Sealution raises €1.3 million with an internal data network for ocean-going vessels

Flemish start-up at the helm of internal communications at sea with IoT technology

Sealution, a start-up that developed a proprietary network of receivers that enables internal communications on ocean-going vessels, raises over €1.3 million in a funding round. The young company from Sint-Martens-Latem found an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that connects all devices and systems on a seagoing vessel. Their invention makes ships more sustainable and their maintenance more budget-friendly. Permanent data exchange also means efficiency gains for the crew members, the shipping company, and the cargo itself.

Sealution is the brainchild (est. 2021) of CEO and former maritime officer Sebastian Hamers, CFO Ruben Verplancke, and CTO Romeo Martens. In total, the three co-founders are now raising €1,315,000 with their start-up. Of that amount, €800,000 came from an equity round with Venture Studio Miles Ahead and investment fund Angelwise, and €200,000 via convertible loans from investment platform Techstars, and various business angels. Sealution also raised €315,000 in subsidies through Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) in September 2022. The entire capital will be used to switch from development to production (lines).

‘The Apple Home of an ocean liner’

What exactly does Sealution do? It works with a network of receivers or ‘gateways’ – one in each room – that allow data signals to pass through the walls of ocean-going vessels above and below deck. The gateways, which can easily be installed by the crew, receive and send the retrieved data via existing cabling – no need for new cabling – to a central module. This module analyses, filters, and ranks the data and transmits it to a server that can display it visually on the bridge or in the control room.

The marine vessel’s devices and systems exchange valuable data 24/7 thanks to their Internet of Things (IoT) solution. “So feel free to compare our internal network of receivers to the Apple Home of a ship at sea,” says Sealution CEO Sebastian Hamers. “By the way, we use Bluetooth to connect those new sensors. Bluetooth uses less energy than Wi-Fi, for example. Moreover, classical wireless networks don’t get through the steel walls of ocean-going vessels anyway, especially below deck."

Concept Validation
Data sharing promotes sustainability, finance, and efficiency

Such internal communication has numerous benefits for the shipping industry. Not least in terms of sustainability. Thanks to machine data collection, the system monitors certain values. With that info – and the help of models with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) – the ship can eventually sail on less fuel. The more data analysed, the greater the fuel savings. And that’s truly necessary: Europe will prohibit ships’ emissions of CO2 at the quayside as from 2030, and will require them to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The data also facilitates maintenance, which has an impact on the financial aspect of shipping. Right now, that maintenance is still preventive: the crew knows perfectly well when to send a technician. Under the motto ‘prevention is better than cure’, Sealution – via an AI algorithm that delves into the data – aims to even predict future maintenance. Shipping companies often now stay ashore for six weeks to improve or replace things. They will be able to drastically reduce that time because they have a much better and quicker view of which part will need what maintenance.

Furthermore, internal communication means efficiency gains for the crew members, the shipping company, and the cargo itself. Currently, someone still has to go in person to look at all the counters, on a ship that is sometimes as long as 400 metres, and write it down in a logbook. All information is transmitted automatically with Sealution’s system. The shipping company in turn gets more insights for the shipper such as the condition and position of the cargo. The cargo also benefits: IoT technology continuously monitors the temperatures of container cooling systems.

Thanks to Sealution, seafaring is also safer for crew members. For example, if someone falls overboard, an alarm is automatically triggered that immediately notifies other crew members via the wearables. This wouldn’t happen without the data exchange between upper and lower decks.

Tailor-made software for ocean-going vessels

In January 2023, Sebastian Hamers and Romeo Martens tested the full installation for the first time on the high seas with Dutch shipping company Seatrade. The connectivity system was fully on point, to the far end of the ship, with no loss of speed or data. “We strongly feel that we can revolutionise data sharing and innovation on ocean-going vessels with Sealution,” adds CFO Ruben Verplancke. “Why? Our technology is extremely reliable, applicable to large ocean-going vessels, and can be adapted by software engineers according to the specific needs of a fleet. The sea is the limit.”

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