With VSAT delivering huge amounts of bandwidth to the shipping industry, cyber security is becoming a huge focus. Marine Electronics & Communications reviews the five stages of a cyber attack as discussed by delegates the Maritime Cyber Risk Management Summit in June 2016. Astonishingly, it seems a hacker was able to remotely take command of an ROV.
Without satcom and in particular VSAT, the whole idea of autonomous ships would be a non-starter, but according to this article by The Digital Ship and a Rolls Royce published whitepaper, autonomous ships are not a case of if, but when.
This annual guide published by Rivera Maritime Media and edited by Martyn Wingrove, the Editor of Marine Electronics & Communications details the latest developments in the world of maritime VSAT. Articles cover everything from satellite networks, antennas and new Ka-band platforms through to IT, cyber security and Value Added Services.
Satellite technology and the options offered to vessels at sea are advancing at a rapid pace. Generally, maritime satellite technology lags behind terrestrial use not least because of the problems of coping with the marine environment. Another factor is that ships are not yet heavy users of communications compared to some shore-based users and consequently the costs can be higher and the service providers may be less inclined to innovate for maritime customers.
Read more about satellite systems in the Ship Insight guide to maritime communications
Maritime Big Data. We hear a lot about it, but do we really know what it is? When discussing Big Data, is it the volume of data generated, the speed it’s generated and the kind of data produced? Or does the term Big Data more refer to its application – finding trends and acting on them from large data-sets?
Whichever definition you take note of, one thing is certain – Big Data is constantly being generated by vessels and companies, from multiple sources and at an ever growing pace. Its potential use needs to be understood by every organisation in order to leverage its power to improve operations.
Looking at Big Data in the maritime industry, it’s clear that the term wouldn’t even exist if not for VSAT. VSAT is the most reliable, cost-effective way to transfer data from ships to the shore office.
However, to be efficient in terms of the carrier used and the bandwidth available, perhaps the maritime industry should be focused on being more selective and essentially, making Big Data smaller.
A system might only need to transmit deviations from the norm. Why waste bandwidth sending data packets to say everything is operating normally? But take it to the logical conclusion. When you have collected say, three years of deviation based data, it can be analysed to work out what is going wrong and make fundamental operational changes based on it. It then becomes Big Data in action.
At the heart of the matter, we must not forget the high value of this data – if time and resources are spent analysing and using it to best effect, it must be used to eliminate risk and waste, ultimately saving large sums of money and providing strong ROI on new technology for ships, including VSAT itself.
Data from ships is gathered and used in any number of ways in order to improve performance, vessel design and fuel efficiency, to plan the best route and to generally enhance efficiency. It is predicted that data can even be used to recognise individual crew and automatically customise their workstations – the options are almost limitless.
Ship’s bridges already collect and process enormous levels of data but experts believe in ten years’ time, the bridges could be used for micro-level monitoring, to improve safety and many of the unknowns.
There’s no doubt that data intelligence will be a driving force in terms of the next generation of ‘smart ships’. And it is already leading to classification societies to develop new services and products.
In its Foresight Review of Big Data, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the UK charity dedicated to research and education in science and engineering, states that Big Data can enhance safety by fundamentally changing the design, manufacturing, maintenance and decommissioning processes for complex infrastructures and machinery.
“Within the next five to ten years we are going to witness step changes in sensor technology, data-driven intelligent systems, computer science and algorithms for data analysis, impacting all aspects of the business life-cycle – from design to manufacturing, maintenance to decommissioning,” says MD Prof Richard Clegg.
Collating all this information is all well and good for organisations but it has to be properly handled and in order to really benefit, does data need to be shared with 3rd parties?
Understandably, not very many organisations are keen on sharing their data with their competitors no matter that they may well benefit in the long run and this is a subject IMarEST is examining. Having held a round table discussion on Big Data and its value to the marine industry, the organisation is setting up a special interest group to develop a course of action.
The sheer magnitude of data being produced means traditional databases and analysis methods won’t work. Ultimately what is clear is that it will be down to the success of handling the data that will dictate the gains to be derived.
