Access to e-commerce applications at sea

Telecommunications satellite ANIK
Marine applications for satellite technology
29 April 2004

Internet access, e-learning, banking services and potentially Telemedicine, are just some of the applications being made available via satellite to passengers and crew aboard five vessels in a pilot study partly funded by ESA.

The Marine eCommerce Applications (MeCA) project is being carried out by a collaboration of five Canadian private and public sector organizations. It is building on the successes of an earlier ESA funded project: MIST (Marine Interactive Satellite Technologies) which brought a wireless sickbay, tourism information kiosks and Internet access to ships at sea.

By incorporating a shared resource technology that enables better use of the satellite, MeCA has been able to expand the suite of available applications.

Tourism information kiosks at sea
Tourism information kiosks at sea

One of the companies, Marine Atlantic, equipped three of its vessels with satellite and networking equipment and hardware in order to run a variety of applications. All three vessels have Bank Cash Dispensers for passenger use. The same company plans to include wireless Internet access via several wireless access points on board ship.

So that the crew can conduct meetings with staff on shore, Marine Atlantic has already equipped its vessels with video-conferencing. This is very useful for crews that spend much of the year at sea.

The company is also testing the possibility of offering online courses to crew while they are at sea. 'The Learners at Sea ' (LAS) system developed by Colabnet will provide the ability to offer marine training and certification courses from the Marine Institute that can be completed while on the vessel. E-banking and instantaneous credit card transactions will also be available.

Antenna on board ship
Antenna on board ship

"The possibilities of what can be accomplished while at sea increase exponentially when satellite technology is introduced." said Paul Bush, vice-president of broadcasting and corporate development at Telesat. " Telesat, MeCA represents a way not only to test the viability of shipboard communications, but the robustness of satellite technology in remote environments."

"Anything that we're able to prove in a marine application, we can also use in a fixed application on the ground." said Paul Bush. "The same application for telemedicine and e-commerce we will use in communities in Labrador, northern Ontario, and any areas where there's not access to terrestrial facilities."

Telemedicine can be used to remotely diagnose a patient, but the same principal can be applied to troubleshooting technology. Using videoconferencing, a technician on shore can render an opinion on technology at sea and advise the crew accordingly. These are just some examples of the range of applications for satellite technology in the marine environment.

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