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A ripple of excitement

Big data #1: IT takes to the seas

Big data is a term on everyone’s lips. It describes the exponential increase in volumes of information resulting from modern trends and new technology. The phenomenon is having profound effects on companies in all sectors. Slowly but surely, it is making headway in the maritime industry, too. The first instalment in this three-part series on big data in shipping explains how.

Oceans of data are forcing enterprises to change course. Many have to overhaul their IT infrastructure to accommodate masses of information from a growing variety of sources. Some have to completely rethink their business models. Yet those that overcome the initial obstacles are rewarded with a sea of opportunities.

With access to greater amounts of data, businesses know more about their sector and are able to make more informed decisions. They are also better placed to assess and improve the efficacy of their operations—from sales and marketing to security and logistics. Shipping companies specifically can use data analytics to optimize their routes—reducing fuel consumption and piracy risk, for example.

Sensing a trend

Key to the maritime industry’s burgeoning relationship with big data is sensor technology. There are huge opportunities to enhance condition-based maintenance and ensure the uptime of critical machinery by transforming sensor data into actionable insights. Captains will also be able to use data to navigate into unfamiliar ports, reduce cargo loss, and improve ship design. Perhaps most impressively, sensor-driven ships may even be able to pilot themselves within just a few years.

These possibilities are generating a buzz in the sector. In fact, in recent years, several maritime trade fairs have highlighted big data and its potential impact on shipping. Examples include SMM and the Ocean Industry Podium at Nor-Shipping. Both events have already hosted talks on the topic featuring influential speakers and industry experts.

Big data. Big future.shutterstock_151466618

Traditionally viewed as a low-data industry, the maritime sector is finding its place in the digital era; its adoption of big data-related technologies is testament to this. Although the trend remains relatively untapped in shipping compared to other areas—i.e. manufacturing—it is already driving positive change in the industry. The second instalment in this three-part series will focus on big data’s present role in maintenance and ship safety.