Internet of Things for Heavy and Expensive Items

Ships, planes, and cars are heavy and expensive things. Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing but objects which can communicate their identity to information systems for value creation of some sort. For identification purposes these previously mentioned vehicles have practically unlimited source of power while operating, and plenty of space to fit in all kinds of electronic equipment.Thanks to Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) geo-spatial positioning with global coverage is affordable, automated, easy, convenient, and frequently used by these moving things. As the position, speed, and course are available in the information system in the vehicle this data is also basically easily broadcasted. Coffee mug type of small and inexpensive things on the other hand clearly lack these characteristics and are not so likely to join IoT in the very near ais400future.

In the sea we have Automatic Identification System (AIS). It is a standardized system where vessels broadcast their data to other nearby ships and base stations within a range up to 50 – 200 km. The positions of the ships are projected on an electronic map in real time. The purpose is to assist crew and authorities with improved situational awareness, collision avoidance, and in search and rescue.

In the air there is Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).  Again the same principle, aircrafts share their position and other relevant information with other aircrafts and ground stations nearby. Value is created to airspace users and controllers in many ways.

No doubt the authorities have a closed network of stations receiving these transmissions from the vehicles to see and manage the big picture, but, what makes it even more interesting is that these broadcasts are not encrypted and can be received and decoded in practice by anyone. One can buy a receiver for AIS or ADS-B from an on-line shop starting from 150€, connect it to a computer, view the broadcasts, plot them on a map, and what is best – join an open network and contribute real time data from own area through internet connection. Marinetraffic is an interesting open AIS based information system covering now many areas globally and providing easy to use interface for a curious surfer. Flightradar24.com is a similar system covering Eurpoe based on ADS-B. Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) is an amateur radio-based system which maps even some of their cars. Check out aprs.fi.

How do these web pages showing ships and planes create value? It seems that people are curious and visit the pages. As a page is  visited a lot  it is a good place to show ads. Someone can make at least some money. Why do people get curious? Last week a ship Nordlandia got stuck in the ice with 847 passengers for several hours in front of Helsinki. One could observe in real time from marinetraffic how some small tug boats approached it, how the other ferries passing by tried to push the ice away, and how a Finnish ice breaker Voima and an Estonian ice breaker were rushing to help. Which one got there first? I was monitoring the media during the event and noticed that they published several times news for the public from this incident during the day.

Could there be some more artificial intelligence applied to find interesting cases from the sea and air automatically? Like triggering alerts when a tanker is drifting with rescue ships? Or a ferry full of passengers is doing circles for hours in the archipelago? One could monitor in real time the shipping activity in the ports and get some kind of idea of the changes in the global economy? An airliner returning immediately back to the airport  is revealing a potential problem and it would be easily spotted. There is a lot of room for innovation there I think.

Is there anything for logistics in here? Yes, there might be. When we start  packing individual items we get first a case of them, then a  pallet and then a container and that you can load to a ship whose voyage you can monitor with AIS based networked information system.

Jukka Wallinheimo

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