Reasons to be cheerful: Can technology save the Blue Economy?
05 09 2019

However cheery an outlook you have on life, it can be easy to become despondent about the future of the world’s seas and oceans. The statistics come at you from all sides. Just last week, for example, it was reported that the latest draft report from the UN suggests that the continued warming of the oceans is “poised to unleash misery on a global scale”. Hundreds of millions of people living in low-elevation coastal zones are extremely susceptible to sea level rise attributed to climate change and face the prospect of their livelihoods and communities being wiped out in the coming decades.

Beyond that, we also know that:

All of these issues are real and live, but they are not insurmountable, and it is important to note that the world’s technologists are really raising their game. For several very interesting years we at NLA International have met and engaged with so many people attempting to take exciting Blue Economy ideas to market (and helping as many of them as possible!). We never fail to be amazed and inspired by the vision, creativity and resilience of the various sectors progressing this important work, and we are genuinely excited about future possibilities in a wide range of ocean sectors.

As what you might call balanced evangelists, we feel it is really important to tell as many people as possible about these emerging opportunities, which is why we are genuinely thrilled to see the launch of our new book on this very topic. Published by Kogan Page in London this week and New York on September 28th, takes an in-depth look at how emerging technologies are having a significant and positive impact on Blue Economy sectors. It explores the challenges they face and identifies where companies and ideas are really beginning to break through.

Autonomous and remotely-operated system capabilities are growing rapidly within ocean settings.

Autonomous and remotely-operated system capabilities are growing rapidly within ocean settings.

In , we take an in-depth look at issues as diverse as:

  • Cyber security and predictive modelling tools in the shipping industry.
  • Drones, self-docking ships and urgent emissions control systems in ports and harbours.
  • The rise and rise of offshore renewables (wind, wave and tidal energy).
  • The re-imagining of cruise ships as floating ‘smart, connected cities’ – using unprecedented levels of data to enhance the customer experience.
  • How the smallsat revolution is powering a new wave of maritime security services for nations who need to protect their ocean resource.
  • How next-level environmental monitoring, 3D imaging and predictive analytics might underpin very healthy growth projections in the aquaculture industry.
  • How autonomous systems, miniaturised sensors and satellite data streams are making it possible to map the seabed (only 10-15% of which is actually surveyed to a decent standard) in more cost-effective ways.
  • Just how bad the horrific surge of ocean plastic pollution is considered to be, and how policy and technology is starting to be deployed to turn the tide.
  • How underwater robots and innovative ‘re-seeding’ techniques are attempting to give coral reefs a fighting chance of survival against a wide range of potentially critical threats.
  • How the rise of the mobile phone is acting as a force multiplier to allow ‘citizen scientists’ around the world to help quantify and address marine biodiversity issues.
  • How satellites and wide range of innovative apps are attempting to drive greater sustainability into the world’s fisheries – so crucial to the prospect of feeding a growing global population.
  • How fleets of next-gen underwater robots are enabling unheard-of subsea monitoring endeavours to help find a wide range of artefacts of interest on the sea floor.
  • How Virtual Reality, anti-collision, optical scanning and ‘man overboard’ detection technologies are being deployed to protect lives at sea.
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High-powered machine learning capabilities are enabling all manner of innovative ocean data collection and analysis systems.

Across the piece, we examine the cross-cutting technologies and techniques that are having an impact on various Blue Economy sectors (e.g. autonomous vessels, satellite-enabled services and machine learning systems creating value from Big Data feature prominently).

We hope we bring all this to life in a compelling way by mixing in underpinning market and environmental statistics, broader reflections of the challenges and opportunities facing many Blue Economy industries and vibrant case studies of hugely innovative emerging technology companies, the vast majority of which are drawn from the past 18 months or so.

Finally, from our own in-depth engagement over several years in the emerging technology space also, we consider the various elements that affect the and offer some personal points of reflection of how to get round barriers, and what more can be done by those looking to support early stage innovators.

We can’t wait to share the book with you and we hope that this initiates healthy debate both about individual Blue Economy sectors and cross-cutting issues. To that end, this is the first of a six-month series of articles that explores some of the themes we have encountered in writing . We hope you enjoy them.

We look forward to further engagement in the coming weeks but what we would say at this stage is that there really are many reasons to be cheerful. The technologies we feature are properly squaring up to the many challenges outlined in the opening paragraph of this article. They aren’t playing around at the edges, but pushing tech boundaries hard and building coherent business models to build in longevity. As in any sector that has strong pro-social or environmental elements, leaders of startups and growing companies in this space elicit palpable passion and energy that drives them on and brings others with them.

In short, emerging technology absolutely has the potential to save lives through supporting a sustainable Blue Economy. The future’s bright; the future’s blue.

Andy Hamflett, on behalf of fellow authors and NLA International co-Directors Nick Lambert and Jonathan Turner.

PS We’d like to thank everyone who has supported, listened to, cajoled, prodded and engaged with us in the formulation and execution of over the past year. To say thanks, a limited number of discount codes are available. Please send a DM or email us to get one!

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