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- Special Discussion on Today's Technical Challenges Associated with IoT(Excerpt version)
The NYK Group is carrying out a variety of activities aimed at meeting the demands of customers and society for safe, economical, and environmentally friendly shipping operations. Among these activities, the Group is focusing on applying information and communication technology (ICT) in its shipping operations, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. In this section, we invited the University of Tokyo professor Masaru Kitsuregawa, who serves as a director general of the National Institute of Informatics, a leader in the field of ICT research and development, and Yasuo Tanaka, president of the Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), which oversees technological development for the NYK Group, to discuss the Group's most recent initiatives and future outlook.
Special Discussion on Today's Technical Challenges Associated with IoT(Excerpt version)
Applying IoT to Improve Business Processes
Q IoT and big data applications have been attracting attention in recent years. Please begin by explaining how IoT is being applied in society today.
As an example, at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science, we are making use of IoT to analyze nursing care by hospital nurses. We had them attach triaxial accelerometers and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to their pockets, wrist, and waist, so that we could understand how nursing care is actually done. We determined 41 categories of nursing duties, which included measuring blood pressure, taking blood samples, handling intravenous drips, and assisting patients. As the nurses equipped with the sensors repeatedly carry out those activities, we collected and analyzed the data, and created an academic model for automatically distinguishing between the respective duties. We studied the activities carried out by 75 nurses at a hospital over a period of 1,655 days. The results showed that, by far, most of their time was spent inputting data in nursing records. The same results were found by a study at a different hospital. So, ironically, while IT was used to uncover this finding, IT-related data inputs were the cause of the nurses' busy work days. We were able to identify an important issue for nursing work by using big data, so IoT can be expected to help solve such issues in the future.
That demonstrates how problems can be identified by digitizing activities and then analyzing them using IoT and big data.
Big data goes far beyond conventional notions of digitization and enables phenomena to be rendered completely visibly, which opens up new worlds.
Striving to conserve energy in shipping operations by sharing data on land and sea
Q Please tell us about initiatives being taken by the NYK Group to utilize big data.
In recent years, the NYK Group has been utilizing big data in order to operate vessels more safely and economically. One system that serves as a platform for this is our Ship Information Management System (SIMS), which was first set up in 2008. SIMS has given us an accurate grasp of our operations, and we have been able to manage shipping with a high degree of precision.
In addition to fuel consumption data, vessel speed, wind direction, wind speed, compass bearing, rudder angles and other data related to the status of vessel operations is collected and recorded by SIMS, and the database is shared between workplaces on land and sea via broadcast satellites. As vessels installed with SIMS repeatedly sail their routes, data collected under a wide range of conditions has been accumulated. After analyzing that data, we have classified seven main factors that cause fuel consumption to increase, including weather conditions, vessel speed allotment, and the chosen course.
So, by comparing and analyzing those conditions, you could clarify how to make vessel operation more efficient.
Exactly. We regard the digitization of actual conditions and optimization of vessel operations according to those situations as best practices. We are working to improve our maritime and inland shipping operations as a whole. And determining how to adjust vessel speed to match weather conditions and how to reduce speed by leaving the port ahead of time are a few examples of that.
Those examples make it very clear how the process of business, itself, is gradually being transformed by big data, and how the world is changing with the power of ICT.
Systematically utilizing shipping data with the goal of making vessels safer and more environmentally friendly
By using SIMS, we have been improving fuel efficiency, which, at the same time, allows us to reduce emissions of CO2. In addition, at the design stage of building or remodeling vessels, we use operational data accumulated during shipping operations to make the vessels consume even less fuel with the goal of reducing their environmental burden,
As global competition grows more intense, the environment is one field in which Japan can leverage its competitive advantages going forward.
With a view to promoting a zero-emissions society in the future, the NYK Group commissioned the design of the environment-friendly concept ship NYK Super Eco Ship 2030. To develop technologies for reducing environmental burdens, utilizing data will be extremely important.
We are also launching an initiative for utilizing data to ensure the safety of vessel operations. Because the condition of the main machinery, especially the engines, can be monitored and understood with analysis techniques, we want to use that to identify potential problems and prevent any breakdowns from happening in advance.
Leading the way for innovation in the industry by promoting open platforms
The NYK Group shares data with its joint-research partners, such as shipbuilding companies and equipment manufacturers, for the purpose of raising the performance of vessels and equipment. In order to create an open platform for vessel IoT data, we have been working together with classification organizations in Japan and Europe to set up a data center and comply with ISO standards. *1
So, through the use of data, the NYK Group is not only trying to improve its own operations, but also the business processes of the entire shipping industry. Companies that have evolved to that level are rare in Japan, and even around the world. I am impressed by such a forward-looking approach.
The NYK Group takes the standpoint of users rather than manufacturers, and I think that is a big factor. In order to make effective use of know-how and data gained from the continual operations of ships, collaboration with manufacturers, universities, and research institutes is essential.
Engineering based on user-derived data will probably become an essential factor for future production.
The people who most understand how to use a product after it has been released by the manufacturer are the users, themselves. For that reason, we can be confident that a time will definitely come in the future when user-friendly and environmentally friendly innovations are produced as a result of data being shared by users and manufacturers.
Making the most of leading-edge ICT, including artificial intelligence (AI)
Q AI has recently been attracting attention, so we would like to hear your views on its potential in the future.
Big data, IoT, and AI are three technical terms that, in practice, largely cover the same domain. The basis for all of them is big data. IoT is the tool for effectively collecting the data, and AI is the means for analyzing it. Nowadays, the sophistication of AI has made rapid progress due to deep learning, but the biggest factor underlying the recent innovations was the ability to utilize vast amounts of data. We could say "data is everything."
Yes, it is important to organize data so that AI can decipher it. In connection to self-driving, a project has begun to research vessels that can navigate automatically, called self-navigating ships. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is leading a project called i-Shipping*2 with the goal of dramatically improving productivity in the shipping industry. The NYK Group is participating in the project to conduct research on autonomous navigation, although the company has no intention to abruptly switch to unmanned operations by applying AI. First, we want to use ICT, which, in a broad sense, includes AI, as a tool for helping crews operate ships safely.
Finally, we would like Professor Kitsuregawa to offer his concluding remarks.
I have come to understand how the NYK Group is making full-fledged efforts to apply ICT centered on big data, while recognizing changes in the social climate and trends related to technological innovations. Even beyond the shipping industry, the Group's promotion of innovation in the industry and society at large, especially through proactive efforts to establish an open platform, is an extremely relevant approach.