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Lack of UX design regulations for ships’ bridges

 

Regulations for ship bridge equipment and systems provide little detailed design guidance for software. This forces the crew to adapt to a host of differing interfaces and designs within an already complex working environment. Inconsistent and poor designs of bridge systems have negative impacts on crew work tasks and can contribute to accidents at sea.

The OpenBridge project (www.openbridge.no) is working to develop an open platform to provide better user interfaces for ship bridge equipment. This is achieved through developing enhanced design methodologies and guidelines in order to simplify multi-vendor integration. As OpenBridge deals with design of bridge equipment and systems, it is important first to understand the current state of design regulations and guidelines within this area.

The Situation Today

The bridge is the main control center of a ship where vital operational tasks, communication and decision-making are coordinated and executed. The bridge is located on a structure that operates in frequently harsh, variable and isolated conditions, making the work environment and work tasks high in complexity and safety-critical in nature.

A ship’s operations and crew work tasks consist of interactions between people (i.e. the navigation team and ship crew) and technology (the various equipment and systems of the bridge and ship). This requires interaction and communication of people-to-people and people-to-technology, both onboard the ship and to external agents (e.g. port control, Vessel Traffic Service, surrounding ships, onshore facilities, etc.).

The bridge is a complex system from a technological perspective. Typical bridge equipment of a merchant vessel may include items such as autopilot, conning displays, Radar, Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Electronic Chat Display and Information System (ECTIS), Dynamic Positioning (DP), Global Positioning System (GPS), Gyrocompass, various communication devices and a host of further systems and sensors. Generally, these differing systems are designed and manufactured by multiple independent vendors. A single bridge can easily be comprised of dozens of differing brands of equipment supplied by differing vendors! These vendors typically have their own design and layout philosophies for hardware and software components. As you can imagine, once assembled and integrated into a single working environment (i.e. the bridge) which require the equipment to be used together problems can be created for the crew. Inconsistency in design across these differing pieces of equipment and interfaces have shown to have negative consequences for the crew and have even been implicated in contributing to accidents at sea.

There have been calls to develop more Integrated Bridge Systems (IBS) that standardize bridge design components in an effort to create a more user-friendly and uniform working environments and equipment. These issues are the motivating factors behind the concept of OpenBridge in order to seek harmony between ship bridge integrators and system vendors. Continue to read full article.

OpenBridge is absolutely free and can be accessed at www.openbridge.no. We encourage you to have a look and please reach out to us of you have questions.

This blog of the week is shared by courtesy of Ocean Industries Concept Lab – www.oicl.no/

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