How come fuel consumption can vary so greatly between comparable trips? What would happen if someone took a more holistic approach to optimizing the energy use of small vessels? And how do you turn such an idea into reality, while putting customer needs at the center? These questions sparked the idea for the iHelm, an AI platform for marine sustainability, by Cetasol.

”When I was working in another project where we analysed operational data, we noticed that fluctuations in fuel consumption for vessels could be as large as 60% on the same route. This could be caused by wind and current, exact route, and other factors,” says Ethan Faghani, CEO and co-founder of Cetasol.

”I also realized that the impact we could get by focusing only on the engine was around 2,5%. But if we looked at the whole vessel more holistically, it could be up to 25%, which is ten times higher. So I started to think: what if we could take a holistic approach and look at the whole operation instead?” In other words, a clear customer need was at the center of iHelm’ creation. The need for a holistically optimized operation.

”In the beginning, we didn’t have a clear picture of what a solution would look like. I just knew that it would be a data-based or AI solution,” says Ethan. ”Our first step was to find someone to believe in the idea and help us finance it. We put together a project plan, which we presented to the CampX investment board. They were interested and decided to finance 50% and Volvo Penta financed 50%, which meant we could get started.”

No one can do it alone – optimizing in collaboration with customers

But turning this broad idea into a tangible reality, wasn’t going to happen without a collaborator. Cetasol needed to find a pilot customer and partner up with them for the first prototyping of the solution. ” We found that Burö was a perfect match for us. They only had one vessel, operating here in Gothenburg. And happily, their manager Camilla Rydenskog welcomed us, as she had also identified the need to decrease their fuel consumption.”

Thus started the initial phase of turning the iHelm into reality. In the beginning, Cetasol’s focus was very much on customer empathy and understading the customer’s operation, to design a solution directly around that. Cetasol’s first delivery was an installation of a display onboard, with real time visualization and recommendation for their fuel consumption.

”At it’s core, the iHelm is a software solution that collects and analyses data onboard, optimizing the parameters of the operation and the environmental factors, while time of arrival and comfort of passengers are not compromised,” explains Ethan.

Later on, they also added a cloud solution, so that the operations manager could analyse driving behaviours of different captains. While they were all very experienced, data showed that everyone has room for improvement.

Since the beginning, the Cetasol team have been rapidly evolving the iHelm platform and is currently developing it towards an industrial scale. A strong focus on customer collaboration and a user-centered approach remains at the core of the business.

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