It’s been estimated that 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years – a mind-boggling figure. Whilst it is undeniable that we are undergoing a big data revolution, the real challenge is seeing this as a driver for innovation and value in an industry that has struggled to reap the benefits, up until now.
To date, the collection and transmission of high volumes of data has proved tricky for the shipping industry, with unreliable connectivity and unpredictable costs understandably putting operators off, leaving the sector trailing in the wake of its automotive and aviation counterparts.
But there are two important reasons why that this situation is set to change.
Firstly, we have launched Fleet Xpress, our hybrid Ka-band/L-band maritime satellite service. Fleet Xpress delivers the high bandwidth data speeds enabled by our new generation Global Xpress network and the proven reliability of FleetBroadband as back-up.
Purposely designed for mobility, it provides a continuous, consistent service as traffic is handed seamlessly across each spot beam and from one Global Xpress satellite to another, so data can be transmitted constantly no matter where a vessel is at sea – all for a flat monthly fee.
The second reason is Inmarsat Gateway – the service ecosystem we have developed with Cisco. This allows certified application partners to use our open technologies to develop innovative, content-rich applications that include bandwidth costs as part of the package. Ship operators can pick and choose the applications they want, knowing they are optimised for use over the Inmarsat satellite network and, crucially, without any fear of bill shock down the line.
So what kinds of applications might they be? How about increasing operational efficiency through real-time analysis of engine and fuel consumption monitors? Better access to the latest weather-routing software? Boosting crew morale by offering live streamed sport and video chat with family back home – and looking after their welfare with telemedicine services?
Antarctic waters trial
It’s all out there, and more accessible and affordable than ever before. The services was been successfully trialed in Antarctic waters by the adventure cruise ship Ocean Nova and the service went beyond their expectations by allowing their passengers and crew with access to conduct daily communications, whilst in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. The trial resulted in them placing an official order for the service in February 2016.
The Nanjing Tanker Corporation will also be installing Fleet Xpress across their fleet of 70 ships, to leverage the full potential of big data, resulting in tangible return on investment and visible operational improvements across their fleet. Their crew will also benefit from the service, with internet access, to keep in contact with friends and family back home, interact on social channels and browse all their websites and forums. As a result, the Nanjing Tanker Corporation will be able to boost their crew recruitment and retention strategies, as they begin to promote these new crew internet services.
With Inmarsat as an enabler, the maritime industry is evolving – and the digital ship will become the truly connected smart ship.
About the author
Ronald Spithout has been President, Inmarsat Maritime, since October 2014, overseeing global maritime activities for Inmarsat. Prior to joining the maritime business unit, he served as President, Inmarsat Enterprise. In this role, held since 2012, he had global responsibility for sales, including accountability for P&L, strategic direction and partnerships for enterprise markets, including Energy, Media and Commercial. Spithout came to Inmarsat from Stratos Global, which had been acquired by Inmarsat in April 2009 and then restructured under the Inmarsat brand in January 2012. Ronald Spithout began his career in the telecommunications business in the late 80s, held various sales positions for KPN (the Royal Dutch Telecom Operator) in the Netherlands and has held numerous positions with several of KPN’s JV companies. He holds a degree in electrical engineering from HTS-Rotterdam, the Rotterdam Institute for Technology. He also served in the Dutch military as a reserve Lieutenant in the Dutch Cavalry.