Waterways The internet of the water is bringing new transport solutions
Emerging technology is bringing value to boats, ferries, and yachts as innovators and entrepreneurs look to automation, robotics, 5G, sensors and data platforms to increase efficiency, improve performance, and put safety first.
When you think of transport, one method that often gets overlooked is traveling by boat. While those of us more landlocked may not have it feature in our daily lives, for many people in cities such as Venice, Sydney, and Amsterdam, traveling by boat is a part of their regular public transport. It follows that like other public transport, its a mode of transportation that is equally being served by emerging tech such as IoT and automation, as well as new design principles and modes of energy. Let's take a look:
Autonomous Floating Boats, Amsterdam
The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been working on developing the world's first fleet of autonomous floating vessels for the city of Amsterdam as part of a five-year project. The city of Amsterdam has over 1,000 kilometers of canals, 1,500 bridges and it's long-standing focus on urban innovation makes it an ideal place to test new, water-based mobility solutions.
Called Roboat, the idea is to build a fleet of autonomous robotic boats equipped with sensors, LIDAR microcontrollers, GPS modules, cameras, and other hardware, that provides intelligent mobility on the water to relieve congestion in the city's busy streets.
They work something like a self-driving platoon, with a basic structure that can o into a range of permutations. The flatboats could form everything from pop up structures such as footbridges and performance stages with automatic disassembly, reforming into different configurations as programmed. The idea is also to use the boats to collect garbage and their sensors could also be used to gather data on the city's infrastructure, and air and water quality.
Researchers recently released a research paper about their creation of an autonomous latching system for self-driving robotic boats. The system is able to latch efficiently to a docking station and to another robotic boat, while overcoming water disturbances and misalignments.
Autonomous Boats and 5G
In Norway, Ericsson has partnered with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Telia to deploy a 5G-powered autonomous ferry in Norway. The ferry is called milliAmpère and carries passengers and their bikes across Trondheim's harbor canal.
MilliAmpère is equipped with sensors that control the operating system and gain insight from the ferry's surroundings. The use of 5G enables data from the boat to be transferred to an onshore command center in real-time. It's a great opportunity to test 5G for Trondheim, and a great example of the use of IoT where real-time data can be essential to ensure passenger safety.
Transport efficiency is a key component of sustainable travel
Transport efficiency is a key component of sustainable travel. Australian based global shipping company Austal, builders of defense ships and fast ferries has created MARINELINK Smart Technology, a digital platform that expands upon existing tech, utilizing machine learning, artificial intelligence, and IoT. The system enables the vessel captain to access real-time information to improve operational performance, providing insights into motion control, speed, and route planning The also system enables savings in fuel consumption.
In Norway, Yara Birkeland is building the world's first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel with the aim to move from manned to fully autonomous with its first two years of operation. The project came from a desire to improve the logistics at Yara's Porsgrunn fertilizer plant. Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Yara's Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where the company ships products to customers around the world. The company asserts it will replace 40,000 truck journeys a year.
The Airbnb of Boats?
Lowering the barrier of entry of boating to those who do not have their own boat is one way to get people to consider alternative modes of transport beyond cars. Boatrax has created an IoT platform that connects boat owners to their vessels in real-time using a proprietary IoT gateway that reads and stores all data coming from the engine devices and sensors connected to the boat. The company caters to boat clubs and charter owners who rent out their boats, as well as private owners who want more control over maintenance and usage reporting of their vessel.
Each boat is embedded with the Boatrax Box, a first-of-its-kind monitoring and diagnostic solution that aggregates important data about boat performance and owner behavior in real-time. The platform adapts to the boat operator's behaviors and delivers critical information such as predictive maintenance alerts and engine diagnostics to ensure top efficiency. The owner on or off land can get real-time alerts such as fuel level and consumption, engine temperature, speed, water depth, and geolocation.
With boats more expensive than cars, it means that progress is slower and more likely to involve cross-industry teams and university partnerships where funding and sponsorship are more readily available to provide for costs. While boats are less visible to those of us not located by the water, they are floating on a wave of innovative to save costs, become more sustainable and deliver precision analytics to enable safe journeys.