As the second largest port in Europe, the Port of Antwerp plays a crucial role as a logistics hub, production location and is an elementary component of the supply of raw materials. In this role, the topics of sustainability and digitalization are of central importance to the operating company, which is looking for companies at all points in the supply chain that contribute to the sustainable circular economy with innovative approaches.
One example of successful digitalization is the sensor-based monitoring of the emergency boxes with lifebuoys, of which an impressively large number are distributed around the port area. Or should be, because like other pieces of equipment, lifebuoys are popular targets for vandalism and theft – for reasons that are difficult for common sense to comprehend. However, keeping emergency equipment under lock and key is not a solution either, since the point is to make it visible and accessible to every first responder. Digitization and IoT solve the problem: IoT sensors with the appropriate networking alert the administration when lifebuoys are removed. A concept that can be easily transferred to other elements of the critical infrastructure.
With ALSO’s data platform and extensive sensor network, a lot of information is available as a basis for new processes.
The Challenge: Big port, lots of operations, lots of equipment and little overview
Covering more than 152 square kilometers of port area, manual control of any operational equipment is a time-consuming and manpower-intensive task, for which the support of digital technologies is highly welcome. The price level of the hardware elements required for this, such as sensors and mobile radio adapters, has developed in such a way that operation is economically feasible even on such large areas as the extensive Antwerp port area. All modern components can be easily retrofitted into existing infrastructure; another step towards a solution and more security in the port.
The lifebuoys are a vivid example of how material costs and the effort to regularly check that they are in good condition add up to significant costs. Here, above all, the reliable information, is the lifebuoy present or not, is crucial. This information must be transmitted securely over long distances and clearly presented on the platform, enabling rapid response.
Of course, there is much more to safe port operation than lifebuoys. The basic principle of monitoring by sensors can be transferred in almost any way. The prerequisite for this is created by the selection and dimensioning of the underlying platform and the correspondingly suitable networks. In the port, for example, this also means monitoring the utilization of roads, rails and waterways.
The solution: Monitoring assets with sensors and LPWAN
A data platform specifically for the port with the associated sensor network enables access to information that was previously completely inaccessible, for example about the utilization of the infrastructure. Such data opens up entirely new dimensions for making port operations more efficient, safer and more sustainable. Applications also include automatic measurement of the groundwater level, smart parking guidance systems that react to the utilization of parking spaces, or stability and corrosion testing of the various structures in the port.
The port authority commissioned technology provider ALSO to build the solution. The company supports its customers in the development of customized solutions. For this purpose, ALSO has hardware from more than 700 vendors in its portfolio. The core of the solution is the IoT development platform AllThingsTalk, which is particularly suitable for applications with low power wide area networks (LPWANs). The networks used are Narrowband IoT and LoRaWAN, which have proven themselves over long distances and in outdoor areas.
The starting point is securing the lifebuoys. For this purpose, sensors are installed in the emergency boxes that register when the ring is removed from its holder. An alert is then sent to the AllThingsTalk platform via the LPWAN. In this way, the removal is immediately localized and the personnel can react immediately and in a targeted manner.
Here, ALSO’s experts with their large portfolio and reach in many countries are the right partners also for internationally active large enterprises and operators of critical infrastructure. Basically, any information that can be captured by reliable sensor elements, transmitted over the required distance using the right radio technology, and processed using the appropriate platform helps to monitor and safeguard smooth and thus economical operations – in ports, large-scale facilities, and over extensive areas.
The result: Secure infrastructure and reliable monitoring over large areas
Whether it’s a real emergency or a theft, a report like the one at the lifebuoy stations in the Port of Antwerp requires staff intervention that can, at best, secure the equipment in time, or at least ensure safe (continued) operation by quickly replacing it.
Once the platform for the IoT sensors is established, a wide range of further applications opens up, with which even large sections of terrain can be reliably monitored outdoors. In addition to the availability query required for safeguarding, sensors also provide condition and process data from cranes and other machines, automatically record the water level or check moving parts for corrosion. All measures support operators in ensuring safe and economical operation, for example through predictive maintenance.