Breaking the waves through digitalization – Groke Technologies is making seafaring safer one vessel at a time

For years, people have been fascinated by the opportunities and applications of autonomous technology. Various solutions for assistive systems based on observing the surroundings are already widely used in the automobile and aviation industries, but in seafaring, the use of autonomous technology has not gained similar momentum. This is what inspired us to establish Groke Technologies; the desire to harness most advanced technologies including artificial intelligence in the maritime industry to enable safer and more meaningful seafaring.

Hailing from Finland, Groke Technologies was founded in 2019. The four founding members of the company have more than 15 years experience each in the maritime industry and now with Groke Technologies we have started a journey to introduce new exciting opportunities through use of new and novel technology to the maritime industry.

“We strongly believed that autonomous technologies could be gradually harnessed for the needs of seafaring. Our partnership with Mitsubishi sealed our decision to focus on Japan’s domestic market which covers several thousands of vessels,” says Juha Rokka, CEO of Groke Technologies.

“Mitsubishi offered us more in-depth understanding of the market and its challenges. The industry is suffering from aging crews and not attracting as many next generation seafarers as it used to. Due to the challenging operating environment and monotony of the tasks, people sometimes make mistakes that may lead to accidents or close by situations. We believe that our technology allows the crew to focus on the essential and leave the monotonous tasks to the assistive technology,” says Rokka.

Groke Technologies wants to dispel the mystery and unnecessary futurism of technology.

“People often talk about technology in overly complex terms, making the industry seem remote, complicated and unapproachable. However, technology should make life easier, not harder. We believe in simplicity and agility in terms of both talking about technology and using it. You need to be agile but not run so fast that you lose track of where you’re going,” says Rokka.

According to Rokka, Groke Technologies is an adult startup that knows the market, the industry and the technology but has the capacity and competence for agile operations in the spirit of startups. The quickly grown team of 19 people values extensive experience of the industry but also strong educational background in technology from universities. Rokka believes that the company’s Finnish background is a strong and interesting asset from the perspective of the market.

“Culturally, the Finns and the Japanese have a lot in common, and I believe that’s why our ways of working are very similar in many respects.”

Rokka also talks about the insight developed by the company over time and reflected in the operations.

“The most important thing for us is to establish a genuine dialog with you, the client and user of our system from the very beginning. We will be constantly looking at evaluating our solutions and ideas together with you in different ways like our tribe portal which you may be already aware of. This way we want to bring you close to our development team.

We believe that if we lack openness, we may accidentally focus on wrong things, resulting in wrong technical solutions and in the worst case, an unhappy client.”   

Even though Groke Technologies is all about practicality, Rokka believes it is important to keep your eyes on the horizon.

“Our technology will first assist the crew in decision making and in the future aims to ensure that the crew will concentrate in working with the most essential tasks in operations, while autonomy will take care of the less complex tasks. Our first product aims to produce better perception information of ship surrounding areas for the captain and tell where to focus in each situation. This will allow the captain to make better decisions and to operate the ship more safely and efficiently. Some day, our navigation assistant product will be able to make the decisions on behalf of the operator, and the operator will only need to confirm the assistant’s decisions.”

Our first milestone in the deployment of autonomous technology in seafaring will be reached next year as we plan to release awareness system pilot projects with few local shipowners. Our first product will be commercially available during 2021 and then we continue consistent development to bring new features and products to market to ensure safer and more efficient ship operations for our customers.

Article published originally in Groke’s exclusive customer newsletter in December 2020

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