Tech Perspectives

Seas of Technological Change

Dr Sarah Bourke

Chief Executive and co-founder of Skytek

The marine industry has long been seen as archaic, reliant on paper-based processes and suffering from information blackspot and delays. But now the ‘big data’ revolution is poised to change everything.

The marine industry is the lynchpin of the global economy, with maritime distribution networks keeping the industry, retail and energy sectors moving even during the toughest of times. Global connectivity has increased not only consumer demand but also increased expectations of rapid fulfilment of orders and supply chain durability.

Despite this, it has a reputation for being behind the times, slowed by archaic and arcane paper-based processes. The knock-on effect is not only on shipping, either, with the re/insurance sector left in the dark about vessel movement and port activity – when facing the greatest challenges in its history from extreme weather to a shifting geopolitical climate driving sanctions breaches.

However the big data revolution is coming to the marine sector, bringing tangible benefits for re/insurance. Technology is already re-shaping industry on the ground and, with improved digital communications networks and ever-cheaper data processing and storage, there is no reason for ocean-bound industry to be any different.

Indeed, the marine industry, and particular marine re/insurance, stands to benefit from the coming transformation to ‘Industry 5.0’.

While Industry 4.0 pushed digital technologies, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to the internet of things to the centre of business activity, Industry 5.0 seeks to bring back the human touch.

This is about enabling decision makers to work smarter and faster by providing useful, up-to-the-minute data, properly contextualised, so that it can be used to help professionals to make informed decisions.

Rather than either operating with partial visibility or according to purely automated decision making processes, Industry 5.0 means using digital data to produce human-actionable information. For re/insurance, the right technologies mean getting complete visibility at fleet or individual vessel level, with granular data driving better decision making and, ultimately, risk reduction.

Industries across the board have enjoyed the benefits of digital transformation of their processes driving improvements in the bottom line: a McKinsey study found industries that invest in digitalisation could reduce operational costs by 3.6 per cent on average and improve efficiency by 4.1 per cent. For re/insurance the advantages will be even more significant. Clear insight into vessel, owner, registry, port, offshore, maintenance, crewing and weather information can dramatically reduce risk exposure by allowing underwriters to make more confident decisions and speed collection and presentation of information in the case of a claim.

With the marine industry itself changing, not least through the deployment of novel automation technologies, re/insurance, despite the challenges ahead, is ideally placed to radically increase efficiency through the deployment of the right technologies to support the expertise of insurance professionals.

What re/insurers need to do to start their journey towards 5.0:

  • Embrace the digital wave of change. It’s not if, it’s when digital transformation will evolve the landscape for marine insurers
  • Begin to understand the changing demands of your audience and where there can be significant improvements for efficiency, insight and decision making
  • Explore technology partnerships to support the journey and trigger change

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About the Author

Dr Sarah Bourke was recognised by the EU as one of Europe’s leading innovators when she was awarded the EU Prize for Women Innovators in 2016. During this process, she was recognised for her leadership and commercial success in pioneering groundbreaking space technology.

On a day-to-day basis Sarah works with leading research organisations like the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, in addition to growing the Skytek brand.

Sarah is a PhD graduate of Trinity College Dublin and worked at leading universities and governmental agencies before co-founding Skytek Limited.

About Skytek

Skytek has been at the leading edge of innovation, bringing the benefits of space tech back down to earth. Partnering with Nasa and the European Space Agency, our software is used in the International Space Station, and our satellite and data solutions for the insurance, security and emergency services sector leverage this commitment to the future. Today, our innovation continues and we work to develop technologies that transform business by bringing back downstream the ultimate in cutting edge activity.

Skytek’s React transforms insurance by combining satellite geolocation with predictive analytics, allowing the industry to understand their portfolios, reduce risk and improve compliance, whether at sea, in port or on offshore installations. Skytek is one of Aon’s emerging technology partners.