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Let’s Get Practical: Using Innovative Technology To Digitise Our Gateways To Trade

by Danielle du Plessis

Ports are a vital part of the supply chain. They are the interfaces between the sea, rivers, rail and road, and thus play an important role in the management and coordination of materials and information flows. Today’s ports are complex ecosystems which span an extensive number of stakeholders, from port operators and authorities to hauliers and shipping companies. As a result, global port and terminal networks face a multitude of challenges. Let’s talk about our Smart Ports solution.

Becoming a Smart Port translates into adopting solutions to address the current and future challenges faced by seaports. These challenges include but are not limited to, spatial constraints, pressure on productivity, fiscal limitations, safety and security risks and sustainability. However, determining suitable technologies, how to implement them and the way in which they can support the overall digital strategy of the port, remains a challenge.

Innovation drivers within the port ecosystem

Currently, the primary challenge in seaports is operational excellence. From a supply-side, namely port authorities; capacity, efficiency, safety, reliability, support and costs are key drivers of value proposed to the clients (for example, terminal operators). On the demand side, port users may want extra services like time savings, security, traceability, etc. Improving these drivers for both sides is where the quick wins for the ports can be expedited. Today’s digital port solutions focus on efficiency improvements like traffic management systems, improving flow throughout the port area, automation, reducing costs and improving lead time. The problem is that these digital port solutions work in isolation- creating silos of information, resulting in delayed actions that are based on assumptions rather than real-time, integrated data. This, in turn, gives rise to a loss of both revenue and new business opportunities as well as endangering the lives of workers and damage to or loss of cargo.

The IoT.nxt Smart Ports Solution

smart ports overview

IoT.nxt is aimed at providing a future proof Gateway and Platform As A Service (PAAS) framework. IoT.nxt has developed a world-class, scalable industrial-grade IoT gateway hardware and software platform. The platform allows for structured and managed data, iterative addition of legacy systems and addition of new ‘things’ into the eco-system, whilst dynamically managing the interoperability of these subsystems. Thus, ensuring a vertically and horizontally integrated digitisation layer at the edge assisting in accelerating innovation and implementation. With an IoT.nxt solution, there is an abounding stream of opportunities to unlocking value within the eco-system of the port.

IoT as a key enabler for digital transformation

As IoT rises into dominance, sensors are playing a pivotal role in measuring the physical characteristics of objects and converting them into numerical values called data endpoints. These data endpoints are read by other devices or by the user. Combined, these technologies form the Internet of Things (IoT), which represents a convergence between the physical and digital worlds. The IoT.nxt solution lies at the interface of these worlds, bridging the edge through the abstraction, normalisation, processing and visualisation of key data. The implemented IoT.nxt core foundation will provide the platform of standards to bring all critical components into a single interactive real-time operational matrix.

Ports are on a drive to digitalise and as a result, large volumes of data are being generated. However, without the correct edge-based aggregation and orchestration infrastructure, ‘Big Data’ is cumbersome, difficult to interpret and costly to maintain. The solution to this problem lies in distributed, intelligent edge computing and the IoT.nxt Raptor Gateway technology. A true Smart Port will need to take advantage of its position in the supply chain to add value with the improved use of data generated by embedded IoT infrastructure. Aggregating different data sources and setting the right business rules for analysis can provide real and valuable insights into port operations. Creating an information-sharing platform that centralises, stores, analyses and exchanges data is key to unlocking value at the port. The IoT.nxt technology stack is a powerful way to deliver on rapid disruptive digital transformation.

The key components of the IoT Smart Port landscape

The following components are necessary in order to enable access to high integrity, real-time operational data that will support agility in the planning and operations execution process across all aspects of the port’s value chain:

Sense: Gather data from the edge

The IoT.nxt approach is, in many cases, to integrate, deploy and overlay new technologies without disruption to the business – no rip-and-replace, negative impact or massive changes to existing processes. In most cases, all existing systems and devices, as well as software are kept as-is, with additional gateways, sensors and integration added to provide more visibility and safety.

The IoT.nxt Raptor Gateway technology is the perfect foundational platform for connecting all ‘things’.  These ‘things’ create the much-needed operational data in real-time, to the right people in the right format. The Raptor gateway is completely brand and technology agnostic. It has the capability to connect to most systems in the ecosystem and to assume the properties and protocols required to communicate with any device or sensor. The Raptor technology filters, aggregates, normalises and abstracts data that is required to facilitate and manage business processes. The Raptor filters the data at the edge, only allowing the relevant data to flow, and this solves the problem of big data overload. Once the data is orchestrated in this way, it is possible to determine challenges that arise from poor coordination across the value chain and not just within the siloes.

