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May 24, 2017
ConferenceShipbuildingTechnology

Last week I attended the annual COMPIT conference in Cardiff UK. It is one of my annual shipbuilding conferences which focuses on cutting edge and bleeding edge technologies. The reason that I like COMPIT is that it has a good balance of technologies, some that are in use at progressive shipyards and design shops, and other technologies that are still on the horizon. Volker summed up the conference and the trend with technology we will see in the future. He called it “Smart Everything.” We all know that marketing is using the “Smart X” to sell us on the idea of anything:) but like it or not, there is some truth to it.

The future of smart things will no longer just use a single piece of technology. As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, the real power of today’s achievements is not of a single technology but rather a combination of several technologies that provide us a gain that is greater than the sum of the technologies individually. Combining Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, robotics, new materials, IoT, Digital Twin, Digital Thread, Laser Scanning, etc. has already led to significant improvements in our industry

Here are some of the topics that I found interesting at this year’s COMPIT.


Virtual / Augmented / Mixed Reality

The world is getting blurry between the terms of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality. These technologies are tightly coupled and we will see improvements in each segment; however, those improvements will accelerate the advances in the others.

There were many papers on these technologies and have been in almost every COMPIT conference since it’s inception in 2000. I had a paper which stated that we are still about 5-10 years away from having a good VR Experience in the consumer space. However, with the big players such as Google and Facebook shoveling money towards improving these technologies we will continue to see more success in the shipbuilding industry than we will see from the consumer space. The reason is that the consumer MVP is much higher than the commercial space. You can access my paper or my presentation for more information.

69% of accidents are caused by human error. Some believe that fully autonomous ships are not the correct strategy and a better solution is to provide better tools for today’s ship navigators to reduce human errors. One presentation stated that this can be achieved by using Augmented Reality which would be used by the mariner to identify the route, path and obstacles. There are some significant challenges that are specific to marine; however, it was a very interesting concept.

Another interesting paper was from Christian Cabos from DNV GL about the use of several technologies to improve Hull Surveying. It was interesting to see the combination of drones, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, IoT, Photogrammetry, etc. to significantly reduce the amount of time a ship is required to be birthed for inspection while increasing the quality of the survey. This can save a lot of money and time for both DNV-GL and their customers. I am really excited about where this will go within the next year.


Education

I was pleasantly surprised to see several presentations about education. We all know that we are about to need a lot of new blood in shipbuilding and educating them should be one of our top priorities. I really liked the presentations that talked about taking new approaches to teaching the new generation. They learn differently than us, just as we learnt differently than the generation before us. It is our responsibility to leverage all the available resources, technology and tools we have to provide the best learning experience for the new generation in whichever format they learn best. We also have to understand they have a totally different work environment than we had when we started so we have to teach them differently. This is hard for some instructors as they are digital immigrants.


Smart ships, Autonomous Shipping, IoT, Marine 4.0,

There is a lot of talk about autonomous ships these days which I thought was just talk. I was surprised that there are already some fully autonomous (not just unmanned) being used today. Granted, it is not for large vessels but it was still very interesting

There is definitely a difference in opinion in the marine community of what is the future: Manned but aided by AR, Unmanned, full-autonomous? I know where I stand:). I do not really think it matters what one thinks will be the future as any one of these strategies require similar foundational technologies such as the IoT, secure wireless communication, reality capturing technologies, etc.

A presentation that I found particularly interesting was about the aXatlantic project which aims for a world record to be the first solar powered autonomous vehicle to cross the Atlantic. It demonstrated the many technologies and strategies they need to use to make it a possibility. They even designed it to be self-righting.


Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence

With all the information that we are going to need to be capturing for almost all future technologies I really think Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are going to transform shipbuilding into a cutting-edge industry. There were a few presentations on these topics but not as much as I would have liked to see.

One that really got me thinking was a presentation about  capturing the location, route and path of a significant amount of ships on the sea. With this information, they can predict which port a ship is en route to as well as the cargo it is carrying. The reason that it got me really excited is the use case from a business perspective. Imagine if you had this intelligence coupled with the data of weather, currents and other environmental data which could predict if your perishable cargo would be able to reach its final port before your cargo spoilt. Also, imagine the business intelligence it could provide a shipping company regarding what the competitors were doing. You could determine near-real-time trends in the market and adjust your prices and routes to capitalize on it. This would have a huge benefit which could be capitalized on to provide significant profits.


Closing Remarks

Shipbuilding is making steady progress from moving from a traditional industry to a cutting-edge industry. I have seen more progress from our industry in adopting new technology in the last 3 years than I have seen in the last 10 years. You can refer to my Future of Shipbuilding (15+ years) for more of my thoughts on this.

There are so many technologies that are mature as well as on the verge of being mature enough for shipbuilding that we will continue to see a lot more progress in the next few years. There is not a specific technology which will see more successes in our industry than another since it is the combination of these mature technologies which will drive us to a cutting-edge industry. These include IoT, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Drone, Big Data, New Materials, 3D Printing, Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality, Reality Capturing, Simulation, Gamification, Photogrammetry, Mobile Technologies, Nanotechnologies, etc.

COMPIT is one of the best shipbuilding technologies conferences which balances the future R&D and academia work with the presently implemented technologies.

Next COMPIT I look forward to seeing more presentations on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Big Data since I think that with all the technologies we are using will require a lot of information which can be leveraged for some amazing things. And, as usual I always think we should also have more usage of the cloud.

I will definitely go and present at next year’s COMPIT in Italy.

On a side note, I am glad COMPIT has gone digital and did not print out the iconic red book which contains all the papers. It is a sign that we are evolving to the digital era.

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