Can IBM and Cisco make Rotterdam the smartest, IoT connected port in the world?

Jerry Bowles Profile picture for user jbowles April 25, 2018
Cisco and IBM’s global IoT collaboration helps organizations drive maximum business value from their IoT data, no matter where it resides.

Rotterdam port
Picture a giant container ship approaching the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port by cargo tonnage and one that processes more than 140,000 ships a year. Now, imagine that the ship is operating autonomously—no human crew, guided by a complex array of IoT (Internet of Things) sensors constantly collecting data about weather and water conditions like wind, visibility, height of tide and tidal stream and feeding them through advanced routers and gateways into an artificial intelligence system for analysis and decision-making.

Far-fetched? Not at all. The Yara Birkeland, the first autonomous container ship in the world, is under construction in Norway at this moment and is due to be launched in 2019. The Port of Rotterdam has already announced its intention to be ready to handle autonomous vessels by 2025 and has joined forces with IBM to drive its Vision 2030 to become the smartest, connected port in the world. Said Paul Smits, chief financial officer of the Port of Rotterdam Authority:

We are taking action to become the smartest port in the world. Speed and efficiency is essential to our business, and requires us to use all of the data available to us. Thanks to real-time information about infrastructure, water, air, etc., we can enormously improve the service we provide to everyone who uses the port, and prepare to embrace the connected, autonomous shipping of the future.

To help the Port of Rotterdam move toward its ambitious goal, IBM’s Global Services group has been working closely with Cisco IoT group to create a dashboard of IoT data services to drive greater efficiency and increased revenues for the clients of the port: Said Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco:

Over the last year, we completed the integration of Cisco Kinetic and IBM Watson IoT to enable even greater capabilities at the network edge. By combining Cisco’s edge and fog capabilities with IBM’s cloud and analytics solutions, we are uniquely enabling IoT data services that help companies modernize their operations and drive growth.

The port has traditionally relied on traditional radio and radar communication between captains, pilots, terminal operators, tugboats and more to make key decisions on port operations—especially coordinating the berthing of each vessel, a remarkably complex task that involves many parties and thousands of data points. Said Vincent Campfens, Business Consultant, Internet of Things, Smart Infrastructure, Port of Rotterdam:

We process more than 140,000 ships every year and coordinating the berthing of each vessel is a complex task that involves multiple parties and must be executed safely and securely. It can take many hours. With a new digital dashboard, we will be able to view the operations of all parties at the same time and increase volume and efficiency of shipped goods that pass through the port. In fact, shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time, which can amount to about $80,000 US dollars in savings for ship operators and enables the port to dock more ships each day.

IoT to the rescue

The insights gathered by the IBM/Cisco collaboration will enable the port operators to determine the optimal conditions and timing for a safe berth and passage of a ship and even help to calculate clearance heights for ships, which can dramatically increase the revenue generated by each ship entering the port. That same data can even be used in the future to give ships advice on the most environmental friendly conditions to enter the port, saving fuel costs and lowering the CO2 footprint of the Port of Rotterdam.

The combination of Cisco Kinetic, Cisco’s industrial IoT routers/gateways, and IBM Watson IoT provide the Port of Rotterdam with everything they need for the end-to-end IoT data services that are enabling this transformation, Macario Namie, said. This includes:

  • Secure authentication and management of Cisco gateways
  • Application of intelligence at point of data generation to enable decisions at the edge
  • Automated connectivity, deployment, and management of sensors
  • Streamlined extraction, processing, and delivery of data
  • Cloud analytics, data visualization, and insights.

Campfens concludes:

The ability to get the right data to the right applications at the right time is critical for organizations like the Port of Rotterdam to truly transform their operations and the way they run their businesses. With the integration of IBM Watson IoT and Cisco Kinetic, we are putting complete control of IoT data into our customers hands and empowering them to drive better business outcomes than ever before possible.

My take

The Port of Rotterdam’s digital transformation is a gigantic undertaking that is likely to shape future investment in the transportation arm of the global shipping industry. It is a high-risk, high-reward project for IBM, Cisco and their partners. Shipping is an asset-intensive industry that often requires heavy investments to sustain traditional business practices. This is an opportunity to streamline internal

and external processes, as well the entire supply chain, but it won’t be cheap. IBM and Cisco seem well positioned. The main competition seems to be Ericsson’s Maritime ICT Cloud; an end-to-end offering that combines a managed cloud solution with industry applications, service enablement, connectivity management, and consulting and systems integration services.

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