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Hyundai Heavy Industries and Accenture want to build connected ships

July 17, 2015, 9:02 PM UTC
West Coast Dock Workers Contract Dispute Blamed For McDonald's Fry Shortages In Venezuela
OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 07: Container ships are seen docked at the Port of Oakland on January 7, 2015 in Oakland, California. A West Coast dock workers contract dispute that has been causing severe delays at West Coast ports since October is being blamed for a shortage of McDonald's french fries in Venezuala and Japan. More than 100 of Venezuela's McDonald's franchises are completely out of potatoes and have switched to alternatives like yuca, a staple of traditional South American cooking. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Hyundai Heavy Industries and Accenture are designing connected ships that would measure information about a vessel’s progress through the sea as well as optimize efficiency when it comes to handling cargo. The goal is to take the same sort of real-time data analytics and predictive insights from the manufacturing floor and apply them to shipping.

Hyundai will handle the physical manufacturing of the connected vessels adding sensors and connectivity to ships while Accenture tackles the tougher challenge of building business models and the cloud infrastructure that will help Hyundai transition from selling a product to selling and designing services. John Deere and other heavy industrial companies are in a similar boat (ha!) as product companies move from letting customers buy a piece of industrial equipment to instead offering them the ability to pay for completing a task.

In the case of shipping, Hyundai might sell a customer the ability to get 40 tons of goods from Japan to the United States at a certain cost, or it might guarantee a certain time frame or logistics contract on a particular item. Beginning in the second quarter of 2016 Hyundai will start retrofitting existing ships with new sensors and connectivity. Hyundai Heavy Industries plans to initially offer customers the ability to monitor and maintain their ships.

It’s akin to guaranteeing uptime on a piece of industrial equipment, only this equipment is traveling across the ocean, which means that there are a lot more variables to track when it comes to factoring wear and tear on the overall equipment. Services are expected to include real-time alerts and warnings, predictive maintenance and more efficient scheduling. It’s a big job, but smarter ships could one day not only help ship owners ensure goods make it places on time, but do so in a way that reduces fuel.

There are still a lot of questions about this partnerships, such as how many sensors a ship would require and how much data each ship would generate. Because a ship spends a lot of time out of range of broadband networks, a constant network connection isn’t feasible, so some on-board processing will be necessary. Figuring out how to divvy up tasks that need to call out to the cloud, versus those that can take place on deck will be part of Accenture’s role in this gig, and might be of interest to anyone else trying to build sensor networks in remote locations such as mines or oil fields.

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