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Wireless through steel IoT system offers visibility of data, personnel

Tue 26 Feb 2019 by Ed Martin

Wireless through steel IoT system offers visibility of data, personnel
ScanReach CCO Arild Saele: "Why can’t we wirelessly track people inside a vessel?"

Ships and offshore structures are often not the most conducive spaces for maintaining wifi connections. 

Their steel construction makes transmitting reliable wireless signals difficult, so one Norwegian maritime technology company has spent the last few years developing a work around. 

At a Riviera Maritime Media conference in early February in London, ScanReach chief commercial officer Arild Saele said his company essentially started from scratch, developed its own technology and wrote its own code.

The Bergen, Norway-based company put together a team of naval architects, marine engineers and electronics experts who developed a mesh-based internet of things (IoT) system using low-power wireless microsensors to monitor and transmit environmental data.

The sensors can be placed in difficult to reach areas on board ships and offshore platforms as well as on personnel – to improve situational awareness and decision making in an emergency – and ScanReach's algorithms have allowed the team to create a portfolio of products to go along with its system. 

In its IoT-based In:Mesh network, individual microsensor nodes connect directly to as many other nodes in the network as they can throughout the steel vessels and structures essentially creating chains along which data can be transferred to a central control centre.

ScanReach's In:Range product comprises wearable sensors that can be worn by crew members to provide accurate information on precisely where they are in a vessel. As well as tracking locations, ScanReach’s technology can also monitor ambient temperatures and detect the presence of dangerous gases, to accurately locate crew members and predict dangers in the environment. As well as being accessible on board the vessel, critical information can also be transmitted to shore offices, the coast guard and third-party vessels, with important implications in the event of accidents or other adverse incidents, Mr Saele said.

ScanReach's In:Track product allows the system to connect and track data from third-party sensors and its In:Sense set-up monitors the condition of internal spaces for environmental parameters including temperature, pressure and the potential build-up of gas. This, the company maintains, has significant insurance implications with regard to vessels carrying cargoes that are prone to liquefy or spontaneously combust.

In order to prove the strength of its microsensors' connectivity, ScanReach tested its products extensively, including tests using an Ex-D enclosure, according to Mr Saele. Ex-D enclosures are designed to be thick enough to prevent the propagation of an internal explosion, and in spite of the strength of the enclosure, the sensors maintained their connection from within the enclosure to other external sensors.

Since April 2018, three succesful pilots have been completed. Most noteworthy of these is the integration of ScanReach’s technology on board North Sea Giant, the 180-m long, 10-deck offshore support vessel owned by North Sea Shipping. The other pilots were on the large trawler Atlantic Star and a Norwegian coast guard vessel. The technology is due to be formally launched at Nor-Shipping in June, Mr Saele said.

ScanReach's wireless system can be installed in a matter of hours, Mr Saele said, at a fraction of the cost and time required for cabled systems which involve a large number of apertures and often several kilometres of expensive cabling.

The information gathered from the In:Mesh system can be sent to customers’ own cloud systems, as well as connected to Kongsberg’s Kognifai platform and DNV GL’s Veracity platform.

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