Tal Katzav, man

The game-changing potential of data for decarbonisation

The role of data in supporting the invention of digital solutions is well known. But how can it assist in achieving carbon-neutrality? We asked Tal Katzav, Wärtsilä’s IM Machine Learning & Advanced Analytics Manager about this and more. Read on.

In May this year, the Wärtsilä team attended the Data Innovation Summit in Stockholm. The summit is the largest and most influential annual Data and AI event in the Nordics. Wärtsilä’s Tal Katzav tells us about the team’s experience. 

After a two-year pause, the Data Innovation Summit returned in May this year. How was it?

It was great to be back there! It’s a very down-to-earth event, where companies discuss best practices in our field, and some of the challenges we are facing. My presentation got a lot of interest, as the global fight against climate change is a hot topic now. I’m proud to be able to show that we, at Wärtsilä, are contributing to tackling climate change, and I feel like I am doing my bit for a good cause through my work.

Five years ago, you established Wärtsilä’s Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics team, based in the IM Organisation in Wärtsilä. What is it you do in practice? 

We use sophisticated methods to predict the future based on past data. This can be done through applying algorithms based on historical data or we can use statistical methods to predict the probability of likely outcomes. 

We’ve created a model, which can tell how much CO2 the vessel will emit. We also applied the same method to ports; so, we look at the different factors that affect emissions, and based on historical data, we can model this.

By utilising the data, we can estimate the amount of carbon emissions created by operations of vessels, fleets, power plants and other equipment. We can take this one step further by simulating the effects that different factors have on CO2 emissions. Based on this, we can advise the customer on how to stay compliant with regulations. We can determine, for example, what the projections will be if they change the type of engine their vessels have, or the type of fuel they use. These data-driven models can be used, for example, when designing new machinery, proposing retrofits, or optimising operations of vessels and power plants.

In short, we measure the effects of power plants or vessels on the formation of emissions, we model it and see how different factors affect the emission and simulate scenarios to determine what happens if we change the variables. Then we make recommendations on how to reduce emissions.

It seems that it’s smart to invest in data! What do you find most challenging about your job?

Often, we get requests from businesses saying they want to do some AI/machine learning, but then we realise they don't have any data we can work with. Data, as well as the platforms and technical capabilities are not something that can be done overnight; they require continuous investment. I call them data assets because data can also be monetised. And it can be a game-changer for businesses. 

What, in your opinion, is the key to the success of data-driven decarbonisation?

I think having a good strategy and a clear direction are key. Wärtsilä’s strategy, the Wärtsilä Way, gives us a meaningful purpose: tackling climate change, which is something people feel very strongly about. 

Then, we need enablers: data and tech – without them, we cannot do this, and we cannot scale it. Then, we need people (not just data scientists, but engineers, sales etc.) who work together. And lastly, we need a culture of innovation, which is the kind of environment that hackathons foster. 

There is a lot of potential to make power plants more data-driven with the tools we are currently working on, which will be monumental in contributing to decarbonisation. I want to be a part of accelerating the usage of machine learning in the energy business.

In March this year, Wärtsilä had a Decarbonisation Hackathon, sponsored by Wärtsilä CEO, Håkan Agnevall. What do you think of hackathons as a driver for new solutions?

During the hackathon, seven teams competed to come up with new ideas on how data can be used to support our customers on their decarbonisation journey. The winning team’s idea was titled ‘Giving berth to carbon earth’ – which built on the idea we had for the decarbonisation of vessels but applied it for ports. This will enable ports to stay compliant with carbon regulations.

My team currently has over 20 data solutions in production, about half of which are the result of a hackathon. That's proof that they work. We’ve done hackathons since we first started, and they deliver results. Of course, you also need to deliver concrete solutions.

Written by

Ndéla Faye
Associate editor at Spoon Finland