IoT and 5G potentialities in ports and terminals
Use cases on Digital Ports
This article discusses various types of business use cases of IoT and 5G and outlines how relevant they are to digital ports, connected infrastructure, connected port ecosystems, and connected human and cybersecurity. With the rapid digitization of the transportation and logistics (T&L) network, traditional supply chain thinking – being linear and independent – is giving way to an interconnected, open system of supply operations: data now flows from a port’s authority, through the terminal operator, and then to the shipping line in a real time dynamic way.
Within the wider T&L sector, companies have begun experimenting with a range of connectivity and data-enabled technologies. In aggregate, these technologies form the Internet of Things (IoT), which represents a convergence between the physical and digital worlds, ultimately using data and artificial intelligence (AI) as a source of value. As AI standardizes across industries, becoming an AI-fuelled organization will likely be necessary for survival. This means rethinking the way humans and machines interact within working environments such as ports and shipping. Supporting the connectivity of a new technology ecosystem is one of the three primary 5G use cases – the other two are capacity enhancement (mobile broadband) and ultra-high reliability (low latency). However, there are still several bottlenecks that need to be addressed prior to the intended 5G launch in 2020. Leveraging technologies in this context requires fully embedded technologies at the core of the organization. The new disruptive and innovative environment of today requires mastering the art of change to transform and create a meaningful business impact.
Areas of opportunity
Combining IoT and the tremendous technology enabler that is 5G creates many opportunities to be seized in order to be truly ahead of the game. Even though IoT and 5G are at the peak of (inflated) expectation, they are not yet at their plateau of productivity. Thus, many organizations have started to implement their own proofs of concept. High investments are spurred on by the belief that it is the best – and only – way to innovate, grow and execute operations in the most efficient and productive way.
These selected business cases are examples of active solutions in the port environment with promising results. It is important to note that digital implementations follow a two-phased approach. Firstly, operational implementation, and then, new business model development. We therefore believe that innovation should always follow strategy and not be out of fear of missing out.
IoT is creating a connection between port assets (vessels, containers, cranes) and a vast amount of data. This is leading to intelligent terminals, with total automation as the ultimate goal. This can be achieved through new technology applications such as drones (monitoring discharges, asset inspection), robots and ‘cobots’ (managing and delivering goods), sensor technologies, mobile equipment, video analysis, wireless RF technologies, and 3D printing (repair and maintenance of parts and accessories).
The efficiency of all these new technologies will also increase with better network connectivity. The biggest advantage of 5G is not its speed, but its capability of transporting vast amounts of data simulations. Hence, these new 5G-powered technologies are one of the future building blocks of digital ports. The connected smart camera in the Port of Antwerp for an intelligent wharf wall is one example.
Connected Port Ecosystem
Smart port technologies are digital, multi-stakeholder systems that support basic infrastructure, as well as, for example, tools for handling cargo, managing traffic, dealing with customs, assuring safety, and monitoring energy use. Intelligent technology is currently helping the port ecosystem transform from a simple logistics and transport node to an open and efficient community that can participate in the global landscape of integrated world trade – in other words, a connected port ecosystem. This entails various features such as a further improvement of operational efficiency – e.g. automation in port operations and smart machines (e.g. predictive asset maintenance, assets as a service), as well as the enlargement of the scope of services beyond container handling.
Ports will collaborate and cooperate with all parties along the supply chain to completely link land and sea transport nodes, providing consignors, logistics companies, shipping companies and other alliances with high-quality services (such as TradeLens). Moreover, a connected port will be able to extend a port’s business scope by fully utilizing its undeniable advantage, namely that it is in the centre of the supply chain. Growth will be driven by the collection, analysis and integration of information on all aspects of the supply chain, giving rise to novel industry insights. These benefits will build capacity in convenient, smart and reliable operations, as well as reliable customer experiences and efficient organizations across entire supply chains. For example, the Port of Rotterdam has created a coordinated system with international supply chains and operating networks (e.g. inland terminals, port terminals and inland transport) with clear points of entry.
IoT is connecting things to things but also humans to things and vice versa. We can become connected to everything, from ships to intelligent interfaces, right through to wearables aimed at improving safety and locational awareness. However, how can a human be connected to a ship? The cruise company MSC just achieved this by launching their new program: MSC for Me. As part of this initiative, one of their vessels is fitted with 16,000 points of connectivity, providing a full digital integration for the customer (book an event, contact the crew, locate their children, and so forth). All this is possible through your mobile phone or tablet, which connects to MSC’s smart system.
This human-IoT link can also be applied to the wider port industry. Intelligent interfaces such as voice recognition are now proliferating in warehouses, customer services and field operation deployments. Technicians use voice-enabled wearables to interact with company systems and staff without having to hold a phone or printed instructions. Intelligent interfaces offer opportunities to us humans to interact with technology, information, and our surroundings. A similar port related business case is built upon connected safety devices like smartwatches which enable safety officers to track worker’s locations in remote areas. This is very useful for emergency and security situations.
Cyber security is a growing storm, getting bigger and closer; it is one of the biggest challenges of the digital age with 70 billion connected devices expected by 2020. This means 70 billion potential windows for a cyber-attack. AI technologies and cyber-analytics can be used as protection against this threat. Such instances include anomalous behaviour detection that helps identify anomalous data access activity and malicious application activity by focusing on user logins, changes in user behaviour, and unapproved changes. AI can monitor activities and entities to establish ‘normal’ behaviour and detect sources of anomalies such as fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering, and insider threats. This technology is used to identify anomalies in AIS data from ships in order to detect illicit activities. Another preventive technology against cybersecurity is threat hunting: by importing known tactics, techniques, procedures, and attack patterns, threats are neutralized early in the attack cycle.
Threat hunting can also be done by performing preventive analytics on security data to determine vulnerable entry points and the likely path an attacker might use to gain access. This approach is mainly used in cyber threat prevention centres and is already implemented across major ports in Europe and North America. Given the importance of cybersecurity, a good strategy is to start small and scale fast. The key is to develop a practical strategy in applying AI technologies and analytics by identifying opportunities with high impact, low complexity, readily available data, and insufficient capabilities in place.
It may soon become rare to find an organization that does not make some use of the IoT and AI potential. It is clear that new technologies are disrupting business as we know it and ports are slowly becoming aware of this. With an increasing number of business cases in the port industry, it is of the highest importance that organizations first understand how they can leverage this disruption. Gartner’s hype cycle showed for the second year in a row that no technologies would reach the plateau of productivity in the next 5 years, meaning no new significant disruptive technology will become readily available for organizations to embrace them. IoT applications provide more benefit than only updating existing frameworks and streamlining established business models. For ports, next to the physical flows, more emphasis will be put on (data-driven) models like value-added services, subscriptions, apps and anything as a service (XaaS). Finally, the drivers and challenges help the entire port ecosystem to determine where to play and find the right strategy to win. It is our strong belief that becoming a smart port, driven by smart technology (like IoT and AI), should be a fundamental part of every seaport’s game plan.
Want to know more about the possibilities of IoT and AI in ports and terminals? Then get in touch with Indra Vonck.