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The next phase of digitisation and automation in liner shipping and ports

Attitudes towards technology in the maritime sector are in transition and 2018 could be crunch time for many concepts launched in the last few years as shipping and port providers focus strongly on defining the true commercial value of digital and automated, argues Lars Jensen in this guest editorial ahead of TOC Europe 2018

As we approach the middle of 2018, it is increasingly clear we are in a transition in relation to the digitisation and automation wave in the maritime industry.

The past few years have been increasingly filled with a mix of grand visions and buzz-words surrounding the impending digital transformation. Especially 2017 saw these topics take front and center stage at virtually every industry conference and gathering, not to mention at C-level and board meetings within the industry itself.

When one questions why this is happening, the answer appears obvious. Introduction of these new technologies ensures reduced operating costs and higher performance – and holds out the promise for even greater gains to come.

Not that there is anything wrong with the obvious – but to what degree are we seeing true transformations taking place?

First of all, we need to distinguish between automated hardware – some would say Internet of Things (IoT) devices – and the actual process of digitisation. The hardware boom has been driven by sharply declining device prices combined with the fact that much of the technology used for automation is not developed solely for the maritime industry but rather leverages technology also developed for other industries – such as self-driving cars, improved battery technology and automated industrial equipment. In this context, we are indeed seeing a genuinely new drive of automation within the industry.

On the topic of digitisation, the answer is not quite as clear-cut. Looking at many of the initiatives which rose to prominence in 2017, two elements are important. The first is that the clear majority were not started in 2017. They were instead launched in the 2012-2016 period. This indicates that despite the seeming sudden rise in digitisation, it is actually the result of several years preparing the groundwork for these concepts.

Secondly, and as importantly, it is hard to see genuinely ground-breaking new concepts amongst these. That is of course a provocative statement – and one likely to be disputed by virtually all of said companies. And naturally, every new concept has elements that will differ from previous incarnations of the same idea. But essentially all these ideas have been launched before in the period from the hey-days of the dot-com bubble in the 1990s up until the financial crisis hit. And with a few exceptions – such as INTTRA and CargoSmart, for example – none made much of an impact.

However, this is besides the main point in this context. The important part is that fundamentally the rise of digitisation as seen in 2018 does not have technology as its main driver.

Technology is usually what is being talked about, but the critical thing we have begun to see changing is the industry’s view on how to use the technology. We are increasingly seeing the launch of pilot projects where not only the tools but also the business models are not fully in place yet. Instead customers are invited to participate in the further testing and development. And the focus is shifting to how new tools can solve actual problems.

“The critical thing we have begun to see changing is the industry’s view on how to use the technology. We are increasingly seeing the launch of pilots where not only the tools but also the business models are not fully in place yet. And the focus is shifting to how new tools can solve actual problems”

And this brings us back to automation. From an engineering perspective it is hard not to be impressed at what can be achieved in terms of autonomous terminal design and unmanned vessels. But if we look forward, we will likely to an increasing degree see the digital and automated agendas merge, with the commercial focus of digitisation taking the forefront.

Automated equipment will – even more than currently – be evaluated on the basis of whether it can drive actual business value. And herein lies an important point. It is not sufficient that a certain piece of automated equipment can be shown to for example have a savings potential. The implementation of that equipment must also be accompanied by a change in associated business processes, as otherwise the value remains theoretical.

“The lesson learnt from digitisation a decade ago is that commercial value must be the driver, otherwise projects will peter out”

The lessons learned from digitisation a decade ago are that commercial value must be the driver, otherwise projects will peter out. In the realm of terminal automation, this is already making itself clear, as the predominance is a focus not on full automation, but on automation where there is an actual beneficial business case associated with process changes. In the case of autonomous vessels, it is equally likely that the focus will shift more to smaller coastal vessels and barges, whereas futuristic large autonomous deep-sea vessels might take more of a back seat.

On the digital agenda, 2018 is a year where the many concepts which emerged in 2016-2017 are truly being tested in the market. This also means that by the end of 2018 it will likely become crunch time for many of these. Did the concepts stand the test of the market in terms of commercial value, or will they be running out of investment funds? After that, the scene is set for 2019 to be the year where the successful concepts begin to grow in earnest.

Lars Jensen is CEO & Partner of maritime advisory firm SeaIntelligence Consulting, CEO & founder of maritime cyber security consultancy CyberKeel,, CCO of LinerGrid, a cloud-based tool to optimise networks in liner shipping, Partner at LinerGame, an interactive simulation game for liner executives and Board member at New York Shipping Exchange. A frequent advisor and contributor to TOC, he speaks this year in the Shipping & Port Watch session during the Container Supply Chain conference at TOC Europe 2018 in Rotterdam, 12-14 June

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The Digital Development Global Practice recently launched a new approach to accelerate its work on gender equality, with an ambitious vision that centers women and girls across its financing and analytics. The approach orients solutions to the five foundational pillars of the digital economy: digital infrastructure, digital public platforms, digital financial services, digital businesses, and digital skills. It also emphasizes the need for more and better sex-disaggregated data and to tackle risks, such as algorithmic bias and online gender-based violence.

