IBM’s Mayflower Autonomous Ship to launch from Plymouth, UK
IBM has started trialling its AI sea captain, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), ahead of its Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, Massachusetts voyage, this year.
IBM has partnered with and marine research organisation Promare in order to launch a new ‘AI captain’ that will navigate the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, Massachusetts later this year. It is confirmed that MAS will trace the route of the original 1620 Mayflower to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the voyage.
Don Scott, CTO of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship said: "While the autonomous shipping market is set to grow from $90BN today to over $130BN by 2030, many of today's autonomous ships are really just automated - robots which do not dynamically adapt to new situations and rely heavily on operator override. Using an integrated set of IBM's AI, cloud, and edge technologies, we are aiming to give the Mayflower the ability to operate independently in some of the most challenging circumstances on the planet."
Over one million images
Over the course of the last two years the Mayflower has collated over 2 million images from cameras in the Plymouth Sound in the UK and open source databases. To enable this level of processing, the team used an IBM Power AC922 fuelled by IBM Power9 CPUs and NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPUs. These are the same technologies that are used for some of the world’s smartest supercomputers. The ship will not have access to reliable connectivity during this period, and so will rely fully on these computing systems.
"Edge computing is critical to making an autonomous ship like the Mayflower possible. The Mayflower needs to sense its environment, make smart decisions about its situation and then act on these insights in the minimum amount of time – even in the presence of intermittent connectivity, and all while keeping data secure from cyber threats," said Rob High, VP and CTO for Edge Computing, IBM. "IBM's edge computing solutions are designed to support mission-critical workloads like the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, extending the power of the cloud and the security and flexibility of Red Hat Enterprise Linux all the way out to the edge of the network, even in the middle of the ocean."
[image: IBM-MAS-7000, The Mayflower Autonomous Ship, from marine research organization Promare, with support from IBM (rendering)]
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GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”