KVH Is On 'Watch'

© chombosan / Adobe Stock

By Greg Trauthwein

Conceived in its never-ending drive to progressively service
its customers, KVH is working on a proprietary Internet of Things
(IoT) solution for the commercial maritime market. Code-named
"Watch," KVH's IoT application is designed to collect, compress,
process, transport and analyze system data from ships, with the
promise to deliver a broad swath of customizable efficiency
solutions. Robert Balog, SVP, Engineering and
Michael Mitsock, VP of Marketing discuss the
plan with
Maritime Reporter & Engineering News.

While the maritime industry is generally classified conservative
in terms of technology uptake, the tide is changing as some of
the world's biggest ship owners aggressively leverage data
available from ship operations, covering everything from
machinery and system health to navigation, in an effort to save
money and increase efficiency. On the equipment side, the days of
performing service premised on the calendar is giving way to
'condition based maintenance' (CBM). On the navigation side,
solutions are increasingly becoming prescriptive, analyzing
previous performance given route, weather, course and speed.

Information Overload

A large modern commercial ships can have up to 6,000 points of
monitoring and generate in excess of 60MB of data per day. In
step with land-based trends, those numbers are projected to
continue rising. As the number of users and the flow of data from
ship to shore increases, naturally the cost of transmission will
come down too. But problematic still will be the sheer quantity
of data, or more accurately stuffing all of that data efficiently
and cost-effectively through existing satellite communication
pipelines. "That is a discussion shaping around IoT in every
industry: how do you take a mass of data and shrink it down to
something that is usable?" said Mitsock. For the commercial
maritime sector, KVH is developing a solution, code named
"Watch," which is scheduled to come to market in 2017.

Problem Solving

KVH is a ubiquitous presence in the maritime VSAT sector, last
year recording milestones in shipping its 6,000th TracPhone
system for the mini-VSAT Broadband service, and its 200,000th
mobile satellite antenna shipped for its TracPhone and TracVision
product lines. The company is uniquely positioned in regards to
IOT solutions as it manufactures, installs and services the
antenna systems and ancillary equipment, as well as provides the
VSAT pipeline. The development of its "Watch" IoT solution is an
outgrowth of KVH's customer service mantra of always providing a
'Positive Customer Experience,' said Mitsock. But KVH ran into a
problem as it continued to grow its business, specifically, data
flow and bandwidth, as the KVH antenna alone generates about 10MB
of data per day. "The bandwidth is the issue, as we had to find
the means to maximize that connection," said Balog. "Even though
we have a much faster connection, we have to always think: 'what
are we going to do with all of this data?'"

The solution is simple to state, complex to deliver: move more
data processing to the ship, and be more selective in determining
the information to be sent. According to Balog, a key is edge
processing

Today the routine is to move data from ship to shore, then run
the data through a parser to get a summary of the antenna's
operation. Step one of the KVH solution is to move the data
parser to the ship, and simultaneously use a software solution to
effectively reduce the file transmit size from 10MB to about 800
bytes. To optimize the process even further, the shipboard system
is able to monitor network data load, transmitting data at
optimum times.

Balog said once KVH solved its own problem, it became clear that
by making its solution flexible that this solution could include
data flows from other ship equipment and systems. The key to
success, however, comes in working with individual vessel owner /
operators to determine data priorities for each owner, each ship,
each fleet. "The need came out of developing something for
ourselves, and we thought, 'let's make it flexible,'" and look to
integrate data streaming from other shipboard equipment and
systems. With a broad global footprint KVH had a broad field to
find a willing technology partner to help develop the system.
While full details on the exact nature of the commercial ship(s)
under test could not be shared, KVH did concede that "there is a
beta test in progress, a beta test capturing all shipboard data
from dozens of sensors on a brand new, modernized, sensor-laden
commercial vessel."

Data Screening

According to Balog, selecting the data that you don't want is
equally important to selecting the data you do want, effectively
edge processing the big data in a means to receive only a summary
of the data you need. Increasingly sensor vendors, of example,
are putting additional analytics (Sensor Based Analytics) in the
sensors themselves to help crunch the data, minimizing the amount
needed for transportation. Mitsock put it in practical terms: "If
a pump is operating normally, do you need notification every 10
minutes that the pump is working correctly? Probably not. The
pump only 'raises its hand' if something is going south, as
opposed to reporting every 10th of a second that everything is
just fine." On the other hand, if a main engine is having a
performance problem, that information could be critical to ship
and crew safety, as well as savings on both maintenance and fuel,
for example. The customization and prioritization of the data,
ultimately, is up to the vessel owner/operator to decide.

With the ability to more easily crunch, prioritize and send data,
one of the chief challenges remains sorting through all of the
systems and sensors to ascertain the desired information, and
ultimately getting all of the sensors and systems - digital and
analog - connected and speaking the same language.

Cutting through the complexity of shipboard technology
collection, processing and transmission, the premise of KVH
"Watch" is simple: to provide a proactive and preemptive tool for
preventing failures at sea, benefitting fleet operators with
operational efficiency and cost savings.

Mar 1, 2017

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