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MacGregor OnWatch Scout: a predictive IoT solution that supports maximising operational availability of maritime equipment

MacGregor OnWatch Scout is a condition monitoring and predictive maintenance solution co-created with the Cargotec Digital Solutions Hub (DiSH). It is a maritime Internet of Things (IoT) solution, utilising machine learning algorithms and edge computing technology for maximising the operational availability and performance of MacGregor equipment in service, and supporting more effective planning of maintenance activities. With 50% of the global merchant ship fleet having MacGregor equipment installed, it has potential to impact maritime efficiency and sustainability worldwide in the coming years.


Cloud platform enables maintenance to move from a reactive to a proactive approach


Within the maritime industry, maximising operational availability, productivity and efficiency is essential, especially in harsh deepwater offshore environments. In such conditions, an equipment or system malfunction can cause significant lost revenues, emergency repair costs and reputation damage. The same applies for container and other types of ships, which is why the OnWatch Scout solution provides merchant vessel owners and operators similar performance benefits. 

OnWatch Scout increases the flow of information from ship to shore and moves maintenance support from a reactive to proactive mode, with operational data streamed directly from the vessel, monitored, analysed and used to provide guidance on performance. This is done by gathering sensor data from vessels into Cargotec’s own cloud platform, and allowing the data to be monitored, analysed and used for giving guidance on ship performance to the crew onboard and to the superintendent onshore. The analysed data can help in monitoring component condition and identifying incorrect maintenance, for example. With data, faulty parts can be identified already in advance, allowing needed maintenance to produce minimum operational downtime. OnWatch Scout  is a complex technical puzzle that combines knowhow in Internet of Things (IoT), data-analytics, cloud services and machine learning from multiple fields of technology within Cargotec.

The OnWatch Scout solution was developed in close collaboration between Cargotec Digital Solutions Hub, MacGregor and its external partners. Following a 10-week service design sprint in spring 2019, Digital Solutions Hub started developing the end-to-end solution, including the IoT cloud and ship and on-shore applications. The first customer pilot installations took place already four months later in December 2019.


Challenging marine environments require an experimental mindset to exploit technology


The solution started first with targeting offshore and merchant vessel cranes. The crane state measurement data and condition monitoring alarms are collected at a Maritime Gateway device and relayed to an edge computer on board the vessel. The data streams are analysed by predictive machine learning models and engineering KPIs at the edge, and the resulting information is provided on board the vessel on a ship application, together with recommended actions and historical data. The data is transferred further to Cargotec’s IoT cloud for onshore superintendent access and for data scientists. While starting with cranes, the solution is being expanded to support predictive maintenance of other types of onboard equipment as well. 

Maritime environment provides significant additional challenges for implementing an IoT solution, in particular related to connectivity. Vessels can stay offline for weeks at a time, available bandwidth may vary and latencies can be significant. This, combined with real-time streaming data processing happening on the vessel, makes it difficult to build an effective and reliable data transfer pipeline as well as managing software updates and maintaining operations when constant connectivity to the vessel could not be guaranteed at all times. In addition, software and digital assets need to be customised for each vessel, so scaling for productization has required building an effective build pipeline and DevOps capabilities. To ensure further scalability, the solution design enables installation to a new ship with only minimal adjustments.

To meet these goals, the team was granted the necessary autonomy and agency over its architecture and technology choices. The OnWatch Scout solution has been implemented as a cloud-native solution, relying on AWS Greengrass Version 2 for software deployment on the edge, and built on serverless functions, managed services, and support for containers and microservices run on both cloud and the edge. In particular, as the services are typically used in factories with fixed internet access, they needed to be configured together with AWS to adjust for the maritime environment and its connectivity challenges. 

Building such a complex system required the development team to challenge old ways of working and required thinking outside the box to come up with entirely new ways of solving technical problems throughout the process. For individual team members, this has also meant learning new technologies and piloting cutting edge AWS services that had been introduced during the project start. The whole process has been about adopting an innovative and experimental mindset and coming up with hypotheses and testing them time and time again until a good technical solution is found.


MacGregor OnWatch Scout has definitely been a flagship project for Digital Solutions Hub, and it has set a foundation for a long-time cooperation with MacGregor, to support in its digital transformation. The first successful pilot cases took place only after 4 months into development, and in one and a half years we have come a long way in building a scalable software product that creates value to MacGregor customers. The project has been a great success for the whole team.

Petri Selonen, Director of Software Engineering at DiSH


The evolving use of data and analytics eases the heavy burden on the maritime industry


Since its launch in 2019, OnWatch Scout has been signed on by several leading shipping companies worldwide. It is one of the spearhead products in MacGregor’s digital solutions portfolio and continues to evolve with support for more analytical insights and new equipment under predictive maintenance platform in the coming years. 

As Cargotec's vision is to become a leader in sustainable cargo flow, sustainability is one of its strategy breakthrough objectives. Therefore, sustainability is also in the core of projects taken on by the Digital Solutions Hub, and OnWatch Scout is no exception. As 2.5% of the global carbon emissions are generated by the maritime industry, utilising data and analytics is a one key driver in reducing the carbon footprint of our customers’ operations.


Do you want to work on similar projects? Digital Solutions Hub in Tampere is hiring!

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