Intelligent Solutions for Sustainability

The iHelm analytical platform helps you optimize your marine operations and minimize your climate footprint

Founded nearly two years ago, Cetasol’s iHelm is an intelligent digital analytical platform for energy optimization for small and medium-sized vessels. The inspiration for iHelm started when Founder and CEO Ethan Faghani was chief engineer of automation and AI at Volvo Penta. Faghani was investigating how Volvo Penta could improve vessel’s fuel consumption and he and his team studied a vessel in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg.

“The vessel we looked at was going back and forth normally and what we expected was that the fuel consumption would be the same all the time, meaning that if you travel the same path daily you would be using more or less the same amount of fuel each time,” explains Ethan Faghani. “What we saw, though, was that there was about a 60% variation in fuel consumption, which is quite high if you compare it to a car taking the same path every day and consuming 100 liters of petrol one month and 160 litres the next month – that’s a big difference that we weren’t expecting.

“We looked into what could be causing the variation: it could be different drivers, people having different driving habits, even one captain might sail differently each day, or the weather might be different and so on. He thought that if they had an AI system that could understand how things work and then create an energy model, the AI could help the captain based on how to get from point A to point B. What we ended up with is a kind of a navigation task and energy management combined.”

That was the starting point, but over time Faghani and his team noticed that owners just bought a load of fuel, and it was consumed in just say a three-month period, but they didn’t have a close eye on the amount of fuel consumption, and they didn’t know why there was this variation.

What we did was come with actionable insights for the business owner, where we told them what to do based not on our analysis but based on what the AI model was telling was the optimal operation

Ethan Faghani Founder & CEO, Cetasol

“The cost of fuel is increasing, so if you tell a company that by saving fuel, they’re also going to save money, they’re going to be very happy. But there are also a lot of new regulations around the environment and climate change, and our solution helps them be compliant with both existing regulations and those that will come into effect in the future. When we talk to customers, they’re all doing something and the regulations have been accepted quite easily, but it can be complex to be compliant – we help them with that.”

How it works

On a very basic level what iHelm measures is GPS and energy consumption. When you have these two things you can understand how much energy has been consumed in the past and apply it to the future. For example, if you drive home from work every day taking the same route there will be tons of data available – some of it good, some of it bad – but that data can help in understanding what habits or behaviors impact your fuel consumption, while also taking in other factors, such as road conditions and weather.

“We apply that same thinking to vessels on the sea,” says Ethan Faghani. “We take the best data on travel, and by looking at that data and the habits of the captain, such as starting fast or slow, and combine that with other data, such as weather, conditions, currents, etc. we get a picture of optimal behavior and route. With vessels, speed control is very important, so we can tell the captain when to go faster, when to slow down, when to take another route, etc. in order to get optimal fuel consumption. We try to help them based on what they did in the past.”

iHelm also takes in what they consider other important factors, such as speed, timing (when they want to arrive), and then weight of load, headwinds or tailwinds – all of these contribute to how much fuel is consumed.

The market

There are two different solutions on the market: one is for large vessels and is a big, complex solution with lots of sensors. Cetasol’s iHelm solution compensates for having less sensors by data handling and modeling, something that takes a lot of development, but the ultimate cost to customers will be very low.

“For smaller or medium sized vessels, which is where we are positioning ourselves, there is a gap in visualization, so we are trying to guide the operator and the owner rather than just grabbing a bunch of data, and when we truly scale it will be suited to the mass market,” says Ethan Faghani. “If you have a solution that can model, you don’t need to track every vessel – you can apply learnings from one vessel to many, which is what makes this solution so simple. And for the company buying our solution, they don’t have a huge initial outlay of cash to onboard iHelm and value provided for end customers are significanltly higher than the current solutions in the market – yet in the end they are saving a lot of money via the solution and can recoup their investment in 6 months – it’s best of both worlds!”

IoT & data

Around 1-5 gigs of data is consumed each month. Faghani says that sometimes there is connectivity and sometimes there isn’t, but that doesn’t mean data can’t be collected. It is collected and then sent when connectivity is available.

Unlike other solutions on the market, which are based on heavy sensing systems, iHelm doesn’t use a lot of sensors. Instead, they gather as much data as possible from few already available sensors, rather than a shallow amount of data from many sensors.

“We do this because we came to the conclusion that costs can be high, so instead of investing in hardware we are looking at collecting the right data from less sensors,” explains Ethan Faghani. “We connect a sensor on the bridge of the vessel through GPS, filter the data and via the cloud show the captain a display or dashboard so that he or she can use that information for optimal performance.

“The basis of our design is to make the information easy to grasp. So, we try to keep it very simple, showing what speed to take, what route, and other pertinent information. We take the complicated part in the background and filter it to the captain in a simple and easily understood way. We let them do their job while we do ours. Complicated or complex technology understanding isn’t needed when it comes to the end user, something that surprised a lot of people at the start. What we’re doing is complex, but the solution itself in terms of the end user is not complex – it’s easy to use and easy to understand, which is crucial – the captain needs to focus on the job at hand. So, the backend is as complex as possible, while the frontend is quite basic and simplified.”

Cetasol uses 2CONTROL (Cisco IoT Control Center) to manage iHelm to look at different vessels, the different amounts of data being sent, what needs troubleshooting, etc.

“We are at the start of our journey so we’re looking at basic stuff right now, but as we scale having the functionality of 2CONTROL at our fingertips is going to help us scale more easily while keeping control over our deployment.”

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2CONTROL is ideally suited to scaling, something that is very important to us, particularly when we move into other regions and countries, where things like different price plans and data buckets will help us optimize and act as a tool to serve customers globally.

Why Tele2 IoT?

“We have a really good sales manager on our team, and she came from another IoT’s company and she asked us why we went with Tele2 IoT over lunch,” explains Ethan Faghani. “It comes in the nature of startup companies. We are growing, we don’t know where we’ll be in 20 years, so, we wanted to work with a company that understands that startup mindset and can grow with us. “

“Also, we want to work with an operator that could give us what we want now and also can provide what we need as we scale. Big companies aren’t always willing to work with startups or understand our needs. Tele2 IoT is different.”

The future

The goal for Cetasol is to mass market iHelm. The base of the technology is gathering a lot of data and positioning and then understanding variations and how that can impact energy consumption, so it could easily be applied to cars or other vehicles.

“The challenge here is that there is so much variation when it comes to cars or other vehicles, so it would take more to create the model, but it is certainly doable. But right now, we’re focused on flagship customers mostly in Europe, while also trying the technology out on vessels like passenger ships and cargo ships.”

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