Ports across the world are competing for regional economic dominance by harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. Both technological advancements are closely intertwined and aid in the burgeoning smart port movement, which is harnessing data coming from sensors and other contextual information inputs to discover patterns and correlations in real-time. The end goal of the smart port initiative is to understand how to use these patterns and correlations to increase a port’s efficiency by optimizing cargo, people, vehicle, and equipment movement. Understanding and optimizing these patterns increase a port’s competitiveness by empowering port decisions makers with the information and knowledge they need to make critical decisions.
To understand how IoT and big data are advancing the smart port initiative, we need to understand how these technologies function. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of sensors on physical objects that can be accessed via the Internet to collect data from these physical objects. IoT devices trigger the massive inflow of data available to ports to collect, analyze, disseminate and act on. Big data refers to the enormous quantity of data being collected from sensors. Additionally, big data is also commonly heard in conjunction with the term data analytics. Data analytics deciphers all the big data to establish patterns and draw insight to support decision making. The massive amounts of this cloud-based data and information make it nearly impossible to store, process, and analyze this data through traditional approaches. For example, the technology to track containers, cargo, and transport assets has been in existence for decades. However, the advent of IoT and big data is part of an explosive global trend towards the development of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications and sensors. According to Immarsat, some 34 percent of maritime organizations see themselves as having ‘fully deployed’ IoT-based solutions in the pursuit of yielding greater automation, achieving greater productivity, and improving decision making.
Ports are complex and heterogeneous operating environments with a variety of interests and activities to juggle on the waterside and landside. Vast amounts of information must change hands between the port authority, port operators and various supply chain members. Real-time visibility can drive efficiency by providing insight into what is happening versus what was planned. For example, supply chain inefficiencies are eliminated by using data generated from GPS positioning information, near field technologies used to transmit container data, port facility sensors to help optimize truck queue times, and route optimization tools. This real-time data is helping ports optimize traffic flows, minimize truck and container congestion during peak hours, and maximize the use of infrastructure, such as cranes and scales to avoid bottlenecks. A prime example of this is the Port of Rotterdam, where an endless stream of information is received and analyzed. IoT and big data provide Rotterdam port operators with more operational transparency than any other port in the world. The port is expected to be able to move 25 to 50 percent more containers per hour than any other of its competitors in northern Europe due to its drive to increase automation and fully implement its smart port initiatives.
Given the rapid implementation of smart port initiatives which include IoT and big data, cybersecurity inherently becomes a higher investment priority. The interconnectivty of hundreds of devices sharing operationally critical and business sensitive information creates, as well as the need to keep operational systems from being shut down, requires crucial changes to a port’s cybersecurity engineering landscape and culture. The security challenges associated with the use of IoT based solutions include, but are not limited to:
- Lacking the ability to receive patches and security updates
- Insecure storage of data collected
- Poor network security
- Potential misuse of data by employees
- Risk of external cyber attack
- Internal compliance requirements
- Supplier/partner compliance requirements
Basic steps ports must implement to increase their security posture as they move to implement smart port technologies include:
- Design with defense-in-depth in mind. A multi-layered system for security and proper segmentation of the network can help prevent attacks and keep them from corrupting other parts of the network.
- Design basic safeguards into your smart port systems. Build access controls into your system, properly encrypt data, in addition to initiating centralization to bring together all IoT devices and big data systems.
- Practice good cyber hygiene. Employ regular data validation actions to ensure data is properly managed. Ensure employees are aware of potential security concerns and protocols in addition to customers and stakeholders staying informed about how they can stay protected within the supply chain.
We will undoubtedly see increasing use of IoT and big data within the port sector. However, both bring cybersecurity challenges that smart ports must tackle.