Digitalization will Change the Innovation Culture of Maritime Industry
Blog: Ulla Tapaninen, Ph.D. Senior Specialist, City Executive Office, Economic Development, City Competitiveness, City of Helsinki
Published 3.12.2015

Maritime industry has long been regarded in Finland as a traditional industry, where major innovations are born inside large corporations. Examples are multitude: azimuthing propulsors, icebreakers with asymmetric hull and world largest cruise vessels, for example.
World is changing. Every business sector and industry will go through digitalization—if not now, soon. It will bring changes to existing business models and offer new opportunities. Ship equipment maintenance, for instance, is often done at fixed intervals or once equipment fails to operate. Remote asset management allows land-based service teams to assess the situation before extra costs occur. Furthermore, sharing vessel asset information in a cloud service enables effective fleet management of even very small freight and passenger fleets. New information will adjust vessel speed and routes; and bring considerable savings. Cruise passengers will have mobile applications to serve their needs both on sea and land.
However, the biggest change will be on maritime innovation systems. Traditional closed innovation systems are not able to compete with new open innovation ecosystems, where professionals of various disciplines come  together to solve problems of one industry. Future innovations in maritime industry can be influenced by car manufacturing or air traffic operations; or shopping centres. Academic science projects are and will be necessary for the industry and high-tech innovations, but unfortunately their commercialization is often too slow.

We have already several examples of new digital solutions for maritime industry. Eniram collect data from onboard systems from vessels and optimize their performance. With dynamic trimming technology the fuel savings can be up to 10%. Ixonos has a mobile passenger app which integrates the digital user experience seamlessly with the live cruise and route experiences. It is a joint platform for online shopping, onboard communications, onboard social media activity and data transfer between ships and the land organization. Wärtsilä has used digital information of machine maintenance for over a decade. Finnish meteorological institute offers on-line data of whether and ice conditions for vessels.Rolls-Royce has even imagined an unmanned vessel without any crew. However, most of the solutions offered by digitalization are still to be invented.

It is likely that the new open ecosystem based solutions will change the fundamentals of marine traffic. City of Helsinki has started a year ago an project called MERIT. Its goal is to bring together smart marine technology companies and to form a successful cluster around them. The companies range from traditional marine industry—machine manufacturers, shipyards and shipping companies—to small and large ICT companies offering smart solutions for example for ice and weather monitoring, sensoring, usability and navigation. Several new ICT-based innovations and solutions have already found their customers with urgent needs for data transmission, energy saving or increasing customer satisfaction.
At the same time the whole maritime cluster has woken up for the opportunities of digitalization. Now it is time to plan a more permanent basis for the intelligent and fast evolving maritime-ICT ecosystem.

This opportunity cannot be wasted!

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