KNL Networks is building a network of shortwave radio base stations on ships to securely transmit operational and machinery data to shore
KNL Networks is using a mesh of multiple base stations and terminals on ships to provide a backbone for internet-of-things (IoT) solutions.
“This dedicated network is combined with military-grade security, pole-to-pole coverage and affordable pricing to make maritime IoT connections smarter,” said KNL Networks chief executive Toni Linden.
He explained that this network does not have the complexity or problems associated with satellite communications and can be scaled through simple vessel additions. “We have reinvented shortwave radio so that it is fully digital, scalable and automatic,” he said.
The technology’s simplicity stems from the fact that each ship added to the network becomes a base station and communications hub for the whole network.
“We have reinvented shortwave radio so that it is fully digital, scalable and automatic”
Each KNL radio uses the high-frequency band to connect automatically to another KNL radio with a cellular connection. Ships close to the coast or in port will automatically connect directly to terrestrial cellular networks. It is then possible to transfer IoT data to shore over a network that “can have a range of 10,000 km” said Mr Linden.
Data is transferred from each radio through KNL’s encrypted virtual private network. As a secure measure, each radio automatically identifies and avoids signal jamming. “Data streams are kept separate and encryption keys and resources are allocated,” said Mr Linden. “This security comes from the government-facing part of our business.”
There are also benefits to be had in terms of reliability, as mesh networking means there is no single point of failure. If one unit loses its cellular connection, others will serve the terminal with no direct connection.
KNL has set up a secure cloud for data transmissions from ships to vendors
This network can be dedicated to IoT connectivity, allowing broadband communications, crew welfare services and safety connections to operate through the ship’s satellite connection unaffected by KNL’s network.
“We are independent and can allow access to third-party service providers, removing major pain points around integration issues and security” said Mr Linden. “We do not affect other communications on the vessel.”
KNL has set up WaveAccess managed services for IoT data transmission, which enables shipowners to pay for only what they need. This includes the radio and network connectivity, bi-directional data transfer, coupled with simple API integration and data prioritisation. It can include other services, such as advanced vessel tracking data, email communications and access to digitalisation platforms, such as Kongsberg’s Kognifai, which enables shipping companies to optimise data use and perform advanced analytics using third-party applications.
“We provide a secure mail service which can be used globally, even when there is no satellite coverage, or if there is a system failure on the satcoms,” said Mr Linden. He expects strong adoption of this technology and for the network to rapidly grow in the next three years. “We will work with industry leaders, target providers of smart data services, build trusted partnerships and add more vendor services. Within three years, we will be the standard for IoT connectivity.”