Regardless of your definition of the term or if companies are willing to share data for the greater good, one thing is clear; VSAT will continue to play a key part in enabling the maritime world to leverage the power of Big Data.
According to Wikipedia, broadband is a wide bandwidth data transmission with an ability to simultaneously transport multiple signals and traffic types. However, for most of us, broadband is used as a term to describe high-speed Internet as opposed to the original dial-up access.
Early in 2015, the US Federal Communications Commission redefined the minimum broadband speed as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, updating its previous rating of 4Mbps and 1Mbps respectively.
In September 2015, a report by global technology research and advisory firm Ovum came to the conclusion that “In order to support their expectations of their broadband experience, the majority of fixed line consumer broadband users surveyed need a download speed of at least 10Mbps.”
Meanwhile, the European Digital Single Market strategy emphasises its aims for broadband to be greater than 30Mbps by 2020.
With dependency on broadband growing dramatically, speeds are on the increase all over – together with a general decrease in cost. This can be said for both land and maritime users, though of course, when considering broadband in the context of a ship at sea, the throughput figures are invariably lower than those defined by the FCC and the Ovum report.
Considering there is no clear global definition of broadband on land, where does that leave us for broadband at sea? Well the waters are just as muddy. VSAT services can provide broadband speeds greater than 25Mbps and there is talk of 100Mbps being possible. But the requirement of vessels in general is much, much lower.
While at sea, crew members want to browse the web and access Facebook, Twitter et al using their smart phone or tablet. In addition, the ship’s IT network, navigation and automation systems, business solutions and ancillary equipment all require bandwidth.
But many ships are experiencing all the connectivity they need for crew and operational use with a VSAT throughput of 512Kbps down and 128Kbps up. It doesn’t sound like much, but in a maritime context a link based on these speeds is more than suitable for many vessels.
On the flipside, some vessel types and applications are using bandwidths that one might see more as broadband. Cruise ships are one example, but it’s been known for seismic vessels to operate with links up to 15Mbps.
The exercise of defining the speed of broadband then, is currently somewhat futile. But maybe it’s not important. Indeed, should we be so fixated on labels? Broadband. Ka-band. Ku-band. None of these terms are important at the end of the day, as long as you choose a service and provider that can deliver what you need.
In fact, the only label a ship owner needs to be concerned with is SLA (Service Level Agreement). As long as your service provider is delivering on that front, defining broadband or not is all a bit moot.
Easy access to the internet on board ships is a key requirement if young people are to be attracted into the seafaring profession, according to speakers at a World Maritime Day IMO symposium on maritime education and training. Speaking on the topic: ‘Shipping’s future needs people: Is global maritime education and training on course?’, IMO secretary-general Koji Sekimizu highlighted the need for high-quality maritime education and training as the bedrock of a safe and secure shipping industry.
Read more on The Digital Ship website (free registration required)
Intelligent Operations connect people, processes and technologies for safer, smarter oilfield working. The Exploration & Production sectors have embraced the concept and whole technical industries have been built around it. But Intelligent Operations is possible only because of satellite communication and the cost of losing connectivity to a client can be high, so by investing in the best, most reliable technology and services, the shipowner is reducing a client’s financial risk.
Read about the importance of redundancy and reliability in Oilfield Technology’s article on clicking on the text above
Satcom antennas quietly perform a vital job for offshore operators, acting as the enabler of Internet on board platforms and vessels. But though they all look the same when high up on antenna platform, there’s a lot going on under the dome that makes it important to choose the right one.
Find out more about satcom antenna technology with this article on the Energy Global website
The maritime industry is on the verge of a low cost, convenient broadband world and, with it, the capability to vastly improve crew welfare and enhance operational efficiency on board the world’s maritime fleets. Yet, for many shipowners and managers unfamiliar with satellite technology, broadband at sea is a complicated new world. While the technology offers limitless potential for the enhancement of life at sea, choosing the right VSAT technology can be a daunting task and the conflicting claims of competitive suppliers can lead to buyer confusion and frustration.
Read more on the Marine Electronics and Communications website