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Full Fathom Five Thy Data Lies: The Digital Ship Has Sailed

From fathoms, sails and knots, our modern maritime language still bears the fingerprints of past ages when sea captains relied on “dipseys” to measure off the depth of water in six-foot units called fathoms, wind to move and “log lines” with knots tied at specific intervals to determine speed.

Things changed dramatically with the advent of electronic chart displays, satellite navigation, sonar and other technology, but ships can still run into waves, foul weather and congested ports that cause delays and cost money. “We’ve traveled far beyond the compass, but there’s so much father we can do,” says Andy McKeran, digital marine leader at GE Marine, the company’s maritime technology unit. “Today, we can use data to optimize the ship’s design, maintenance, journey and availability. We already do it with planes and locomotive. There’s no reason to stop at the shore.”

McKeran is talking about SeaStream Insight. GE originally developed the marine analytics system to monitor and control deep-sea energy assets like drill ships, risers and blowout preventers, where outages can add up to $700,000 per day. “What we needed was a ‘God’s view” of the entire system,” he says. “With SeaStream Insight, we can put sensors on the machines, analyze the data they produce, send the results to experts remotely and start picking off problems before they strike.”

AndyMcKeran

“We were looking at what our colleagues at GE Transportation and GE Aviation were doing to make trains and planes run more efficiently and saw a lot of similarities,” says GE Marine’s Andy McKeran Image credit: Becky Remmel/Snap-Shoppe

But McKeran, who is in San Francisco this week at GE’s Minds + Machines conference, and the team didn’t stop there. “We were looking at what our colleagues at GE Transportation and GE Aviation were doing to make trains and planes run more efficiently and saw a lot of similarities.”

The systems all run on the same Predix software platform are “equipment-agnostic” – meaning that they could run on machines of different makes. The team thought that GE Marine could use the same algorithms that track rail conditions, for example, to analyze weather, waves and tides and help the captain chart the best course. “This is the benefit of the GE Store,” McKeran says. “Everything comes back to the common nucleus. We can move quickly by borrowing from each other and save time by not reinventing the wheel. Predix allows us to analyze an amount of data that is virtually limitless.”

SeaStream Screenshot

By optimizing navigation, for example, SeaStream Insight can help shippers reduce some of their biggest costs like fuel, which can amount to 40 percent of operational expenses.

The expanded SeaStream Insight can now help navies as well as passenger and freight shipping lines, and LNG Carriers with everything from ship design to predictive maintenance and finding optimal performance. “The system can model behavior based on user and system requirements to build out the digital blueprint of the entire vessel and then predict its operational performance,” McKeran says. “We can predict a how a battleship design will behave before it hits the water. That’s something unseen in the industry.”

Most customers will be probably interested more quotidian applications, however. By optimizing navigation, for example, SeaStream Insight can help shippers reduce some of their biggest costs like fuel, which can amount to 40 percent of operational expenses. GE says that being able to remotely spot anomalies and diagnose problems, SeaStream Insight can also cut costs associated with third-party repairs by up to a quarter, or as much as $200,000 per day, by sending field-engineers where they need to be in case something breaks down.

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