Smartglasses ‘turn dummies into experts’

Which similarities are there between Vopak and the Port of Rotterdam Authority? One could undoubtedly come up with a few, but one of the more striking examples is that both organisations have recognised the potential of FEO AR. This tech start-up – which came to the fore in PortXL’s ‘world port accelerator’ programme – seems to be on the brink of a breakthrough, with companies like Kotug, Vestas, the Port Health Centre and Viking River Cruises also expressing a serious interest.

Foto: FEO-AR

Raymon Lubbers, co-founder FEO-AR

Back when FEO AR co-founder Raymon Lubbers worked as an account manager, selling internet and satellite communication equipment to the shipping sector, he was already amazed by the huge expenses that came with a technical disruption on board a ship. “With a daily charge of USD 1800 and business class tickets for the engineer, the costs of resolving a technical issue out on the water can pile up in no time. And sometimes the solution was simply giving it a good bang on the top – so to speak – after which everything was up and running again.” Surely there had to be a better approach…

This eventually led to the concept of FEO Augmented Reality. Vessels are fitted with smartglasses and augmented reality software that in many cases allows crewmembers to resolve a technical issue themselves. Lubbers: “Part of the process runs via the computer. Where required, the crew can also call on the real-time assistance of experts back on shore. The bandwidth for the connection can be as low as 128 kbps – which does come in handy on sea-going vessels.” Another big advantage of the smartglasses is that the wearer has both hands free to work on the problem.

Maritime Elon Musk
Even though the business case for this concept is quite clear, it initially met with a lukewarm reception from the maritime community. “‘So you’re the new Elon Musk of the marine sector,’ people would say with a wry smile. It didn’t get me very far.” The mood shifted after the team completed the 2017 PortXL programme. “During those 3 months, we definitely stepped up our game in terms of business focus and professionalism. It was a truly amazing experience. And the same goes for the Selection Days. Even when you aren’t one of the winners, you acquire so much new knowledge, tips and energy that it’s more than worth the effort. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any maritime-related start-up.”

Knowledge base
After the PortXL incubator programme, during which the FEO AR crew were supported by mentors from Boskalis and EY, Vopak and the Port of Rotterdam Authority immediately got in touch with them and became the first clients. “We also have technical faults on board our hydrographic survey vessels from time to time,” explains Port Authority Data Management Manager Herman Meijer. “These can occur both in the ship’s own systems and in the measuring instruments. This means that someone with the appropriate technical expertise needs to travel to the vessel from the Port Authority or one of our suppliers – with the associated waiting times. With FEO AR, one of the crewmembers on board can put on a pair of smartglasses. These allow the expert to ‘look over his shoulder’, determine how serious the fault is and suggest possible solutions. Possible spare parts can be ordered straight away. This not only improves the availability of our vessels, but it also allows us to learn from these issues. Technical disruptions and the associated fault-clearing know-how are directly fed back into the system via a knowledge base that everyone is free to consult. This means that from an early stage, the crew on board the vessel can check for possible solutions. This method also allows users to refer to photos and video recordings collected during the resolutions of previous issues.”

According to Lubbers, the future of FEO AR lies in this link between the smartglasses, the special software and the ongoing development of a dedicated knowledge base. “While the ‘glasses’ already offer added value, linking this solution to the knowledge base enables us to really make good on our promise: ‘turning dummies into experts’.”

About PortXL

PortXL accelerator is a 100-day programme for innovative start-ups in the maritime sector. The selected start-ups receive intensive coaching from experienced mentors from the business world and are prepared for the market. Participation in PortXL opens doors to the national and international business communities. Another PortXL will take place in 2018. Registration is possible until 15 January 2018.

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