Digital Infrastructure

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Digital Public Platforms

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Digital Skills

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ONU

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This is good news for global development, but ITU said that people’s ability to connect remains profoundly unequal – as many hundreds of millions might only go online infrequently, using shared devices or facing connection speeds that hamper their internet use.

“While almost two-thirds of the world’s population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet,» Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General said.

“ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind.»

‘Connectivity boost’

The UN agency’s report found that the unusually sharp rise in the number of people online suggests that measures taken during the pandemic contributed to the “COVID connectivity boost.”

There were an estimated 782 million additional people who went online since 2019, an increase of 17 per cent due to measures such as lockdowns, school closures and the need to access services like remote banking.

Uneven growth 

According to the document, users globally grew by more than 10 per cent in the first year of the COVID crisis, which was the largest annual increase in a decade. But it pointed out that growth has been uneven.

Internet access is often unaffordable in poorer nations and almost three-quarters of people have never been online in the 46 least-developed countries.

A ‘connectivity Grand Canyon’

Speaking in Geneva, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU said: “The internet divide runs deep between developed and developing countries. Only a third of the population in Africa is using the internet.

“In Europe, the shares are almost 90 per cent, which is the gap between those two regions of almost 60 percentage points. And there is what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, has called in his Common Agenda blueprint for the future, “a connectivity Grand Canyon”.

‘Digitally excluded’

The report found that younger people, men and urban dwellers are more likely to use the Internet than older adults, women and those in rural areas, with the gender gap more pronounced in developing nations.

Poverty, illiteracy, limited electricity access and a lack of digital skills continued to hinder “digitally excluded” communities, ITU noted.

GBM

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A real-time, more user-friendly future

With these changes underway, taxation is likely to look a lot different in the future:

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UIT

Los Premios para PYME de ITU Digital World 2021 exponen soluciones digitales que ayudan a las nuevas empresas tecnológicas creativas a forjar alianzas y atraer inversiones

Las soluciones tecnológicas inspiradoras tienen el potencial de cambiar y mejorar vidas en todo el mundo gracias al impulso y la dedicación de las pequeñas y medianas empresas (PYME).

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Los últimos Premios ITU Digital World reconocieron las contribuciones sobresalientes de las PYME al avance de la conectividad, las ciudades inteligentes y la vida inteligente, la cibersalud, las finanzas digitales y la tecnología educativa.

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Este año aparecieron seis ganadores, que abarcan las cinco categorías principales.

PYME ganadoras

Las ganadoras fueron:​

Empresa Categoría País
Benefit Vantage Limited – Ipification Conectividad Hong Kong, China
WIWI Conectividad México
URBIT GROUP LLC Finanzas digitales Estados Unidos de América
Baobabooks Education Sàrl Tecnología de la educación Suiza
Mawidy Cibersalud Reino de Arabia Saudita
SCE Korea, Inc. Ciudades inteligentes, vida inteligente República de Corea

El Vicesecretario General de la UIT, Malcolm Johnson, expresó su reconocimiento a los ganadores y les entregó sus certificados en presencia del Viceministro de Información y Comunicaciones de Vietnam, Phan Tam.

Esta séptima edición de los Premios marcó el evento final de una conferencia y exposición en línea de tres meses de duración coorganizada por Vietnam. Inaugurada en septiembre, ITU Digital World 2021 también marcó el 50º aniversario de la serie de conferencias y exposiciones sobre telecomunicaciones más importante de la UIT.

Durante la ceremonia, se anunció una nueva asociación de la UIT con la empresa tecnológica estadounidense Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), con el objetivo de acelerar el programa el próximo año y dotar a las PYME de acceso a las herramientas, las redes y la tutoría de HPE.

Selección competitiva
El concurso estaba abierto a todas las PYME del mundo, y los proyectos ganadores iban desde la autenticación móvil y la accesibilidad a la información hasta la conectividad para el transporte público, la tecnología financiera (fintech), la escritura creativa y la atención sanitaria impulsada por la inteligencia artificial (IA).

Un jurado de expertos, representantes de los campos de la empresa, la tecnología y la iniciativa empresarial, seleccionó a los ganadores entre un total de 133 candidatos elegibles de 53 países.

Preparar a las PYME transformadoras

Los Premios ITU Digital World formaban parte de un programa para PYME dirigido por expertos que incluía clases magistrales en línea y presentaciones para PYME digitales. Manteniendo el formato virtual, la ceremonia final de entrega de premios celebró la creatividad y la innovación tras unas soluciones digitales que responden a las necesidades del mundo real.

Las clases magistrales especiales exploraron áreas tales como la creación de empresas sostenibles y la colaboración entre las PYME y las corporaciones, la licitación para las oportunidades de contratación pública, el servicio al cliente y la innovación, la cibersalud, el diseño para la inclusión de la discapacidad y la recaudación de fondos. El programa y los premios para las PYME son componentes clave de ITU Digital World 2021, que fue coorganizado con el Gobierno de Vietnam y tuvo lugar de septiembre a diciembre de 2021.

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