Seamless operations at sea: bringing secure, private cloud and IoT to ships all over the world

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In today’s world, people on land can access pretty much anything they want and contact anybody they like at the touch of a button from a mobile device in their pocket, but many ships at sea still only offer basic communications. Astronauts are able to use Twitter and make video calls from the International Space Station, but vessels still struggle with inadequate connectivity. Shipping companies want their vessels to be able to connect to the world securely and reliably and to be able to compute on board. How can they do that?

Some people think maritime connectivity is all about crew welfare, about sailors and other crew members being able to access the Internet, call their families on Skype and log onto social media. But today it’s about a lot more than that. The industry has undergone a big shift in mindset, from connectivity just helping enable crew communications and welfare, to a philosophy where connectivity enables a new digital operation.

More and more things on board ships now need to be connected: in the Internet of Things (IoT) era, smart sensors are used for vessel tracking or predictive maintenance on ships, for example. But IoT can also be used for monitoring and servicing individual elements of a ship, such as engine and machinery components, cargo containers and more. The ship’s boiler can be a separate element that needs to be connected to the cloud or to a data center to transmit sensitive data about it.

What are the issues?

Many ships have connectivity while they are at sea, but generally the maritime industry lags behind its land-based counterparts. Most ships today have some form of satellite connectivity – Very Small Aperture Terminal, or VSAT, and high-throughput satellites (HTS), plus the development of next-generation ground antennas and modems have all dramatically improved the connection quality on board ships – but it’s expensive, and it’s hard to control how much data applications could use and when.

Shipping companies want to make it easy to manage the IT environment in a secure way and get access to the most critical information, even with limited connectivity. Maritime organizations want to be able to consider fast, reliable, secure connectivity as a standard, not as an extravagance. Because they want to be able to use private cloud computing on board to store, send and receive sensitive data.

How can digital address this?

Maritime companies need tools that can connect their ships to the world effectively and enable them to use private cloud. And Orange can deliver the solution: our Maritime Connect suite seamlessly integrates vessels at sea into corporate networks to guarantee application access, cost control, crew welfare and secure connections that enable private cloud and support real-time decision making. We’ve been working with maritime companies on connectivity at sea for many years and have been delivering our turnkey solution to 300 vessels around the world for three years.

We’ve incorporated IoT components into the solution now, using shipboard sensors to gather information and help ships plan preventative maintenance for on-board equipment, optimize fuel consumption, plan routes more accurately and more. Being able to optimize fuel consumption is a big deal, since it can account for at least 40% of a vessel’s running costs.

A solution in a box

Orange has built our digital maritime solutions for vessels on the Nutanix platform, a highly-automated solution that removes complexity from vessel management. The Nutanix platform is unique in enabling private cloud that can be managed either remotely or on board, since it only needs a 128 Kbps satellite connection to do so. Why does this matter? For a start, it means that maritime companies can enjoy the benefits of private cloud without needing IT staff on board the vessel.

Further to that, in an industry that is used to working to thin margins and tight deadlines, it offers great cost effectiveness, because it can be used as-a-service, letting shipping companies only use as much as they need. With ship operators always looking to find areas where they can increase efficiencies and cut costs, we’re delighted to be able to offer them a connectivity at sea solution that helps them do that. It is also highly secure, since we understand that sensitive data is sent from and to ships – security is built in to the Nutanix platform.

Orange Maritime Connect incorporates multiple types of connectivity, including VSAT, L-Band, 3G/4G and Wi-Fi, and routes traffic depending on the availability of the link and with the appropriate quality of service. This enables maritime companies to integrate ships into the corporate network and make them the desired extensions of the corporate network, or “offices at sea.”

It’s a secure, reliable solution that delivers private cloud, can be used on an as-a-service basis and comes in a box. Many companies can offer connectivity to a vessel, but Orange and Nutanix can deliver a fully managed solution.

Read more about Orange Maritime Connect and how it is helping shipping companies transform their connectivity and on-board computing.

Or if you would like to talk about the topics covered in this article and how Orange Maritime Connect can help your organization, please contact me on: joakim.karlsson@orange.com or +46 7 0891 3110.

Joakim Karlsson
Joakim Karlsson

Joakim Karlsson, based in Stockholm, Sweden, is the Business Development Manager covering Cloud Business in the Nordic region. He has been in the IT industry for 20 years – nine of those years at Microsoft – and his extensive experience is an asset in helping Orange customers navigate the cloud domain. In his spare time, Joakim likes to golf, play paddle tennis and spend time with his family and friends.