My route into the maritime world was a circuitous one. In fact, most of my career has been focused on technology, including telecoms, software development and computing. Ten years ago, I set up my own IT consulting business. It focused on software development, data centres, Cloud services, and other projects.
More recently I have supported my son in setting up an employment solutions business for the maritime sector. This was how I became part of Mersey Maritime, four years ago. I have been so impressed with the proactive way in which Mersey Maritime has created a North West cluster of companies in maritime and its supply chain, championing collaboration to bring services and jobs to the region.
Furthermore, it was from here that I got involved in helping people in the cluster to understand how they should think about the challenges and technology of the future. Collaboration is the name of the game – and I am delighted that Donmac Data is now working as a partner and sponsor of Maritime UK.
The Maritime 2050 Strategy
The maritime sector directly contributes £14.5bn to the UK economy and employs 185,700 people. Indirectly, the sector generates almost £40bn in GVA and almost one million jobs. Ask many people about the maritime sector and they’ll think only of ships, but it is the entire supply chain – ports, engineering, design, shipbuilding, insurance, agents, lawyers, and so on.
Therefore, all of these disciplines are a vital part of the Maritime 2050 strategy – and all of them need to be supported by technology in one way or another.
When I set up Donmac Data, it was to focus on Big Data and the security aspects involved such as hacking and cybersecurity. These have become big issues that everyone in maritime is dealing with. Donmac Data has put together a ‘roadmap’ to help our partners in maritime to plan for the changes that are ahead of us – and upon us.
It All Comes Down To Data
When you think about technology, it all comes down to data and what you do with it. You may have a mass of data available, but you need to convert it into information that people can use. Then, through analytics, you can turn it into knowledge. This gives you the wisdom to support your future strategies and decisions.
If you know what data is and how you can use it, it can be applied to many areas of your business to make improvements.
Today we design ships using CAD. In the future, we will design and build ships using VR (virtual reality) technology, so that we can be inside the design as we build it. Therefore, we’ll be able to incorporate sensors onboard, allowing us to track what the propeller and satellite systems are doing; we can track weather patterns and pull this information together to optimise the vessel’s operations.
We look forward to the proliferation of smart ports, where we’ll utilise data digitalisation to make them efficient and secure. An example of this would be analysing and optimising ship arrivals and scheduling.
We can use data to track and ensure contracts and compliance, and to take over office admin work. Furthermore, VR can put trainees “on the spot” to deliver highly effective, experiential training that is interesting and relevant.
At Donmac Data, we focus on making the aspirations practical and deliverable. Many companies are fearful, wondering: “How on earth are we going to get there?”
From VR and AR to Blockchain, the Internet of Things and AI, the tools and capabilities are there. It is now up to us to make them work effectively.
Opinions: Donald MacMillan, CEO, Donmac Data