The IoT Makes Waves at New York Waterway

As the digital age unfolds, businesses from virtually every industry are discovering that there’s no escaping the stream of information technology. What’s more, it increasingly filters into every aspect of business.

One company that’s steaming forward at full speed is New York Waterway. It serves 8 million ferry passengers a year in the New York Harbor area, which includes the Hudson and East Rivers.

The company has equipped its boats with more advanced operational and security systems. This includes CCTV video that’s available to law enforcement agencies and other officials on a real-time basis, as well as performance data from machines and sensors located in the company’s ferries and terminals.

“We use this data to run the business more efficiently and provide better security,” says Jonathan Figueroa, director of facilities for privately owned Billybey Ferry, which does business as New York Waterway.

Building an Internet of Things Platform

Over the last few years, the company has added an array of systems to advance the company, including building an Internet of things (IoT) platform. At the center of the initiative is a Hitachi Visualization Suite (HVS) platform that together with more advanced networking and communications, allows the company to monitor conditions in real time. The system went live in 2013.

“One of the challenges in New York Harbor is establishing high-speed Internet connections,” Figueroa says. “It requires a good deal of technology and creativity.”

New York Waterway established a mesh network to send wireless transmissions between boats and shore. Once it had the communications system up and running, it began adding an array of other digital systems, including passenger information displays, digital screens on board ships, and a more advanced IP-based public address system.

Not surprisingly, operating a variety of components and systems presented new challenges. “We found ourselves coping with different user interfaces and controls,” Figueroa explains.

The HVS platform allows New York Waterway to integrate and manage all the different technologies within a single dashboard and control interface. The system aggregates data from different incoming sources and provides a highly visual and integrated map that displays sensor data (including from alarms), video feeds from more than 350 cameras and public safety systems. It also can tap into public sources of news and data, including news and weather channels, as well as social media networks.

The system supports video recording and live streaming in the cloud. “A boat captain, a company executive or an authorized agency such as the Port Authority, New Jersey Transit Police, the NY Police Department or the NY Fire Department can log into the system and get the information they need,” Figueroa points out. “It’s possible to see what is going on in real time.”

The HVS system delivers a high level of resiliency and security as well, he notes. In the future, the company many also use the system to roll out passenger WiFi.

The system and technology have helped New York Waterway establish itself as a leader. “We are dealing with some of the most difficult communications and operational conditions possible in New York Harbor,” Figueroa concludes. “We believe that we have taken the business into the 21st century and have introduced better and safer service.”