“Technology for autonomous operations”

The next translated article is one where our CEO sat down Kaiji Press and discussed about our future plans, competencies and also how we have engaged with our customers in Japan.

Original article was released on 9th of February 2021 in Japanese.

Can you explain the outline and the future plans of the company?

Groke Technologies is a start-up built on top of solid foundation of in depths knowledge of related technology, finance and markets – we are a group of people with long lasting and solid background and experience in relevant fields of knowledge.

Company is built for long lasting business in mind which includes robust product portfolio and market expansion plans over longer period of time.

Japanese market is our first focus market and we will ensure that our performance and customer satisfaction in that market is proven before we expand to global/other markets. Currently we foresee to stay only in Japanese market at least until 2023 and after that we steadily start to provide our solutions to other relevant markets. It’s important to mention that this is our current plan and is subject to continuous evaluation – we need to always be close to our customers wherever they are located. 

Currently we are focusing to develop our first products which are combination of hardware and software provided by our company and will support onboard bridge crew in their daily operations while navigating ships. In the beginning we are focusing to advisory products which are not controlling the ships but after some time we want to expand to provide more comprehensive navigation solutions including autonomous solutions which will require less human interaction than current solutions onboard. We are not planning to do this all by ourselves but rather partnering with other companies to bring best solutions to market for our customers.

Currently we are focusing to provide solutions installed onboard vessels but we are also looking other use cases where our system is not necessarily installed onboard – in principle our systems are such that those can be installed in also onshore. We have many interesting ideas to enhance customer value by utilizing multiple installations at the same time to provide more accurate information to end user.

Albeit we are investing to have proprietary hardware technology to ensure that we have best solution available for our customers, we are ultimately software company with key focus areas to Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Sensor fusion algorithms and state of the art UI/UX technology. Biggest problem for companies providing hardware solutions is limited opportunity to scale up solutions/number of installations in short time. Since we are software company we naturally consider also to develop platform type software solutions where we can easily scale up number of installations based on customer demand – at the end there are many opportunities and our duty is to select right ones and work hard to get those developed in industrial level quality.

What is the core competency of the company?

A year ago we were a company of five people and utilised mainly external subcontractors for development activities. In order to ensure that we have capability to develop, maintain and enhance our solutions in short and long term we had the challenge to build a highly talented team. In one year we have hired 15 people with wide range of background and skills. Main common nominator for those people that they are mainly highly skilled software development specialists. We have now teams of high expertice in several areas like Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Sensor fusion, User Interface/User Experience, QA/testing, Operating systems, Networks, software deployment etc.. Since our system includes also hardware we have people with knowledge from electronics, embedded systems, complex computer architectures and graphical processing units (GPU)

One enabler for development and long term management is top skilled own team but in order to ensure that we can make solutions quickly we also utilize subcontractors who have experience in developing similar technical solutions for other industries (e.g. automotive) .

With combination of our highly skilled own team and subcontractors we are confident that our products are developed on time with high quality and safe and secure manners. In order to ensure all this to happen we have taken in use robust/industry grade processes as well as agile development methods which allows us to get maximum efficiency every day without making compromises.

Throughout the development we have selected solid industrial approach in order to ensure our solutions are qualified also to be operated as part of autonomous vessels later on. For example our unique approach to AI/ML is something what makes us unique and is very important since there is not yet solid regulatory requirements available for such a systems.

Do you foresee any regulatory issues in bringing your products to the market?

Since our solution is only a support system in the beginning, we do not foresee any regulatory issues currently – as a part of R&D activities we have performed regulatory scoping exercise to ensure that our product is qualified for regulatory requirements in Japan to install our system onboard any types of vessels. However, we are aware of discussions going on in IMO and in regulatory bodies in Japan, and we think it is important to be involved in these discussions, for regulatory will be critical when it comes to safety, especially when going into ship control functions and towards the autonomous stage of operation.

We have heard you value customer engagement, can you elaborate on this?

For any company customer is always priority number one – as well for us. How the company then reflects this priority what they are doing in day-to-day business varies a lot. For us importance of customer and so called “customer intimacy” means that we have invited our potential customers already at the development stage with us to journey which will last for long time and is targeting to more safe and efficient operations of vessels.

We engage with our customers in several ways starting from requirement capture when we drafted features for our products – we conducted several studies what is most important features and functionalities to develop first for our customers. Later on in our development we have cooperated with our customers multiple ways to get continuous feedback in order to ensure that actual functionalities in our system and the way how those will be used are done according to their expectation. For example we have online tools providing our key customers access to our product user interface during the development phase. This relationship will naturally continue after first product releases since our product portfolio is built in a way that when we continuously develop new features which are updated to our customer systems through remote connection, we want to ensure that we use our limited development resources to make most valuable new features for our customers. Goal is to build our customer relationships such a way that it will enable continuous interaction between us and our customers and to ensure maximum value to our customers.

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