You’ve decided that bringing AIS into your business is going to give you the competitive edge, but what now? Yes, AIS data provides you with a more accurate view of vessel movements, but how do you choose which service, and which provider is right for you?
To help you navigate through the options available, and to help you select the supplier that will be the best fit for your business, we asked members of the MarineTraffic sales team to list the top things you should consider when choosing your AIS data provider.
What AIS information do I need?
Understanding which data is going to help you is critical. “The key is to define what this data is for and how you can use it to improve your business”, says Ricky Nilsson, Key Account Manager. You may already know exactly what data you need, or you may still be figuring that out; either way, a good provider will help guide you through the process.
For example, ship suppliers are using AIS information to track ships – and potential customers – that are coming into their port so they can reach out to them ahead of arrival, while for people working in logistics, they use the ETA information broadcast in AIS to better plan their operations.
Knowing exactly what information will be most beneficial to you is something Darren Rea, Inside Sales Manager, champions. “It’s not only about having an AIS provider, it’s about finding the one that understands your needs, and can support you to resolve your specific challenges”.
For example, in the current climate of increasing sanctions, we are seeing growing interest from the financial sector, and banks in particular, looking to get full visibility on the vessels they are invested in to monitor if they have visited sanctioned ports, and to address contract violations.
What is their range of AIS coverage?
There are certain areas around the world where AIS coverage might differ. You should know whether the provider’s network covers the area you want to monitor.
“Checking the provider’s global coverage is crucial in ensuring you have sufficient data in your areas of interest. Combining positions received by both a Terrestrial AIS network as well as by satellite to ensure you have the greatest visibility and most valuable intelligence,” explains Conor Whitehouse, Inside Sales Manager.
How often do I get position updates?
Time intervals and delays impact the availability of the data. Ask about the uptime of data and when you get the latest position of your vessel.
“The update frequency of the incoming data also depends on whether the AIS signal can be picked up by an AIS-receiving station or not.”, Conor says.
So, make sure you know how often you get position updates and make sure this is in line with your requirements.
Related content: [Guide] Understanding Satellite AIS tracking. Get your free guide
How clean is the data?
AIS systems receive vast amounts of raw data every day. The platform should be able to transform this data into actionable and easy to use information and display it in the most comprehensive way.
Even if you haven’t wondered before how big data is made simple, you should make sure the provider has the right techniques and people in place to process it and offer you data of the highest quality.
Can I get a demonstration of the platform?
Being able to easily use the data through the platform is essential. According to Dimitris, “the platform you choose should have a user-friendly interface so you can instantly find the information you are looking for.” He also believes it is important to consider the flexibility and range of services offered, either through APIs or online tools.
Usability goes hand in hand with the visualisation of data. Experience the platform first to see if you get the information you need and the service is the easiest for you to use.
Will I have ongoing support?
Knowing the level of support available also plays a key role, says Joseph Tan, Regional Sales Manager (APAC). You want to know that you have a dedicated and experienced customer support team on hand to guide you through the system and be there to resolve any issues you encounter. Consider the advantages of choosing a provider with a global presence, and the impact this will have on the time it takes to get an answer back if you have a question or problem. “Having worldwide offices means covering different time zones and customers can always have someone to help them,” Joseph adds.
Is it a trusted AIS service provider?
This is another key question you will want to answer prior to signing on the dotted line. Although you won’t find AIS providers reviewed on Amazon, you can get an understanding of their reliability by looking at what organisations are partnered with them or are already using their services. Providers working with key maritime organisations are likely to be far more reliable than those that are not.
“The number of AIS-receiving stations along with the amount of data received can be determining factors when choosing an AIS provider. The variety of industries addressed by the provider is also a key indicator of the quality of services you are going to get.” Joseph highlights.
As the shipping industry continues to evolve, so does AIS technology. New ways of processing and enriching data are being developed all the time, helping businesses access more accurate and more valuable information. By investing in an AIS provider that actively updates and grows its services, you will be choosing a partner that will be best placed to help your business succeed.
We hope that these seven questions will help you better determine the right AIS vendor for your needs. From understanding how AIS data is used and processed, to getting a live demonstration of the platform to ensure it’s easy for you to use, there is much to consider. Use this guide when choosing an AIS provider and feel free to contact our team with any further questions you might have.