The next generation of connectivity between ship and shore will be dominated by the development of applications to help ship owners and managers reduce costs by enhancing operational efficiency, automating processes, and avoiding expensive repairs, according to one of the world’s leading suppliers of satellite communications to the maritime industry.
Brent Bruun, Executive Vice President of Mobile Broadband at KVH Industries, Inc., spoke at the CMA Shipping 2015 conference in Stamford, Connecticut, recently as part of a panel of experts addressing the impact of “big data” on maritime operations. Mr. Bruun said advances were being seen in key areas such as engine monitoring; remote maintenance; and satellite delivery of electronic charts, weather data, and e-Learning services. Efforts were also underway to improve a ship’s ability to comply with the demands of international regulations.
This is all against a backdrop of an industry fighting to reduce crew turnover and improve training of its seafarer asset. Attracting and retaining quality crew is still a major challenge facing industry leaders with “a tech-savvy, digital native crew” being asked to work on increasingly sophisticated equipment against increasingly complex regulatory expectations, he told delegates.
Today’s seafarers are now demanding better communications connections to home; they want to access social media and the Internet at sea as well as have access to news, movie and TV entertainment, and music, “all of which must be licensed.” They also want better training and professional development, Mr. Bruun said.
“The shipping industry needs to change how it thinks about connectivity and content delivery,” with the maritime industry facing exploding demand for broadband connectivity at sea accessed via mobile devices. This trend is being driven by the entrance of digital natives into the seafaring workforce, he noted.
Trends on land that are forcing cell phone companies to sell access by the gigabyte are starting to transfer to maritime services, Mr. Bruun said. Services for data access at sea need to address increasing operational demand and the threat that crew’s broadband data usage could overwhelm a vessel’s data network: “Simply adding bandwidth capacity and data speed is not enough as there are always new ways to fill up that capacity,” he said.
Ship operators also want greater transparency when it comes to understanding how much data is being used and how much is needed, he noted. Owners and operators want clarity in usage trends and also want to better understand the implications of data use.
Mr. Bruun said there was a growing trend towards the use of multicasting, where one transmission sends files to all vessels. These are cached on an onboard server for immediate access.
“KVH’s IP-MobileCast™ content delivery service is designed so it never affects the quality of, or competes with, an owner’s Internet or VoIP service. Beam capacity is sized for peak loads, leaving about half the network capacity unused. Multicast data is transmitted in unused bandwidth, at a lower priority than standard IP traffic and it does not use the vessel’s or customer’s mini-VSAT Broadbandsm plan’s data allotment,” he said. “A multicast approach like IP-MobileCast sharply reduces the crew’s demand for bandwidth.”