As part of our mission to chart shipping and maritime’s technology-enabled future, we continue to profile some of the people shaping that future. There will be few people in the shipping industry unfamiliar with the name KONGSBERG. But on July 1st 2016 that venerable organisation launched Kongsberg Digital, a subsidiary established to fulfil the group’s strategy to be a leading digital solutions provider for next-gen products and services within the maritime industry.

With more than 500 software experts Kongsberg Digital is also a focal point for the Group’s digital offering, responsible for leading digital development and competence and making new technology alliances around IoT, smart data, AI, automation and autonomous operations. It’s quite a brief, and the person holding it is Hege Skryseth, whose career in leading international technology companies including as former CEO of Microsoft Norway gives you some idea of just how firm her grasp of digital transformation is.

Further evidence, were it needed, came in the shape of the new Kognifai technology platform launched by Kongsberg Digital earlier this year. Hege is precisely the kind of leader shipping and maritime needs more of, and it’s a privilege to have her as my Futurenaut this issue. As usual, I asked her some impertinent questions, and here’s what she told me in reply.


Futurenautics: I said at the beginning of this year that 2017 would see the platforms emerge that would begin to define the ecosystems that shipping and maritime would become. Since then I’ve cited Kognifai as one of them. Was I right, and if so, why?

Hege Skryseth: I would definitely say that you are right: Kognifai is a digital ecosystem which is a one-stop market place for integrated development and distribution of efficiency-enhancing solutions, machine learning and advanced analytics.
As it is both a platform and an ecosystem consisting of KONGSBERG’s customers, partners, and suppliers as well as their applications and assets, it enables maritime organizations to fully capitalize on all the sensor data that is generated in order to make operations more efficient.


Futurenautics: You’re a seasoned digital CEO and a former boss of Microsoft Norway so you know the importance of innovation. But fast iteration depends upon a willingness to fail, which isn’t in the DNA of most big incumbent organisations. What is your attitude to experimentation and failure and how important do you think it is?

Hege Skryseth: In an industrial digital paradigm shift it is vital to look across industries and dare to experiment. I think the most important thing is to build a strong culture where testing and failing and succeeding is integral. An innovative culture for an organization is in the crossroads of structure and creativity.
We can of course minimize the risk by using proof of concept projects for new ideas and technology, but we can never eliminate the risk of failure completely. It is a learning process, and failing is part of any learning process.


Futurenautics: The third platform—social, mobile, analytics, cloud and the IoT—is supporting the burgeoning Intelligent Digital Mesh. Is there a danger that maritime concentrates too much on the industrial IoT, when there are an exponentially increasing number of diverse endpoints (devices, people etc.) with real-time data that we should be leveraging?

Hege Skryseth: That’s definitely an important point. Looking across industries means looking at specific technology solutions, but also looking at where there are potential alliances for building new business models for new products or solutions, or for expanding ones scope or value chain.




Futurenautics: Which do you think are the most potentially disruptive digital businesses in maritime and logistics at the moment? 

Hege Skryseth: I think that we will see the strongest disruptions coming from outside of our industry from technology companies holding world-leading expertise and either entering on their own or in alliances.


Futurenautics: What will be the next major technology disruption in shipping? Who will it most affect?

Hege Skryseth: Big data and analytics leading to machine learning. The extremely rapid developments in data processing capacity has, and will continue, to evolve at a very rapid pace. It will affect the vast majority of the industry in some way or another.


Futurenautics: A few years ago there were no Chief Digital Officers in the shipping and maritime industry, but they’re appearing in increasing numbers now, and often from outside shipping and maritime. Is this a sign that digital transformation is really on the agenda now? And is that outsider’s perspective of value?

Hege Skryseth: Digital transformation is undoubtedly on the agenda now, sparking the increase in the number of chief digital officers. There are advantages and draw-backs to CDOs from outside shipping and maritime. On the one hand they can offer valuable insights as they are able to consider the organization and the required and existing talents within it objectively; on the other hand, they may not spot all the industry-specific opportunities digitalization has to offer from a business point of view. However, digital transformation is not a one-man job; it has to be part of the company DNA.


Futurenautics: There’s a saying that when it comes to digital transformation culture eats strategy for breakfast. Is the culture different in Kongsberg Digital than it is in the rest of the organisation?

