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Startup Profile 2020: Smart-Ship

Dutch startup Smart-Ship is seeking to use what is called advanced haptic technology to revolutionise ship control and information transfer.

Also known as force-feedback technology, haptic technology is a means by which users are able to interact with machines through the sense of touch. It is also the speciality focus of Netherlands-based startup Smart-Ship. Established in September 2018, the company grew out of the graduation project of founder and CEO Roy Kok while he was studying at Delft Technical University. This project, explains brother, co-founder and CFO Brent Kok, was aimed at developing shock mitigation processes for small fast boats. “In the beginning, [the company] focused on the small fast ships and navy market, but noticed soon enough that other maritime sub-markets were also interested in haptics,” he explains.

“Smart-Ship force-feedback gas levers and azimuth controls transfer information to the human operator by making use of forces and/or vibrations which can inform the operator in an intuitive way about basically any type of information. This enables the operator to focus on the crucial parts of his tasks and it ensures that he is kept in the control-loop,” Brent says.

“For example, our technology can inform the operator about an ideal sailing speed, direction, obstacle identification, engine temperature, high speed navigation, sea state, thruster position and much more,” he continues. “These information flows can be transferred to the operator [by] way of guiding forces, warning vibrations [and] invisible walls/hands which show the operator the ideal position.”

This, Brent notes, “keeps the human operator in the control-loop in an intuitive and fluent way”. Consequently, “both the mental and physical workload for the operator are reduced”, allowing the operator “to stay focused and to excel in his crucial and complex tasks”. As a result, he says, the company’s technology “enables a sustainable and safe maritime sector by making sure the operator is focused and understands (feels) what the ship should be doing in an ideal situation”.

In addition to a pilot project with the Royal Netherlands Navy to reduce the mental and physical workload placed upon operators of their small fast boats, Smart-Ship has also been working with VSTEP, a Dutch manufacturer of ship simulators. For this particular project, Smart-Ship, Brent reports, is “implementing force-feedback technology on an azimuth lever to make operations in maritime training simulators more efficient” and therefore reduce training time.

Similarly, Smart-Ship is also working in collaboration with the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) and in January installed and tested a prototype haptic system on the MARIN FSSS motion-based simulator. With further tests slated to take place later this year, the company states on its website that “the first results look extremely promising and the involved expert user group was very positive”.

Furthermore, the company, which last month announced its first investment in the form of a convertible note from the UNIIQ InnovationQuarter fund, has also now begun working with the DEME Group following the successful completion of the 2019 Antwerp programme of the PortXL accelerator. “For DEME Group, we will be implementing force-feedback technology on several of their controls to make dredging operations more efficient,” Brent reveals.

“Force-feedback technology has shown its potential in the automotive, airline and medical industry,” he says. “However, it hasn’t been implemented in the maritime sector yet. Our technology makes it possible to implement force-feedback throughout nearly the entire sector as our levers only require one installation after which updates and other functionalities can be added through software.”

“Smart-Ship is looking for new opportunities with system and service suppliers/integrators and vessel owners/operators. Please contact us through our website,” Brent says, revealing that Smart-Ship representatives will be attending two Next Gen workshops on shock mitigation in Southampton, UK this coming March 31 and April 1.

Further information on www.smart-ship.eu

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia