A recent survey conducted with participants at a Technology Summit in Hamburg highlighted that 82% of senior shipping executives have process automation and digitalization initiatives currently underway. This is not surprising since new technologies are a big game changer in the shipping industry and offer huge potential.
The shipping industry has woken up to technology and is embracing many new technologies that other industries have already been quick to adopt. Technology is offering new ways for shipping companies to address ongoing management challenges and improve efficiencies. Blockchain, cloud technology and augmented reality are becoming familiar terms across the industry and we believe these technologies have the ability to transform how shipping companies operate in the future. From managing the fleet and crew to automating time consuming processes, technology will enable shipping companies to increase business performance, improve operational efficiencies and drive down costs.
We highlight five technologies we believe will have a big impact on the future of shipping.
Shipping is starting to look at blockchain – a decentralised system to ensure consensus and data-authenticity that was originally developed for bitcoin transactions. Although the technology is still in its early days, it could be harnessed by the shipping industry in various ways and revolutionise how trade is performed. Maersk and IBM have already launched blockchain-based trade platforms and other companies are following.
Cloud technology is having a significant impact on the way shipping companies operate. The benefits include ease of data access, the availability of information regardless of time or location, as well as the reduction of data silos. Additionally, the cloud makes it much easier for companies to integrate their systems and processes. One of the core benefits is improving communication between staff at land and sea, so whether that’s crew planning, the execution of payroll or performance reviews of seamen, the digital data is always up-to-date and available where it is needed. Cloud-based technology is also simplifying processes such as purchasing and stock planning, as well as helping companies comply with regulations more easily and mitigating the risks of fines.
Augmented reality (AR)
AR has multiple uses including the ability to connect employees in different global locations, deliver training and education or for companies to use the technology to increase the efficiency of product repairs or do demonstrations. The possibilities in the shipping industry are endless and include pinpointing repairs, carrying out ship inspections and holding meetings – virtually, using specially developed AR devices. Whilst it’s likely to be two to five years until AR devices are rolled out across the shipping industry, we believe this technology will transform how the industry operates.
Rolls Royce last year announced it was joining forces with Google Cloud to develop Rolls-Royce's intelligent awareness software, which is already in use on ships today and will play a central role in the company's drive towards autonomous vessels. They plan to have a fully autonomous ship at sea by 2020. Last month also saw the launch of the world’s first autonomous shipping company in Norway . While it will take several years before it really impacts the industry, as a whole it’s clear autonomous ships will be a reality in the future.
Smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Sonos are expected to be installed in over 70 million U.S. households by 2022. As the technology advances we predict that smart speakers and voice-controlled devices will also have an impact on the daily business of shipping companies. This will make accessing information quicker and easier, as well as editing or adding data simply by using voice commands.
There is huge technology innovation taking place in the shipping industry. Whilst some technologies may be a long way off becoming mainstream it’s evident that technology will help shipping companies stay competitive in increasingly challenging economic times.