The first of several applications for the Port of Rotterdams’ IoT platform has been put into operation, based around hydrological and meteorological data
This is the first time the port’s generic IoT platform, which implements sensor technology across the port's entire entire 42-km area, has been used for a mission-critical application, and marks the first test of its capabilities.
The system gathers data including tide height, tidal stream, salinity, wind speed, wind direction and visibility data through 44 sensors in the port along with prediction models, data from the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) and astronomical calculations.
Using this data, waiting times in the port can be reduced and berthing, loading, unloading and departure times can be optimised. An example application is predicting the best times to berth and depart for a vessel depending on water conditions balanced with the maximum possible load.
A digital dashboard will allow port operations from all involved parties to be viewed at the same time, and the Port of Rotterdam estimates up to one hour could be saved per vessel in berthing time, which can be as much as US$80,000 in savings for vessel operators and enables more vessels to dock each day.
The platform currently processes about 1.2M different data points each day for users including the Pilotage Service, Rijkswaterstaat, DMCR and other Port Authority departments.
The initiative was announced on 31 January 2018. Speaking at the time, the Port of Rotterdam Authority’s Paul Smits said “Speed and efficiency is essential to our business, and requires us to use all of the data available to us.
“Thanks to real-time information about infrastructure, water, air, etc, we can enormously improve the service we provide to everyone who uses the port, and prepare to embrace the connected, autonomous shipping of the future."
Partners in constructing the platform include IBM, Cisco, Esri and Axians, along with the Port of Rotterdam itself.
The platform will also look at integrating edge computing, real-time analytics, artificial intelligence, hyper-precise data and blockchain. An example application is using sensors incorporated on and in quay walls, dolphins, waterways roads and traffic signs to generate continuous measurement data and communicate with autonomous systems, laying a path for facilitating autonomous shipping, a target the port aims to meet by 2025.
Another area of IoT-enabled technology the port is investing in is a barge-tracking system known as Port Insight, developed in collaboration with industrial IoT provider TWTG.
Rotterdam Port Authority business digital and IT business consultant Vincent Campfens said “There are so many barges in the port, we do not actually know which barges are where and how many there are.
The barge operators themselves are normally responsible for monitoring where a given barge is berthed and for how long, in a paperwork-heavy process, Mr Campfens said. He noted that port dues are mandatory for barges and these are calculated by the Port Authority based on a monthly overview from the operators, who are then sent an invoice. “It is a system that involves considerable administration and is prone to error,” he added.
The Port Insight developers held discussions with barge operators to establish requirements, partnering with tech company SODAQ to set up a pilot. TWTG was chosen as a project partner as its industrial IOT technology was suited to the robust requirements the developers had for the sensors to be used as part of the project, which needed to be accurate to 10 m, have a five-year battery life, and be capable of remote updating, while also being able to take hard knocks and deal with being in the water.
The finished product allows users to easily track and trace vessels, and can use a software dashboard to make declarations for port dues and planning. The transponder technology is also suited to potential future solutions the port intends to develop, for example an availability overview for berths.
North Sea Giant was one of three trial testbeds for Scanreach's maritimised IoT solution (credit: penwin/flickr)
Ships and offshore structures pose additional challenges to establishing industrial IoT networks due to their steel construction.
Transmitting reliable wireless signals is very difficult in steel structures, and represents a major barrier to adopting IoT technologies in maritime and offshore contexts, so one Norwegian maritime technology company has spent the last few years developing a work-around.
At a Riviera Maritime Media conference in early February in London, ScanReach chief commercial officer Arild Saele explained how his company went about tackling this challenge and the possible applications this opens up for sensor technology.
The Bergen, Norway-based company put together a team of naval architects, marine engineers and electronics experts who developed a mesh-based internet of things (IoT) system using low-power wireless microsensors to monitor and transmit environmental data.
The sensors can be placed in difficult to reach areas on board ships and offshore platforms as well as on personnel – to improve situational awareness and decision making in an emergency – and ScanReach's algorithms have allowed the team to create a portfolio of products to go along with its system.
In its IoT-based In:Mesh network, individual microsensor nodes connect directly to as many other nodes in the network as they can throughout the steel vessels and structures essentially creating chains along which data can be transferred to a central control centre.
ScanReach's In:Range product comprises wearable sensors that can be worn by crew members to provide accurate information on precisely where they are in a vessel. As well as tracking locations, ScanReach’s technology can also monitor ambient temperatures and detect dangerous gases, to accurately locate crew members and predict dangers in the environment. As well as being accessible on board the vessel, critical information can also be transmitted to shore offices, the coast guard and third-party vessels, with important implications in the event of accidents or other adverse incidents, Mr Saele said.
ScanReach's In:Track product allows the system to connect and track data from third-party sensors and its In:Sense set-up monitors the condition of internal spaces for environmental parameters including temperature, pressure and the potential build-up of gas. This, the company maintains, has significant insurance implications with regard to vessels carrying cargoes that are prone to liquefy or spontaneously combust.
ScanReach tested its products extensively, including tests using an Ex-D enclosure, according to Mr Saele. Ex-D enclosures are designed to be thick enough to prevent the propagation of an internal explosion, and in spite of the strength of the enclosure, the sensors maintained their connection from within the enclosure to other external sensors.
Since April 2018, three successful pilots have been completed. Most noteworthy of these is the integration of ScanReach’s technology on board North Sea Giant, the 180-m long, 10-deck offshore support vessel owned by North Sea Shipping. The other pilots were on the large trawler Atlantic Star and a Norwegian coast guard vessel. The technology is due to be formally launched at Nor-Shipping in June, Mr Saele said.
ScanReach's wireless system can be installed in a matter of hours, Mr Saele said, at a fraction of the cost and time required for cabled systems which involve a large number of apertures and often several kilometres of expensive cabling.
The information gathered from the In:Mesh system can be sent to customers’ own cloud systems, as well as connected to Kongsberg’s Kognifai platform and DNV GL’s Veracity platform.