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IoT Takes to the Sea: Shipping and Sensors

By Max Burkhalter
May 28, 2020

The internet of things, a catch-all term for networked sensors capable of sending and receiving data, has the potential to revolutionize heavy industry. With reliable access to real-time data from their assets, companies will be able to manage their equipment more effectively than ever before, responding to problems proactively and minimizing downtime. Shipping, one of the most complex, globe-spanning industries and one dealing with age-old logistics issues, is a potential site for this type of disruption.

Unlocking IoT Value for Shippers

Sea News recently highlighted the value of the IoT at sea. When companies invest in connected sensors for their vessels - or even for all the containers on their ships - they can make their strategies more specific and detailed than ever before, unlocking previously unknown value. The publication pointed out that since ships' positions are already tracked at all times by sensors, logistics companies with sea fleets are familiar with the broad strokes of the IoT. Now, the question becomes how adept these organizations will be at making more granular use of data and the resulting analytics insights.

There are a few distinct benefits to monitoring more specific data from ships at sea. Sea News presented data from an Immarsat survey, which revealed companies have begun using real-time data to track their fuel consumption. This has multiple possible applications, from the optimization of engine efficiency to regulatory transparency. Companies eager to prove they are meeting environmental targets can provide their detailed records taken directly from sensors on ships.

In addition to the possible benefits of using rich data sets from ships to plan routes more intelligently, Sea News pointed to a possible value case of tracking data from individual containers. When ships are carrying loads that need to be kept in a specific temperature range, sensors attached to the containers can alert crew members to the first sign of fluctuations. Quick responses can prevent the loss of assets, which in turn leads to a more efficient industry overall and better relationships between shippers and their supply chain partners.

A shipping container in transit in a port.Shipping containers can transmit detailed data.

Showing Early Benefits

According to Network World contributor Deepak Puri, a pilot program for sensor-equipped cargo containers has demonstrated some of the value these smart assets can grant shippers and their partner organizations. For example, there are security advantages to using more data-enabled containers. When a shipment is not at a specific location, its digital locks can refuse to open. These devices can also make detailed records of their usage: If the cargo has been touched, the owners will know.

Furthermore, Puri described the better processing that is possible when containers are laced with digital technology. When a shipment uses a digital "handshake" to verify that it has arrived in a specific port, there is a reduced need for manual checking in and out. To introduce heavier efficiency-building automation into facilities and ships, companies will need this kind of digital enablement. As with all industries, automatic workflows and the IoT go hand in hand.

Acquiring Necessary Infrastructure

Building out a more intelligent network of devices, on land or at sea, requires companies to invest in hardware that can handle the increased data transmission. When building out an IoT system, for instance, businesses can make use of LTE routers and gateways from Perle which enable the secure monitoring of sensors and other IoT components. Check out our success stories to see how Perle has helped other marine logistics organizations around the world.


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