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Swedish and Singaporean Researchers Launch Virtual Watch Tower Network

Virtual watchtowers
Illustration courtesy Sandra Haraldson

Published Apr 26, 2023 8:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

During the Singapore Maritime Week in April 2023, a new digital initiative for supply chain performance was announced. Last year the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) formed a collaboration and subsequently engaged some of the world’s largest players in the supply chain industry to pilot a networked virtual watch tower (VWT).

The VWT solution for supply chain performance and risk management adopts the principles of collaborative decision making in the end-to-end supply chain augmented by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. These technologies are areas that RISE and the A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), which are leading the project, have been focusing on for years.

The project has received external funding from Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) and the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova with a total grant of 12 MSEK (1,54 MSGD).  

Participating members of the pioneering community in the project are Alleima Tube, BridgeNet Solutions - part of PSA BDP, Kalmar, Bromma, Einride, Ericsson, Green Cargo, HERE Technologies, Marine Benchmark, PSA International, Scania, Stora Enso, Wallenius Sol, and Yilport Nordic; the ports of Gävle, Helsingborg, and Kvarken ports Umeå, and the Swedish Ports Association join as advisory partners. Chalmers, Gothenburg University, Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI), and Umeå University participate as research and innovation partners.

“IHPC has been involved in many maritime research projects to develop AI-based solutions. More recently, IHPC is leading the Maritime AI Programme working with partners across the eco-system to develop and translate AI technologies in maritime sector. The Networked Virtual Watch Tower project is a natural extension to our maritime research as AI and analytical functions play a key role to enable supply chain operators to make informed and better decisions. IHPC is excited to contribute our R&D capabilities in AI and big data related research to co-develop innovative and sustainable solutions for the trade and supply chain stakeholders locally and globally. The AI tools and solutions that will be developed aim to optimise resources for supply chain stakeholders to better coordinate operations, streamline processes, achieve cost efficiency and improve productivity,” says Dr Su Yi, Executive Director, IHPC.

Innovation manager Mikael Lind, adjunct Professor in Maritime Informatics, RISE and Chalmers adds “Over a decade we have developed and refined the concept of Collaborative Decision Making (CDM). A-CDM enables coordinated airports, PortCDM does the same for ports, YardCDM and StationCDM for railways, and RRTCDM for inland terminals. In this project, we will bring all these pieces together into a CDM approach that tackles the challenges of multimodal end-to-end supply chains (e2eCDM)”.

The common goal of the participants is to collaboratively improve transport and supply chain management through augmented intelligence brought about by the project, by leveraging data sharing, transparency, and AI-driven analysis and recommendations.

“The global supply chain disruptions in the last few years have underscored the need for the industry to push harder and faster for more robust and “smarter” solutions in the immediate future. At PSA, we believe that efficient and sustainable end-to-end supply chains can only be achieved through close collaboration, digitalisation and data sharing amongst industry stakeholders and we look forward to being an active partner in the Networked Virtual Watch Tower project,” said Eddy Ng, Head of Group Commercial and Supply Chain Sustainability Solutions, PSA International.

‘’We see a strong value of the Networked approach in the Virtual Watch Tower project. Close collaboration between parties and a joint approach for improved transport visibility is the only way forward to reach supply chain visibility and resilience’’ said Niklas Fahlen, SVP Logistics, Stora Enso.

The project will run over two years with the objective of piloting a network of a virtual watch tower prototype tested in a real-life environment. The community will then deploy the final product as tech and analytics powered platform, which provides comprehensive and resilient optionality to the global trade and supply chain stakeholders not only in Singapore and Sweden but worldwide.

“SMI is pleased to award funding to IHPC for this international joint research effort with RISE. With PSA International as one of the industry collaborators, this project could provide a holistic view for both cargo owners and transport buyers of the multimodal supply chain operations, and create an ecosystem for services around the supply chain network visibility for higher operational performance and risk management. The project outcome with a piloted solution will also be the first step to further establish Singapore as a highly digitalised and smart port in the global supply chain,” said Tan Cheng Peng, Executive Director, SMI.

Vinnova, as the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation, has approved funding of the Virtual Watch Tower project on the Swedish side. “The project has the potential to develop solutions that will make global value chains more sustainable, resilient, and secure. The importance of the project is underlined by the participation of a diverse set of leading Swedish and foreign actors.”, said Andreas Netz, Head of Department at Vinnova

Additional information on the virtual watch tower concept can be found at www.virtualwatchtower.org.

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