The COVID‑19 pandemic has sharpened the focus on how technology will shape the marine world in the future. It’s changed the way we live and work in a way none of us could have imagined a few months ago and we need to find ways to adapt.
As an industry, this involves solutions that keep our people safe. Technology will play a role, and by harnessing the learnings of very advanced technology in industries such as healthcare and automotive, we can accelerate our efforts and find the solutions we need.
There is the technology that moves more shipping roles from ships onto land, which can help us navigate access challenges due to quarantine and travel restrictions. This is likely to see remote capability and autonomous shipping become more prevalent – an obvious way to cope with social distancing and manage the health and safety of those working at sea and on shore.
Tools can make this happen. VR (virtual reality) glasses, for instance, can be used to look at a ship’s machinery; with augmentation via equipment manuals and measured data, information is available instantly to help diagnose problems by the crew, or to send images back and forth between the ship and shore for more expert and in‑depth diagnosis.
The emergence of digital twinning – a digital replica of a physical entity – helps with understanding how a vessel or a piece of equipment are performing. Smart sensors incorporated around the ship and within equipment collects data on the real‑time status of the ship’s operation. Connected to a cloud‑based system that receives, stores and analyses, these sensors’ data can be blended with environmental data sets such as weather, tides and currents, to provide incredible insights into how a ship is performing and which can be used to guide decisions made by those on board. In time, as confidence grows in digital twins, decisions made by humans can be automated as we move toward autonomy to support ship operations.
During the pandemic, remote surveys have also emerged as a way to help keep vessels in class whilst travel bans have been in place. Beyond the crisis, the combination of digital twins and remote surveying could well be the new normal.
As we emerge from COVID‑19 with more automation and remote monitoring, the way we manage human and machine
interaction will also be vital, underlining the importance of educating and informing the maritime community of the significance of the human element in our new reality.
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