Norway’s Scan Reach will launch its low-cost solution for connecting the global fleet to the internet via a mesh network that can improve safety, cut cargo costs and improve operational efficiency for ships at this year’s Nor-Shipping event in Oslo.
The so-called digital revolution for the maritime and offshore industries is driven by the connectivity between individual vessels and between ships and their shore-based office network. For the existing fleet of up to 80,000 ships globally, the only option to achieve the necessary connectivity has been through the high cost process of adding cables throughout the vessel.
“In the search for a safer, cleaner and a more efficient shipping industry, the problem with on-board connectivity had to be solved,” said John Roger Nesje, CEO at Scan Reach.
Established in 2015, Scan Reach Technologies has developed a system that it says will allow vessel operators to retrofit a mesh network composed of ‘nodes’ that can be placed in key areas around a ship that will connect the vessel’s network to the onboard communications systems and to the web without the need for cables.
The mesh nodes can also connect to sensors on the vessel via a Bluetooth connection that will record and connect to a central computer on the vessel’s bridge, allowing for readings such as fuel consumption, engine diagnostics and other critical information such as temperature in the vicinity of the node, humidity, noise levels and light exposure that will all be available to the bridge and to shore-based offices in real-time.
Nesje said that connecting the ship is a simple affair – a crew member will configure a ship’s computer to pick up signals from the nodes. Another member of the staff places the nodes in strategic locations and reports the number and location of each node to his or her colleague at the computer. Once the mesh network is established the system is ready to go.
The company has also developed a node that can be worn by crew members or passengers that will register a person’s whereabouts at the time of a critical event such as a fire or collision.
“One reason it is important to obtain wireless connectivity in steel environments (the steel makes connectivity poor), particularly deep in the engine room, is because it is safer. Too many lives are lost at sea,” said Nesje.
Each mesh node will cost NOK 500 ($58.50) with around 100 nodes for a medium-sized ship required along with what Scan Reach calls a “gateway computer” that the mesh network will report to, but which is not connected to the vessel’s main power, allowing the system to maintain its capabilities in emergency situations. Companies that cannot meet this cost can also agree a lease deal with Scan Reach.
Nesje also pointed out that while the nodes meet International Protection Marking level IP67 (the unit can be dropped into a body of water up to a meter deep for half an hour), and meet explosion-proof and water-proof standards, an intense fire will destroy the nodes. One method to assure that the system would be able to continue operations would be to build in redundancy, applying more nodes in critical areas so that if one is destroyed the signal will automatically find a path using another node.
The company currently has eight contracts with different owners that will test the system on one ship in their fleet. But Scan Reach is expecting to achieve a 20 to 25 percent market share of the maritime sector. The company is also looking for potential markets in the oil and gas industry, from wind energy producers, the military, ports, yards and the aquaculture industry (including fish farms).
According to Nesje, Scan Reach has already been approached by oil companies, wind farm operators, mining companies and, to his surprise, a broadcaster, for quotations.
The development phase for the company has taken four years with five external investors owning 40 percent of the company’s shares. Of the remaining 60 percent, Nesje said the company’s 10 employees own nearly all of it.