Reliable Hardware Creates Reliable Technology

Teemu Helenius is hardware development lead at Groke Technologies, so he is intimately familiar with the Situational Awareness System, a cutting-edge navigation assistance system that obtains real-time information on nearby vessels and obstacles, and provides it to crews to enhance their decision-making abilities.

We talked to Helenius this month about some of the details surrounding the hardware that serves as the system’s backbone.

There are two Situational Awareness System products, and each is comprised of two separate components: a sensor unit that is mounted on top of a ship’s bridge, and a system cabinet installed inside the bridge. The two products differ slightly, with the most noticeable difference being the field of view provided.

AS Pro scope of supply onboard

AS Pro is installed with both visual and thermal cameras. The visual camera provides bridge crew with a 225° horizontal field of view, while the thermal camera gives 180°. AS Lite is installed with a 90° field of view visual camera, and offers an optional thermal camera with a 60° field of view. Both products have an integrated AIS receiver to obtain data on nearby ships, an inertial measurement unit collecting data on pitch, roll, and yaw, and a high-precision GNSS for positioning data.

AS Pro field of view illustration

But what makes both products truly stand out from the competition are Groke’s customized cameras. According to Helenius, when Groke began developing the AS, there was no such ready-made camera system on the market.

“We had to start developing our own. In the AS Pro, the 180° thermal camera is, I think, the first one in the world…with such a field of view,” he explained.

Another aspect that makes the Awareness System special is its adaptability.

“Our device is basically modular,” Helenius said. “You can tailor it for different business cases, or for when you want to enter a new market. You can add or remove items.”

The ultimate goal is easy integration.

“You have one unit that you mount in one place, so it’s very easy for customer installation as well.”

On the sensors themselves, Helenius explained how the combination of visual and thermal cameras enables high levels of information even in low-light conditions such as at night.

“The visual camera works during the daytime when there’s enough light to see, but the thermal camera works 24 hours a day. Our UI can display the output of the visual camera, the thermal camera, or can blend the two sensor outputs to any ratio.”

Principle of thermal image blending

Information gathered by sensors often suffers from a delay before it can be displayed to the bridge crew, but in the case of the AS, Groke is working hard to minimize that delay to achieve real-time display capabilities.

“When you are looking outside and looking at the UI, there should not be any significant delay. In our case, we are below a one-second limit at the moment.”

Helenius also explained how easy it is to install the system on ships of all ages.

“Retrofitting is a straightforward case. We are not necessarily integrating into a vessel’s existing systems. We only need power from the vessel. The power cable is connected to our system, and there is one cable between our sensor unit and the main cabinet. Installation on existing vessels is something between three to six hours for the AS Lite. For the AS Pro with the big displays and things like that, it will take longer, but the AS Lite should be something the ship owners can install themselves.”

Helenius talked about the atmosphere at Groke and his experience working on the Awareness System.

“It has been a good opportunity to learn about the marine industry and to work on such a product. We are one of the first doing this. It’s very unique. Of course, we have challenges. If it wasn’t challenging, it would have been done a thousand times before.”

Hardware lead Teemu Helenius is a good example of what makes Groke Technologies as unique as the technology it is creating; he is part of a dedicated team made up of people from different backgrounds working together to reach a common goal.

That goal is a noble one: to create a system that will make the seas safer for all.

Article published originally in Groke’s exclusive customer newsletter in June 2021

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