By Anthony DiMare, CEO and Cofounder
Let's understand maritime trends that matter today. For anyone who grew up watching the Jetsons, it’s clear that future of flying cars and robot butlers hasn’t quite arrived as quickly as hoped. As so often happens with technology, what has been achieved isn’t what was expected - while those developments that once seemed so close, actually have taken much longer to arrive, and others developed much faster than people saw them coming.
In much the same way, it’s easy for us to get distracted by tech forecasts in the maritime industry. We hear that autonomous ships are right around the corner, that all shipping transactions will be executed in blockchain and that the spread of computer power will make every object a part of the "Internet of Things". But are these innovations really going to change our lives in shipping?
More than likely. But not in 2018.
Realistically, we’re years away from fully autonomous vessels carrying cargo across oceans without human intervention. While blockchain is establishing itself as an efficient way to record transactions, the systems are new, untrusted, and lack a critical mass of users. And it’s true that we now have the ability to put computers within most ordinary objects, but we don’t yet have the infrastructure to transmit, analyze, and act on this volume of data in real-time from ship-to-shore.
We will see all of this technology come into full use in shipping in the future - but not this year. And probably not for a few years - but most likely before I can Uber request that flying car.
So, what actually matters in 2018 tech trends? Based on the conversations we’re having at Nautilus Labs, the answer is still quite simple -- data.
Capturing it. Making sense of it. Acting on it.
That’s the big shift that’s going to change the way technology is used across our industry, and it’s one that we see more owners and operators embracing than ever before.
And the reason is really quite simple: for an industry that is driven by commodity markets and where everyone is focused on major asset plays, more shipping companies are realizing that they’re not generating a return on their biggest underused asset: vessel data. And it’s not just to improve engine performance or predict when to get a hull cleaned, but to actually compete more effectively in the market and beat their competition.
At Nautilus Labs, we believe that the tech trends that will matter most in 2018 are about capturing, sharing, and acting on vessel data. While autonomy, blockchain, and IoT make for sexier headlines, maritime businesses are actually focused on more fundamental technology adoption:
1. Capturing data anywhere, in the cloud
The days of servers, USB sticks, and CD-ROMs has passed. Data doesn’t need to reside in any one place for it to be secure, accessible, and reliable. As with our smartphones and email, maritime businesses now trust modern software to host data in the cloud and deliver it anywhere. For shipping, 2018 is the year to fully embrace cloud software.
Forward-thinking owner-operators are aggressively pursuing cloud-based solutions to collect data for their entire organization from anywhere, allowing information to be viewed at any time, from any internet-connected device. This means low-to-no capital investment required to get vessel data back to shore. Perhaps more importantly, it means finally having all your fleet data available to you in one place - always. And for businesses that are becoming increasingly distributed around the world, the cloud provides an unparalleled ease of adoption and agility everywhere the business operates.
2. Collaborating based on data to enrich insight
Data is only as useful as who has it and how accessible it is. Wikipedia is useful because it makes information that used to be housed in a book, on some shelf, in a library, accessible everywhere. But more importantly, with user collaboration and refined search capabilities, it allows everyone to build insight collectively, and for each user to tap into precisely that area of insight they need at any given time.
Having your vessel data all in one place is great - but not if it’s on that proverbial dusty shelf in your library where only one person can slowly search through it at a time. Owner-operators are looking for ways for their teams to engage around data, share insights more effectively with each other (enough with the emails!), and inject their learned know-how into key datasets. Adopting tools that allow global teams to interact with each other around data and add their own input to it - while getting precisely the insights they need - is the biggest focus for organizations that traditionally face siloed information and teams.
3. Taking smarter actions with machine learning and data science
At the end of the day though, our ability as humans to understand vast troves of data is limited by our cognitive abilities and memories. Software can now be taught to become increasingly intelligent - to the point where it can synthesize analysis at a speed and depth that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
Every owner-operator we speak to knows that their biggest asset is their people. They also know that they can make their teams smarter by leveraging technology that can help them make better decisions. Machine learning software makes this achievable quickly, by consistently improving recommendations and refining predictions, so that each subsequent decision every team makes is stronger than the last.
Ultimately, these Innovations around data will be creating value in the maritime industry for owners and operators in 2018. While the future of an IoT-enabled autonomous ship being seamlessly traded on the spot market via blockchain is one we support and hope to contribute to, the trends that matter are those that will help owners win today.
Companies that embrace better vessel data capture (relative to the manual processes in place now with noon reporting), collaboration, and action in 2018 will be optimally prepared for 2019, 2020 and beyond. And who knows, maybe those flying cars are closer than we think too.
Nautilus Labs is a technology company focused on advancing the efficiency of maritime transportation. We drive positive transformation and sustainability in the shipping industry. Nautilus Platform enables owner-operators to easily optimize their business for speed and consumption through a cloud-based analytics platform that provides unified fleet intelligence. To learn more, click here.