Ultimate SIM: Kongsberg's Digital Ecosystem
By William Stoichevski
Ship owners can expect a rich digitalized offering from Kongsberg Group after the merger of its software-producing, oil-and-gas technology division; its maritime simulation (SIM) business and the company’s renewable energy department. Kongsberg Digital is the successor to these, and among the new entity’s cloudlike offerings are new ways to learn and train, as well as new SIM business models. Behind it all is the ultimate learning academy, one for all the world’s SIM and the Internet of Things — their trademarked digital “ecosystem”, Kognifai.
Since its recent launch, this analytics “ecosystem” reminiscent of the App Store, to some, is billed as the perfect platform to learn hard lessons from an installation’s digital twin; to teach crews or to encourage via the algorithms of machine learning. It’s in the background that Kongsberg Maritime’s digital learning experts have quietly sped along the development of a series of training academy SIM modules that respond to sector and technology trends, and the resultant hopes of shipping and energy company organizations for easier training and new ways of doing things.
First there’s the new walk-to-work, or W2W, SIM for offshore wind operations training that seems to unite the ship’s engine, motion compensating gangway controls and the human operator. It is understood that W2W — the SIM — will be available for ship owners, their favorite training academies and wind farm operators in the second-half of 2017. Already, a major contract to deliver Kongsberg’s K-SIM simulator tech to Dutch Simwave appears to revolve partly around letting the trainers “lead their own training and research” while marrying ship owners’ own “3D mathematical ship and environmental models”. Doubtless, all that will be offered, as well, via Kongsberg’s cloud-based Kognifai “open ecosystem”. “With the cloud, you have infinite computing power. All you need is internet access and a browser,” says Kongsberg chief technology officer, Kristian Moeller, a Ph.D and holder of patents. “The (Kognifai) platform,” however, “is not a product.”
Kognifai for SIM
Seeking clarity, we next see a set-up of the W2W SIM and note that an electrical switchboard is placed opposite the dashboard screens while the whole machinery of SIM is contained in a room one floor below that appears to mirror via computer power an engine-room, its switchboard and yet another screen. Upstairs, the lively presentation on W2W SIM is unfortunately rushed, as the hour is late, but it’s clear SIM is only part of the Kognifai offer being made to fleet or offshore windfarm owners.
“Kognifai can use data from different applications (like those apps already tapping a ship’s coms) to keep an offshore windfarm at maximum operational capacity by planning routes for support vessels based on servicing needs,” a Kongsberg Web site says, adding that human interaction in future might not even be necessary. So why all the training SIM?
In January 2017 alone, Uptime International, a renter of gangways to the offshore wind and offshore oil and gas sector, rented out its motion-compensating gangways to offshore fleet owners Eidesvik Offshore and Sosltad Offshore, for a combined 32 months of wind-park service offshore. W2W gangways — conceived as a way for laid-up offshore vessels to earn a buck on offshore wind farms — are now seen as a way of earning on moving offshore oil and gas crews.
In 2016, Uptime sold to two other offshore fleet owners and to the Damen new-build, Bibby Wavemaster 1, of Bibby Marine Services. W2W is no mere bridge to better times, and it won’t be the only new SIM Kongsberg Digital will soon be offering. We learn two new SIM learning modules that use virtual-reality glasses are being explored for the training of engine room technicians and engineers.
One module is understood to be ready, although it might be a while before demand picks up offshore Norway, where 180 offshore service vessels were still laid up at the beginning of April 2017. Nevertheless, the Norwegian Ministry of Transport is sponsoring a re-imbursement scheme for seafarers in need of new skills, like W2W; or refresher courses.
Yet, Kognifai itself is advanced, analytics “SIM” and appears to now be Kongsberg Digital’s main offering, not just to offshore energy and ship owners but to other industries and places of learning. Still, a Kongsberg exec says “owners and seafarers” are the key intended user base.
The Kognifai platform or interface — Kongsberg staff admit they, too, struggle to define it — is also aimed at the preserve of higher learning. “Close cooperation between commercial actors and academia”, presumably all happening in the Kognifai cloud, will see academics as “consumers of services” and “contributors of innovation”. Research communities, too — “public and private” — are seen using, at least, the Cloud “to safely collect data and store them on the platform for further analysis and utilization”. A significant benefit for business and academia is said to be the ability to work out the implications of otherwise costly tactile planning on the “digital twin” of an oil platform, a wind turbine, a propulsion system — or installations ashore. Kognifai’s limits aren’t yet defined. The number and type of potential commercial and non-commercial users seem boundless.
While Kognifai includes a catalog of apps, analytical “solutions” and application protocol (or program) interfaces — so-called APIs — vendors, too, are offered “a marketplace” under the Kognifai umbrella. Meanwhile, all Kongsberg businesses and their subsidiaries, too, can “consume (a media term) platform services” or “contribute to the platform development” in open-source operating-system style. The proliferation of learning SIM, for which Kognifai is the ultimate platform, has only been outpaced by the spread of open-source software or operating systems. Above these, the Cloud is the great enabler and key to Kognifai, as it has been for ABB’s Ability platform or others’ design or condition-monitoring. What separates out Kognifai, it seems, is the chance it offers users to “build your own app” or use a choice of others’ coded products to not just design and manage but to teach or analyze third-party data.
For Kongsberg’s brain trust, Kognifai is the culmination of a digitalizing, machine-learning drive that began in 2014, or around the start of a parallel drive by Oslo to revamp industrial policy in search of a digital advantage for its key industries. Part of that strategy includes a focus on autonomous shipping, the first projects of which are about to make their commercial debuts. “Now we can do autonomous ships (and autonomous underwater vehicles) on a grand scale,” says Moeller, who enthusiastically rams home the “front-end loading” possible with the Kognifai Cloud. He’s clearly one of the minds behind Kongsberg’s superlative-sounding learning machine.
“With the Cloud we can manage (and teach others to manage) autonomous operations.”