reason it is fortuitous that maritime informatics have the ability to enhance existing practices. There are many different types of costs associated with maritime transport, we have large capital expenditure, huge operational expenses including environmental, social, and running costs including management – and the right forms of data, used and digtitalised to good effect can have a positive impact on all. Maritime informatics can help companies to achieve control, mitigate risks, and reduce the costs. What’s not to like. The economic advantages emerging from transparency are increasingly relevant for financial decision making in terms of resiliency, compliance and sustainability.
  • Geospatial Information – Geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing, and analysing data. It was born from geography, and integrates many types of data. It analyses spatial location and organises layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes. ​With this unique capability, GIS reveals deeper insights into data, such as patterns, relationships, and situations—helping users make smarter decisions. All of which are a key part of the move into maritime informatics for so many shipping companies. 
  • High Throughput Satellite – (HTS) is a communications satellite that provides more throughput than a classic Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) satellite (at least twice, though usually by a factor of 20 or more) for the same amount of allocated orbital spectrum, thus significantly reducing cost-per-bit. Cost is such a key and defining factor for shipping that any true progress toward digitalisation, a digital transformation and indeed the full use of maritime informatics was always hindered by the cost of data. Now, the use of HTS is really changing the game. It opens the route to access for data to and from vessels, and investing in this technology has allowed shipping companies to gain multiple benefits. They see enhanced crew connectivity, but the big business changer is in operational data transmissions. Finally there is the means to deliver on the promises of data at sea. 
  • Information Technology – (IT) is the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems—particularly software applications and computer hardware. IT is thought of as the overarching concept that ensures computers work well for people and businesses. For decades shipping was pretty far behind the curve, but slowly at first and then almost exponentially the true power and importance of IT has seeped into shipping. First it was monitoring, then control and now the whole digitalisation allows ships to be connected and part of the ecosystem like never before.
  • Just in Time – (JIT) inventory system is a management strategy that has a company to receive goods as close as possible to when they are actually needed. It is a manufacturing workflow methodology aimed at reducing flow times and costs within production systems and the distribution of materials. The concept was popularised by the productivity of Japanese industry in the early 1970s within the Toyota manufacturing plants that would meet consumer demands with minimum delays using an approach focused on people, plants and systems. JIT inventory systems have several advantages over traditional models. Production runs are short, which means that manufacturers can quickly move from one product to another. Furthermore, this method reduces costs by minimising warehouse needs. Companies also spend less money on raw materials because they buy just enough resources to make the ordered products and no more. As one can imagine this has a major impact on the delivery mechanism, ships. If the ship cannot get into port on time (or a canal becomes blocked!), the knock on effects are obvious. They can see production grind to a halt. For that reason the JIT system needs ships to be ever smarter, and so the issue of being fully plugged into maritime informatics becomes vitally important.
  • Key Performance Indicators – (KPI) are measurements used to identify and quantify business performance. KPIs are selected through a management framework. To identify and establish the critical KPIs, companies must look to clear objectives, things that are measurable. The move into smart shipping and about digitally transforming the industry is about getting results, and companies need to set the right goals. To do so effectively they need the means of assessing performance and KPIs are a vital tool in doing so.
  • Long Range Identification and Tracking – (LRIT) is a designated International Maritime Organization (IMO) system designed to collect and disseminate vessel position information received from IMO member States ships subject to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). LRIT provides an enhanced level of Maritime Domain Awareness and is a satellite-based, real-time reporting mechanism that allows unique visibility to position reports of vessels. LRIT was a real leap forward and the first system of its kind, in many ways a precursor to the visibility and transparency which the digital transformation is built upon. For Stratum Five this was a key part of our early evolution, and has positioned us to be able to assist companies with their maritime informatics needs.
  • Motorway of the Sea – a concept which aims to introduce intermodal maritime-based logistics chains in Europe. The chains are more sustainable and efficient than road-only transport, and so they provide a vital link to facilitate JIT deliveries. The Motorways of the Sea improve access to markets and positions ships as a competitive alternative to land transport. They allow freight flows to move to sea, they increase cohesion and reduce road congestion. However, in order to deliver on the promises of such modal shifts requires that shipping is smart enough to plug into the logistics chain. Again, this stresses the benefits to not just ship owners but society too of having smarter, connected and intelligent shipping.

We’ll publish Part Two soon.What would you come up with? We’d be very interested to see if your list looks like ours!

Stay connected and safe.

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