Hege Skryseth: I would rather say that Kongsberg Digital is shaping a new digital transformation culture within KONGSBERG. The culture in Kongsberg Digital is based upon the KONGSBERG culture and history with more than 200 years of innovation which in many ways speaks for itself as to innovative capacity and ability.


Futurenautics: One of the perennial problems of innovation within companies is how to structure it – do you create a separate unit like a Skunkworks, a whole new division like Kongsberg Digital, or by definition does that defeat the object by separating ‘digital’ from the rest of the organisation? How do you make it work?

Hege Skryseth: It can’t be completely separate, but key attributes are agility and flexibility, and open mindedness is vital. These attributes have to be ensured, either it is by a smaller unit or in some way separated from the ordinary business structures. It needs to have a balanced approach between structure and creativity, and I believe that you have to create an environment where you have different competencies working together and challenging each other.


There are advantages and drawbacks to CDOs from outside shipping and maritime. However, digital transformation is not a one-man job, it has to be part of the company DNA.'

‘There are advantages and drawbacks to CDOs from outside shipping and maritime. However, digital transformation is not a one-man job, it has to be part of the company DNA.’


Futurenautics: I am fond of saying that about the only thing that Silicon Valley and the shipping and maritime industry have in common is that there are virtually no women in either. As the industry transitions from needing seafaring skillsets to technology skillsets, does that mean getting more women into maritime is going to get even harder?

Hege Skryseth: On the contrary, I think the transition from seafaring skills to technology skills will make more women consider a career within the shipping and maritime industry. Shipping and maritime is among the industries with the lowest number of women. Although the number of women within technology is also quite low, I would argue that more and more women are getting interested in technology and evolution. Until recently, shipping skills were the only way into the shipping and maritime industry, now as the transition to a technological skillset is happening it will make more women with a tech background consider a career in shipping or maritime.


Futurenautics: Marco Ryan, CDO at Wärtsilä talks about data appearing on the balance sheet. Should data be on the balance sheet, or should it be algorithms?

Hege Skryseth: Both data and algorithms are a crucial asset, and will only increase in importance and value.


Futurenautics: DNV GL have in the past suggested that IMO would be obsolete by mid-century – I think it’s already approaching the ‘bureaucratic singularity’. With the development of hyper-connectivity and blockchain do you think there’s an opportunity for a new regulatory paradigm?

Hege Skryseth: I don’t think we will see that regulatory bodies will disappear. For instance they will play an important role in making autonomous ships possible.


Hege Skryseth with Thomas Wilhelmsen (left) at Nor-Shipping 2017

Hege Skryseth with Thomas Wilhelmsen (left) at Nor-Shipping 2017


Futurenautics: There’s a lot of discussion about how we make the shipping industry more innovative – perhaps through increasing the level and range of collaboration with other companies and industries – but with collaboration comes new security, privacy and competition issues. What’s your take on that? 

Hege Skryseth: As I see it, rapid innovation has become a necessity in all industries, and increased collaboration – across departments, organizations, and industries – is the best way to achieve this.  This is also why we have chosen to make Kognifai an open ecosystem where all participants can collaborate. This does demand a high level of security and privacy. It also changes the way competition and collaboration works.  Now, a cluster of maritime organizations can benefit hugely from collaborating and sharing practices or innovations. Simultaneously, the individual organizations are encouraged to find ways to build on their unique strengths.


Futurenautics: I talk a lot about the development of intelligent transport systems as part of the new Industry 4.0. Autonomy is a constituent part of these intelligent systems, so the YARA Birkeland project is really interesting. Is this what the industry needs in order to play its proper role in the new Industry 4.0 supply and value chains?

Hege Skryseth: Yes, Yara Birkeland is an example of a natural next step with the maturity of technologies such as big data, analytics and machine learning.


Futurenautics: What was the last piece of technology – consumer, industrial or professional – which made you say “Wow!”?

Hege Skryseth: It would be Tesla. When my car froze before summer it only took me a few seconds to reset the software and everything was up and running again. Your hands don’t get dirty when fixing a Tesla 🙂




Hege Skryseth is CEO of Kongsberg Digital visit them at www.kongsberg.com/kongsberg-digital/

Follow her on Twitter where she’s @HSkryseth



Images courtesy © Nor-Shipping/Kongsberg/Getty Images

This article appeared in the Q3 2017 issue of Futurenautics.


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