Inmarsat’s new Fleet Xpress service delivers a “paradigm moment” for shipping to reap rewards from mobile connectivity, app-based processes and enhanced security that emulate land-based achievements, the satellite giant says.
Speaking at a press briefing last week, Inmarsat Maritime President Ronald Spithout said: “Maritime is the last great industry to adopt applications to become safer, greener and more efficient. Fleet Xpress is the game-changer.”
The worldwide FX service has been made possible by three new Global Xpress I-5 satellites, launched in 2015 and operating on Ka-band, with unlimited back-up provided by L-Band Fleet Broadband services via Inmarsat’s I-4 network. Spithout said that Inmarsat already had FX service commitments covering 600 vessels. He also predicted that the amount of data transferred ship/shore by the maritime sector would be eight times what it is today by 2020.
FX is the only satellite broadband marine communications system from a single operator, bringing massively faster broadband services to ships, but it is also the route to a change in business culture, according to Spithout.
Inmarsat Gateway – a “service ecosystem” developed with Cisco – takes the open platform approach that allows Inmarsat Certified Application Partners to develop content-rich apps that include bandwidth costs as part of the package. “Ship operators will be able to pick and choose the apps they want, and bandwidth can be ‘app-triggered’, so there is no bill shock down the line, ” Spithout said.
Typical ‘efficiency’ apps include real-time fuel consumption analysis or better access to the latest weather-routing software, but crew welfare should also benefit via telemedicine, streamed video chatting or improved entertainment.
Peter Broadhurst, Inmarsat Maritime Vice President of Service Development, revealed that 500-600 companies or individuals participated in a recent Inmarsat Development Conference.
Both Broadhurst and Spithout repeatedly emphasised that the FX service is not simply a ‘pipe’ through which data and crew connectivity will be funneled. “We are an enabler looking in four different directions when it comes to enabling FX service developments – operational efficiency, safety and compliance, crew welfare, and IT and security, ” said Broadhurst. “Apps could be made available within a customer’s existing bandwidth, or we can invoice the application provider and not the vessel. This is a fundamental change in shipping.” Telemedicine, for example, would require high bandwidth over a very limited period, and charges should therefore reflect usage.
Inmarsat is already in the advanced stages of a project working with Singtel subsidiary Trustware to make the latter’s Unified Threat Management cyber security app available via the FX service.