RINA Consulting

ARTICLE - 22/06/2017

Internet of… what Things?

The so-called Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the networking of smart objects (“Things”). The term covers everything from simple products – like cars with built-in tracking sensors and homes with automated lighting and heating systems – to entire “smart cities”. “Things” contain different combinations of embedded electronics, software, sensors and actuators. Although physically separate, they connect with each other via the internet.

What are these “Things” in the context of the maritime industry? How will developments in the IoT affect us now and in the future?

For some time, ships have been equipped with sensors and devices that collect data to provide updates or alarms. The IoT means that such data can now be optimised and sent in real time to captains, crew members, other ships or headquarters. These sensors monitor everything from a ship’s speed to the temperature of a cabin, connecting hundreds of devices and combining new and existing data streams.

We only need to look at our smartphones to know how fast smart technologies are evolving. Similarly, it’s hard to predict how exactly IoT technologies will develop, which problems they will solve and what issues they will create. However, the fusion of data driven by IoT technologies will be able to improve ship health awareness and provide a valuable contribution to the safety of freight and passengers. IoT platforms will also be able to provide remote data acquisition and information exchange, such as vessel route data exchange and broadcasting to other parties.

We can envisage many other innovative services, for example the evolution of vessel tracking and monitoring technology. This looks to a future of smart global trade and supply chains that exploit the satellite Automatic Identification System, IoT connectivity and big data to improve visibility and control.

There are two sides to every coin. Electronic systems and digital information are increasingly important to ship operations. Organisations must implement appropriate technical and procedural controls to protect the company, its operations, ship data and personal information about crew and passengers. Two areas are particularly important within this framework: IoT security and privacy issues, and certification of analytics software.

RINA offers a security assessment service of onboard IT systems and safety-critical cyber systems to address risks related to the system or supply chain. The assessment is based on ISO/IEC 20243:2015, or Open Trusted Technology Provider Standard (O-TTPS). An initiative of The Open Group, the standard defines best practices for secure engineering and supply chain integrity. RINA is currently in contact with The Open Group engineers to apply the standard to the IoT and maritime sector in a cost-effective way.

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Antonio Durante