Smart ports, a very present future

A few months ago, I spoke to you in an article that The future passes through smart cities.

Well, the different technologies implemented in the Smart Cities, have their natural translation in the ports, we speak then of Smart Ports.

New technologies are slowly developing and opening up a range of sustainability-related functionalities, implementing more efficient logistics, implementing sustainable and synchronized traffic, boosting productivity, etc.
All these new features offered by new technologies will turn the ports into small Smart Cities.
Nowadays, seaports are one of the most important strategic logistics assets globally. It is an essential element if we want an industrial country, without ports we could not increase exports. According to data from the World Trade Organization (WTO) more than 80% of the world’s merchandise is moved by sea. We are talking about basic physics; the cost per ton is less than any other mode of transport.

The advances push towards change, the market evolution is constant. Services and competition make digital transformation become essential in this type of scenery. It is precisely for this reason, at this constantly changing situation, where the concept of Smart Ports arises.

What does “Smart Ports” concept mean?

This concept proposes the use of technology to transform the different seaports’ public services into interactive services in order to meet the needs of users with greater efficiency and value.
The key lies in the combination of resources efficiency and optimization, deepening in a clear and firm environmental commitment.

Technologies that are already being implemented in ports

For some time now, in many ports, new technologies have begun to be implemented, which intend to approach harbour enclaves to the Smart Ports concept.

Some of the most common are:

Cameras at the ports entrance and exit

They allow you to have a record of all the license plates of the vehicles that travel around it, monitor the traffic queue, so that they can take measures that allow better planning of internal traffic, etc.

Management and real-time energy monitoring of ports and marinas using wireless sensor networks

Some companies are already working in this line. A good example is E5 Technology, an ambitious project with an outstanding innovative character that provides full support for energy efficiency and savings concepts in a global and individual way. The main innovation consists on integrating in a single platform the management of:

  • A network of wireless sensors (WSN).
  • A management software based on Cloud Computing.
  • Energy and water consumption modeling in ports.
  • And the incorporation of an application for Dynamic Energy audits.

This way it allows:

  • Save between 20% and 40% on energy and water billing.
  • Real-time monitoring of installations with alert systems and notifications.
  • Improve the environment (it helps to reduce the consumption of water and CO2 and other harmful gases emitted into the atmosphere).
  • Save on operation costs and maintenance of the facilities, as well as having better knowledge of them.
  • Acts on electrical devices by automating them to obtain greater efficiency based on the data collected. You can act on the lighting of the port, open or close windows depending on the spaces needs, turn on or off boilers depending of each case and time, open, close or regulate flow rates (water, fuel, etc.) .). In short, it can automatically turn on, turn off or regulate electrical devices based on the values collected by the sensors.
  • And, of course, improve the corporate image.

Smart ports, un futur molt present

Computer programs for the management and control of port areas

This allows to control and manage facilities much more efficiently.

New technologies for extreme weather forecasting

Beyond the most common webs and apps that give us the marine forecast of time. The forecast will be increasingly efficient using mathematical models, big data and the enormous calculation capacity of the new computing systems. Soon we will be able to predict in a more efficient way and manage the maritime traffic taking into account these parameters. We will see the application of technology for better extreme weather forecast.

Advantages of Smart Ports

The need to introduce new technologies in ports seems very clear. But what are the benefits of these changes?

Higher profitability

These technologies have as one of their main functions to improve ports’ management and to achieve a greater efficiency in the use of the facilities. All of this, undoubtedly, will have an impact on the final price of the products and services.

Digital transformation

We will see with the implantation of new technologies a clear optimization of loadings, unloadings and storage of the merchandise.

Minimize risks

We talked before about new technologies that allow us to have a forecast of the weather, or of sensors that offer real-time monitoring and greater control of the pollution levels in the port. All this information allows to make decisions with a much greater margin, minimizing risks, predicting situations of danger and acting accordingly. More proactivity and less reactivity.

The Port of Barcelona is committed to innovation

The Port of Barcelona has been a pioneer in the implementation of technological solutions in various fields with the aim of generating more efficient and interactive quality services; in addition to achieving a more sustainable port.

Some of the actions carried out and other processes are:

  • Boats moored connected to a power grid so that they can stop the engines and stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • Installation of solar generating complexes in the roofs of the stores and car parks of the ZAL (Logistics Activities Zone).
  • Optical fiber deployment to guarantee the appropriate telecommunication services, support IoT and industry standards 4.0. It is also necessary to take into account the future deployment of 5G networks and indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi networks.
  • Port dashboard, systems for monitoring the critical parameters of the port activity.
  • IoT sensor deployment, both on land, sea or air moving sensors (drones). This is one of the challenges to become a Smart Port. To have sensors of all kinds and everywhere that allow to capture the parameters needed to act in real time in the face of problems or incidents; at the same time, they make possible to store information to launch big data tools and machine learning in order to plan ahead and anticipate events.
  • The Port is launching the Port Challenge Barcelona, ​​which is a business acceleration program promoted by the Port of Barcelona. With this program the Port seeks innovative ideas, using the new technologies, which have an impact on its business ecosystem.
  • In addition, in its eagerness to continue the path towards the Smart Port concept, the Port of Barcelona is working on an agreement with SEAT the vehicle manufacturer, to carry out tests of two car prototypes, an electric and a hybrid. These prototype vehicles that will be loaded through the electrical network connection will send SEAT telemetry, information about the vehicle (its position, speed and battery status in real time). The Port through this agreement will be able to evaluate the possibility of including this type of vehicle in its mobile park.

 A very present future

We are not talking about futuristic concepts, quite the opposite; there are many initiatives and technological projects that revolve around this concept that are already being implemented in many ports. Hence I speak of a very present future.

What’s more, I venture to predict that Smart Ports will be the ones that adapt to change. The only ones that will survive in an increasingly global world, capable of being increasingly efficient and to adapt and commit to sustainability, while at the same time maintaining competitive costs.

As I have said before, they will only survive companies, entities or infrastructures that are capable of responding through innovation to the double challenge ahead; to be increasingly efficient in their operations and services, and also to do so from a component of environmental sustainability.

Long story short, improve operational efficiency and environmental sustainability.



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