Finnish firm KNL Networks, recently acquired by Telenor Maritime, is helping shipping companies to make use of the growing maritime Internet of Things (IoT) via a solution that uses a radio communications network to send data from a vessel to shore-side, without interfering with existing communication methods onboard the vessel.
CEO and co-founder of KNL Networks (KNL), Toni Linden, firmly believes that the maritime industry requires tangible digitalisation where services and solutions are driven by customer-related needs. He suggests that organisations looking to digitalise their operations should start small, or ‘lean’, and gradually build up as the value is proven at each stage. He believes that this will enable an organisation to reap the largest rewards.
KNL harnesses a ‘lean digitalisation’ approach whereby access to data is first provided before turning this into information that makes sense and is valuable for the end user. “Our goal is to turn data into a business,” Mr Linden confirmed in December to listeners of the Digital Ship webinar, New technologies for managing vessel performance. “When you get the raw data from sensors or systems it generates very little value. You have to improve and harmonise this data going forward, make it available for business in a way that makes sense. You have to get it to a point where the organisation can start to see the value in the data and obtain full transparency in different operations.”
KNL has developed a unique technology, providing data access through a secure, global mesh network. The goal is to help companies achieve value from data by providing them with real-time access to data from systems and sensors already onboard their vessels. The service consists of data collection, a platform for managing data in a standardised way, connectivity, and on-shore management and storage of data as well as access management, making it a complete end-to-end solution for digitalising fleet operations.
Each KNL system is part of a worldwide network of KNL radios. A vessel in a remote location can connect its KNL radio via the high-frequency band to another KNL radio that has a cellular connection. A vessel closer to shore will automatically connect to the cellular network. The KNL global network allows the data to be replicated on the shore side, meaning that multiple parties can gain secure access to the data onboard their vessel.
The single radio communications network is completely independent to the Satcom network, which means that the shipowner does not have to deal with the complexities of integrating operational technology (OT) systems with the corporate IT network, nor do they have to compete with other demands for the available Satcom bandwidth, and can ensure reliability and cybersecurity.
KNL’s database is compliant with maritime open standards with no property lockups. Full and real-time visibility of data is shown, without relying on bandwidth and data access. “We have created a way of dedicating data for different users so that it can be used in parallel with different stakeholders and provide a full access to data, which is very important when decision making relies on data so much.”
Mr Linden confirmed that the solution is offered on a subscription-based service. There are no capital investments or other costs. “Everything is offered as a service, starting with a few hundred Euros a month and can build up from there when you have a different business case and different user cases.”
He continued: “We can take in several types of traffic. We have a range of libraries and industry IoT signals that can be implemented and are capable of defining various data formats. When an owner prefers to obtain the data from a particular system, we work directly with the OEM (original engine manufacturer) to integrate the platform and test the data until it is ready to be used by the owner.”
This approach means that customers can access the benefits of digitalisation at a very low cost.
On the maritime side, KNL has more than 100 installations.
Capacity and capability
KNL’s platform is fully compliant with maritime requirements and type approved to be used onboard vessels. For HF-radio, the platform uses the existing radio license that vessels already have, meaning there is no need for an additional radio service.
Expanding on one of the critical elements of the solution, Mr Linden explained, “It is very important to understand that we separate the real-time data and the raw data requirements. We only send over real-time data at blue sea that will help to optimise the vessel’s performance.” The shipowner or service provider can provide a range of values for the main engine gas temperature, for example KNL’s onboard solution will monitor and store the data for this and only offload it when there is a high bandwidth service available. However, if the main engine gas temperature starts reaching values outside of those specified, the onboard solution will provide an alert and enable a constant data flow to commence. All data with unlimited GBs is stored and downloaded over high bandwidth, but priority data is transmitted in real-time at a maximum data rate of 150 kilobits per second (Kbps). According to Mr Linden, tens of thousands of signals can be sent through real-time with no issues.
The platform also enables data to be archived, ensuring transparency of operations. If the system detects that the vessel is operating differently to how it has done in the past, it will create an alert in the office so that action can be taken immediately. “This is really becoming more important especially with a big fleet when no one can manually control what’s happening,” Mr Linden noted.
“It’s good to understand, that we’re not enriching data, but we provide the infrastructure and platform to manage and access data, and we’re open to work with anyone having a service or solution to help shipowners to operate more efficiently. We have taken a position of being the independent trusted partner making maritime digitalisation happen, just like Telenor has done in other businesses in their land-based networks.”
Customers can begin with a normal starter package i.e. a small set of data signals onboard the vessel, the data collection and communications part. Data will also be provided to the owner or manager – the cost for this is approximately 300 EUR per month all included. The more complex the system, the higher the cost. There is no capital investment.
The cost of installation and labour is extremely low as for the most part this can be completed by the crew. System updates and maintenance can be done remotely to facilitate continuous low costs. This also enables rapid fleet range roll outs and efficient operations also during the COVID-crisis.
KNL’s solution utilises one price, giving the total cost of ownership a one-month subscription fee. This means that the customer only pays for the services it needs and uses.
KNL’s platform to manage and access data benefits from:
- Being extremely cost efficient as there is no capital investment
- Using a dedicated communications OT system so there is no need for vessels to upscale existing connectivity or carry out any changes on the IT network side
- The solution is scalable over the entire fleet
- The set up time is minimal. Crew can install the solution with a remote follow-up check from KNL
- There is no need to install new sensors. KNL works with customers to select the most appropriate data sources based on the customer’s data requirements
- The open platform follows ISO standards in data handling – meaning any third-party apps for data can be used
- There is unlimited storage for the data and the set up is modular and open
- The solution is compliant with the IMO 2021 cyber requirements
This article is based on a presentation KNL gave during a Digital Ship webinar. View the YouTube recording here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMwwf3LcesU