Transport: Transfer data over the network

The data collected by the Raptor Gateways pass over a network which may be Wi-Fi, cellular, fixed, narrowband etc. Essentially, the Raptor is network agnostic and thus can send data over a variety of network types.  The reliability of networks is exponentially improving and is now becoming more pervasive and better equipped to handle large amounts of small data packets thus enabling the IoT infrastructure.

Store: Data orchestration and storage within the IoT platform

The IoT.nxt platform facilitates transformational interoperability among multiple sources of data and multiple sub-systems that require close coordination for incident management related to critical infrastructure. The IoT.nxt suite of products can be deployed according to client requirements either as an on-site, cloud-based or hybrid enterprise IoT solution. Data security is a core design principle of the entire IoT.nxt technology stack.

Analyse: Create valuable insights from raw data

While the data does not add value, aggregating different data sources and setting the right business rules for analysis can turn it into real insight. Within the port context, data is analysed to provide valuable insights related to operational performance, driver behaviour, safety and equipment maintenance for connected port assets and equipment. Preventive and predictive maintenance is also enabled through the application of IoT technologies and data analysis. Preventive maintenance allows for the optimal scheduling of planned maintenance actions aimed at the prevention of breakdowns and failures; this preserves and enhances equipment reliability. Predictive maintenance uses real-time data to determine the current condition of the in-service equipment in order to predict when maintenance should be performed; this minimises the disruption of operations while targeting the correct repairs in order to prevent unplanned downtimes.

smart ports sensors

Control: Take action based on data insights

Based on the insights derived from the data, intelligent context control is used to notify or alert the necessary stakeholders of out-of-threshold situations within the port. The system assists Control Room professionals to respond quickly and accurately to evolving business and security risks within the port. The alerts can trigger a person, enterprise system or IoT device to take action. The bi-directional capability of the Raptor Edge Gateway allows for the remote control of enabled IoT devices and connected assets within the eco-system of the port. This provides a layer of control and intelligent automation to the system.

Share: Share data seamlessly with all relevant stakeholders

Data can be exported and shared easily with all relevant stakeholders. This allows for easier collaboration with internal and external stakeholders through the seamless exchange of data and information. Data sharing aids in integrating communities with ports through data-enabled information, adverting and work campaigns.

Intelligent IoT applications within a port context

A variety of use cases are available to increase control and optimisation within the port. This is made possible through the visualisation and tracking of assets. Performance management, automated reporting and non-discretionary decision making become a driver to optimising operations. Security is a priority within the port and this can be achieved through access control and monitoring. Reducing congestion and turnaround times can be driven through real-time information on ships, assets, trucks and train locations as well as itineraries within the port. Information on arrivals and departures, size, draft and berth of each vessel in the port can aid with decision forecasting, scheduling and dynamic planning. Container movements and damages can be tracked. This will significantly increase the ability to uphold customer service level agreements.

Smart Ports: business value drivers

Becoming “smart” means becoming more attractive and competitive. Monitoring, data capture and anticipation enable optimal decision making, improving processes by making them more efficient.  Smart-port technologies’ impact can be substantial. The following business value can be achieved through the implementation of an IoT.nxt Smart Port Solution:

  • Contextualised, smart and rapid remedial action – Empower real-time decision-making to drive productivity improvements, unlock existing design capacity and decrease operational costs;
  • Uncovering unexpected correlations – Proactively identify and remedy areas of weakness and inefficiency in the service delivery process;
  • Reduction of manual data inputs to eliminate latency;
  • Generate accurate data for service and performance level management as well as automated reporting;
  • Data sharing and monetisation to 3rd parties – Data sharing along the value chain to give improved real-time views across the value chain to all stakeholders;
  • Port optimisation through visibility of asset locations – Improve cargo handling efficiency, as well as collection and distribution capabilities;
  • Non-discretionary event handling – IoT enabling interconnectivity and interoperability in the ecosystem to improve efficiencies and processes;
  • Enables adherence to Standard Operating Procedures / Processes through Intelligent Context Controls – De-risk against error factors associated with manual processes and procedures;
  • Safety – Managing dangerous work environment;
  • Support granular movement of assets and containers;
  • Predictive maintenance using big data;

Contact IoT.nxt today to enable change and make the complex, simple and the impossible, possible within your business environment!

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