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Commercial and Naval Ships are transforming to Smart Cities At Sea Using IoT and AI

The shipping industry is currently undergoing a massive shift toward “smart” technologies, revamping the in-port experience for shipping companies and their clients alike.


New Platforms use block chain technologies, AI, IoT and analytics. Foldable containers are saving space as well as contributing to container security using asset tagging. Smart containers now communicate information about their location via relay antennas. This technology transforms containers into smart connected objects, enabling multimodal transportation partners to prepare for the container’s arrival in port.


Sensor miniaturization and MEMS technologies are allowing cognitive sensors to be designed. Such sensors permit better situational awareness and maritime security management. Nanotechnologies are enabling environmental sensing, self-cleaning and self-healing structures.

Navies have also embraced the concept of smart ship. In December 1995, the US Navy established the Smart Ship Program Office (SSPO) to pursue the goal of reducing staff while maintaining combat readiness through new technology and process changes. So-called “smart ships” would consist of several new systems to automate navigation, monitor equipment sensors, control machinery and fuel, and communicate over both fiber optic and wireless networks.


The SSPO chose the Yorktown as its first testbed, and by December 1996, the ship was equipped with the first prototype of the Smart Ship System. The system was designed and built by a subsidiary of Litton Industries; it consisted of a Local Area Network (LAN) of 27 client PC’s communicating over fiber optic cable with a server. All the Smart Ship machines ran Microsoft Windows NT 4.0.


The system was projected to save $2.8 million per year by reducing manual operations and maintenance costs associated with shrinking the ship’s staff by 4 officers and about 40 enlisted personnel. In May 1997, the Yorktown with reduced crew successfully completed a five month deployment serving in Caribbean counter-narcotic operations as well as performed test exercises alongside the USS George Washington in her carrier battle group. The Navy Man Power Analysis Center (MPAC) and Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR) groups subsequently reviewed the Yorktown’s crew and ship capabilities and concluded that the ship could meet its operational requirements.


However, On 21 September 1997, the USS Yorktown halted for almost three hours during training maneuvers off the coast of Cape Charles, Virginia due to a divide-by-zero error in a database application that propagated throughout the ship’s control systems. After correcting software issues, and the Yorktown underwent further testing after updates to its SMCS, returning to active service over a year later. On 25 September 1999, the ship departed Pascagoula for a four month counter-narcotics deployment in the Caribbean, and it served without problems.


Autonomous Ships

Many demonstrations of autonomous ships have already been made and unmanned ships are currently under development. Aquatic Drones, a Dutch maritime technology company, has developed small, autonomous vehicles that film underwater, providing information on ship and port conditions below the water line. These drones increase inspection speed, saving time and money. Aquatic Drones is already working with the Port of Rotterdam and has just launched a test with the Port of Amsterdam.


Rolls Royce is partnering with Intel with an ambition to build the first completely autonomous ship. The company announced in Oct 2018 that it is working with Intel to develop a full fleet of autonomous cargo vessels that require no humans onboard by 2025. In order to take its first step towards launching this un-crewed vessel, it introduced the Intelligent Awareness System in one of the crewed vessels this year.


The system is packed with a large network full of cameras, radar, and LIDAR, which are controlled by a centralized program. With the help of vision algorithms, it can detect obstacles in night time and within the busy ports. With the new deal that Rolls Royce has struck with Intel, the firms plan to use 3D NAND solid-state drives for storing the data that would come from this network and use Intel Xeon chips to process this information. The intelligent awareness system is a revolutionary next step in the technology because it will have the capacity to automatically classify any obstacles around it, that include tankers, ship, cruise, pleasure craft or tugs.


Additionally, it also helps in improving the visibility in case of adverse weather conditions because it combines data from several sources. It is immensely helpful in cases where the ship navigates in places like docks with close quarters.


“This collaboration can help us to support ship owners in the automation of their navigation and operations, reducing the opportunity for human error and allowing crews to focus on more valuable tasks,” Daffey added. The focus of both the companies is on safety, and they aim to build these ships with the similar technology that is found in smart cities as well as autonomous drones and cars. This advancement is definitely a feat in the history of maritime technology.


This collaboration is only bound to work in the betterment of ships and vessels to empower them and make them more self-sufficient without the need for human intervention.

Wearable Technology to Create a Seamless Cruise Experience

The modern-day cruise ship has multiple restaurants, attractions, shows, and activities. With so many choices and no way you could experience everything on one cruise, personalization enabled by technology can help passengers get exactly what they want when they want it without spending much energy figuring it out themselves. Shipping industry is employing Internet of Things technology, artificial intelligence, and connected devices  to provide exemplary personalized service to Carnival cruisers.


