“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” While this 2017 headline in The Economist may be a bit of an exaggeration, for many organizations it’s not a million nautical miles from the truth: marine insurers have claims data; governments have data from myriad of sensors; ship charterers have data on destinations and cargos. This data is hugely valuable. But like any asset, its true value can only be realized if used effectively. And that might mean sharing it.
Sharing proprietary data? Are we delirious? Not quite. To be sure, you’d need to consider issues like security, privacy, and ease-of-integration – not to mention the quality of the data you’re marrying, and the value it brings to your organization. But when done thoughtfully, bringing your own data to the table can be incredibly beneficial.
Here at Windward, we love marrying different types of data. Take vessel operations. Gaining insights into how vessels are operated over time can be an indispensable component in decision-making across the ecosystem. To support these decision-makers, over the past seven years we’ve incorporated data from independent and complementary sources (including AIS, GIS layers, weather, and nautical charts) to construct a comprehensive model that explains various aspects of vessel operations. Many other sources were considered but not integrated. As the objective was to create consistent insights on the world fleet we prioritized data sources that met three criteria:
Where the first reason is obvious, the second allows us to provide out-of-the box value for various parts of the maritime ecosystem around the world. The third is also crucial – it helps us understand trends over time, detect anomalies, and train our machine learning models on past behavior (for example on accidents that took place during the past six years). Without it, it can be years until a new source of data can reach a sufficient level to be used in predictive modelling e.g. for accidents.
This framework helped us to focus our efforts. Sometimes this meant neglecting very high-quality data (albeit on a more local scale). To put it in arboreal terms, we had to build the trunk first.
As our tech has evolved over the years, sprouting a number of different branches, we’ve come to appreciate the potential value of combining our data with clients’ proprietary data. For example, we’ve improved the way we incorporate private positional data (e.g. VMS), satellite imagery, and insurance claims. We have also improved the way insights generated by our system are exported and integrated into client systems – but that’s a story for another blog post.
Of course, the world around us doesn’t stand still. Many organizations, including large governmental agencies, are starting to open up to the idea of sharing some of their data with a view to obtaining tangible value they couldn’t get from internal sources (the cloud computing revolution has accelerated this trend). Ultimately, they concluded that the potential benefits of using certain, specialized third-party tools outweigh the risks. One such example is the way governments and Global Fishing Watch combine technology and ML with proprietary VMS data to fight Illegal fishing.
To get on-board the data-sharing revolution, there are five main considerations:
More and more organizations are getting an edge by deriving insights through the combination of datasets which were previously siloed and isolated. The eyes of decision-makers need to be open to identifying the right opportunity at the right time – and jump aboard.