Sensory Deprivation

One of the most memorable trips I made was some twenty years ago on the ocean. As a young Dutch backpacker I travelled with a French captain and an English shipmate on a trip from Cairns to Darwin, Australia.

The trip involved crossing the Timor sea with our 24-foot- long sailing yacht, which felt like a speck on the water as soon as we left port. The only things we saw in the two weeks it took to cross the water were waves and container ships. BIG container ships. When asked to write a column about big data and the maritime sector this memory
crossed my mind first. And especially my feeling of sensory deprivation at night during the middle watch. In the pitch black I felt deprived of all senses and sensors and I still remember my fear of a collision with one of those mastodon freight carriers.

The years have passed and a lot of innovations in maritime safety have been introduced. Many intelligent devices with sensor data monitor our trips, be they for pleasure or professional.

But ashore things have progressed a great deal faster. Collection of data has taken enormous proportions. The volume of data is rapidly growing: it is expected that by 2020 there will be more than 16 zettabytes of useful data (16 trillion GB), which implies growth of 236 per cent per year from 2013 to 2020. The term Big Data was coined to describe this phenomenon and the value creation from this data. I represent an organisation that works on valorisation projects to find value from these datasets.

Key success factors are a clear and urgent question to answer, availability of data, multidisciplinary competences in finding the solutions and a smart process for implementation. In the Big Data Value Center, we and our partners work on these projects on a daily basis. Ships generate a lot of data. This data has a potential value for other parties (for instance oceanographic research, logistical processes, feedback to customers), can be used to optimise efficiency and generate new services. But in practice, this value is hardly used at present.

For example, seagoing ships have Voyage Data Recorders (VDR) onboard that collect data to assist in accident investigations. But when that same data is used in boosting operational efficiency, it has a large potential. Collecting, storing, connecting it to other databases and visualising that same VDR data, has already proven to give a tremendous insight into in fuel efficiency for ship managers.

I have the feeling the maritime sector is slowly opening up to these opportunities. I invite you to do so even more. And with this in mind I wonder: Will the maritime sector come to its sensors?

Alwin Sixma
Director Big Data Value Center