An innovative shipping platform that can predict where ships might go, created by the Greek ship management company Signal Group, was recently granted a coveted US patent.
The system, called the Signal Ocean Platform, uses a complicated algorithm which predicts where a particular vessel may travel up to the next 40 days.
“The award of our first patent in America was an important milestone for Signal,” the CEO of The Signal Group, Ioannis Martinos, said in a recent statement.
“I am really proud of our team that demonstrates in practice that the Greek innovation ecosystem can offer cutting-edge solutions in important, global industries,” he added.
For the last three years, the Signal Group software has been adopted increasingly often by international oil giants. Signal Group customers currently control more than 50 percent of the world’s crude oil shipments.
The award of the US patent is an important new milestone for the company and the Greek shipping sector. Greek shipping is one of the cornerstones of the global economy and a major facilitator of global trade, while constituting a pillar of the Greek economy.
Dimitris Tsapoulis, the Chief Operating Officer at the Signal Group, tells Greek Reporter that “what this algorithm does, which is pretty unique, is that it uses past data and satellite information, it factors in commercial rumors, and combines them with artificial intelligence.”
He explains that in shipping overall — not just Greek shipping — there is little data out there to be used in such platforms. “There is a lot that happens over the phone, over email…Shipping is very ‘person to person’ which is not great for computers and systems.
“So what the algorithm does, that wasn’t possible before, is it takes different sources of information and data and combines them to do longer term predictions of where ships might go,” Tsapoulis says.
“To put it simply, in the past, you could predict the course of a ship 10 to 15 days out, but perhaps this algorithm will allow you to do a month or a bit more.”
The Signal Ocean Platform requires no download and no installation. It provides 24/7 secure web and mobile access and allows stakeholders in the shipping sector to instantly view complex voyage scenarios, tonnage lists and TCE calculations, using its simple, intuitive user interface.
Platform can benefit Greek, global shipping
The Signal Group executive notes that the Signal Ocean Platform can greatly benefit the Greek and global shipping industry.
“If you are a port operator, the platform might tell you what ships will come into your port in the next month and a half. If you’re a ship owner, knowing exactly when your ship will be available next will allow you to optimize top line, and so charter the ship more effectively.
“If you’re a charterer, predicting and aggregating ship availability, in the locations where you are exporting from or importing to, might allow you to optimize your supply chain and your logistics.
“The algorithm can help so many different participants in the marketplace in different ways,” Tsapoulis says.
He notes that the Signal Ocean Platform was initially used to predict the transport routes in crude oil transportation. However, it is now being expanded to dry bulk transportation, gas carriers and containers.
“We were very keen to extend our solutions to be able to solve different problems for different types of ships. Because when you’re carrying packaged goods, for example iPhones from Shanghai to New York, it’s very different to when you are lifting 100,000 tons from the Arabian Gulf and taking into Japan.
“It’s shipping, in both cases, but very different logistics, very different freight markets. This type of algorithm can be applied across these segments and create that generality.”
Speaking about the award of the patent in the US, Tsapoulis says “We are very proud because algorithm patents are not that easy. It’s much more difficult than getting a patent for a physical product.”
He notes that because Greece is a global hub for shipping, companies like the Signal Group can talk to the brilliant Greek people that have done business abroad. “Over time, we have put together an amazing team that is allowing us to do this type of global standard artificial intelligence and technology building,” Tsapoulis says.