John Padgett,  Carnival’s chief experience and innovation officer introduced the Ocean Medallion, a quarter-size 1.8-ounce waterproof wearable device powered by a battery that will last at least a month, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017. The Ocean Medallion, that you can carry in a pocket or in a bag or wear it around your wrist, neck or on your belt, is the central element that allows for personalization and the use of technology to elevate the cruising experience on and off the ship.


The Ocean Medallion—“the most extensive experiential Internet of Things that’s ever been done,” according to Padgett—relies on 7,000 sensors placed throughout the multiple-decked ship. There are hundreds of miles of cables on the ship that support the technology. Every stateroom door and staff mobile device is also a sensor to enable the Internet of Things experience. Each passenger’s name is carved into a Medallion that’s connected to them, tracks their movements throughout the ship and works in conjunction with Ocean Compass, the app and service that displays personalized recommendations for every passenger on 4,000 digital interaction points from 55-inch high-res screens distributed throughout every area of the ship.


The promise of the Ocean Medallion is to provide everything you want, whenever you want it. As Padgett was quoted, “Our focus is the end-to-end guest experience being holistically delivered in a personalized way, a simplified way.”


Some of the things the medallion enables passengers to do include:

  • Set up their cruise itinerary before they leave home.
  • Check-in remotely and connect to Ocean Ready, another Carnival technology that allows cruisers to answer health questions and go paper-free, select food preferences and excursions before boarding.
  • Access their stateroom without a key. In fact, thanks to geolocation technology, as passengers approach their room lights will turn on, and the A/C will adjust to their preferred temperature, and their room’s door will unlock when they arrive. This is not only convenient for passengers; it helps Carnival save energy costs by optimizing services for when they will be used.
  • Restaurant and activity reservations can be made, and passenger allergies and food and wine preferences will be remembered.
  • Receive invitations to special events and personalized recommendations for what to do.
  • Track their children and other members of their group, so they know where they are.
  • The medallion offers intelligent navigation throughout the ship—important when you are navigating 19 floors.
  • Cruisers can order anything on demand no matter where they are located and charge purchases to their account without needing to carry any credit cards or money around with them.
  • The medallion aims to be in tune with what passengers are doing in real-time even if that’s different than what they had planned to do. It will adjust its support based on what they need at the exact moment.
  • Passengers can also opt-out of certain tracking programs and determine how much personalization and service enabled by the Ocean Medallion they wish to use (passengers can always choose not to wear the medallion).



Smart Ship Challenges

It is obvious that IoT can provide many advantages for ships. However, specific risks have to be taken into account when anyone thinks of deploying the IoT for ships. We can recognise several areas where IoT presents problems that need a common solution: security, standardisation and business orientation.


Security represents the most significant problem to be solved before bringing IoT to ships. Recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks by thousands of malicious software infected devices connected to the Internet, with more than 100,000 Mirai IoT botnet nodes bringing down services on Twitter, Paypal, and Spotify last October, ask questions of the reality of more connected ships: what could happen if a ship is waiting on responses from the internet in the middle of a storm, especially when thousands of people are onboard? Will safety be compromised? At present there are no guaranteed solutions, but several issues such as the identification of devices, protection against attack, control of updates, and redundancy will have to be considered.


The rapid growth of IoT has led to an uncontrolled growth of devices connected to the Internet through the separate system platforms of manufacturers. Each device manufacturer has built their own IoT solution by connecting their hardware to their cloud server to answer their requests. As the industry evolves, the need for a standard model to perform common IoT backend tasks is becoming more relevant.


The success of IoT will not go hand in hand with the early adopters, but with the companies, and this will only be possible if the initiatives have a clear component oriented in the business, that is to say to add a value. It is necessary to identify which of the initiatives provide a clear value to the business, but also to take into account that this value can be in various terms and not all directly economic. In the field of ships, there are many possibilities. The clearest ones have to do with the optimisation of energy costs, fuel consumption, choice of routes, safety at sea, but also in the work itself inside the ship or the security onboard.


How can the naval sector adapt itself to these changes, taking into account that it is a very conservative sector and in which changes take time to penetrate? The answer lies in putting the focus on its processes and accepting the value propositions that appear both in the product scope, as in the design and construction. This adaptation must take into account the entire value chain.







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International Defense Security & Technology (September 26, 2022) Commercial and Naval Ships are transforming to Smart Cities At Sea Using IoT and AI. Retrieved from
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"Commercial and Naval Ships are transforming to Smart Cities At Sea Using IoT and AI." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed September 26, 2022.
"Commercial and Naval Ships are transforming to Smart Cities At Sea Using IoT and AI." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: [Accessed: September 26, 2022]

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