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What Is the Blue Economy? Challenges and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Opportunities Explained

May 24, 2024 by Cognizant

The world’s oceans provide a livelihood for over 3 billion people and cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface. Yet somehow, humankind has taken these precious resources for granted, along with the associated rivers, lakes and other bodies of water, not to mention rainfall. The neglect has been going on for so long that the health of these vital natural resources has been severely degraded by over-exploitation and the impacts of climate change.

This mismanagement can’t continue. For the sake of the planet’s very survival, it’s time to begin restoring the world’s oceans. But there’s also an economic imperative for taking aggressive action on regenerating the world’s marine environment: the sustainability of the “Blue Economy” itself.

Challenges to the Blue Economy

The Blue Economy encompasses multiple economic sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts: Blue Food, Blue Energy, Blue Transportation, Blue Carbon and Blue Life. Combined, these industries account for $1.5 trillion of the annual global economy, according to the World Bank, and are expected to provide a value of $4 trillion to $6 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

Due to the oceans’ accelerating degradation, industries that rely on the Blue Economy have found it more difficult to run their businesses predictably and profitably. Prompt, energetic action is needed to ensure the long-term health of our oceans and the communities that rely on them. It’s a challenge too vast for any single entity to address on its own; instead, leaders from the public and private sectors need to put aside their differences—and use the powerful tools at hand—to address sustainable use of the world’s waterways for business and economic value.

Of all the tools at their disposal, artificial intelligence has a critical role to play. AI churns through data in volumes, and at speeds, that seemed impossible just a few years ago. It can provide not just reports but also insights that take into account every imaginable interrelationship and variable of this incredibly complex and important challenge (as well as some that are unimaginable to any single human mind).

How AI can help the Blue Economy

Here are just a few ways AI-enabled solutions can address the health of the Blue Economy:

  • Marine ecosystem monitoring. AI technologies such as remote sensing, drones and underwater robots can be used to monitor marine ecosystems and collect data, including temperature, acidity, oxygen levels and biodiversity. This data will help companies associated with ocean industries understand the health and dynamics of the ocean ecosystem, identify areas that are at risk from climate change and take appropriate measures.
  • Ocean precision and climate models. AI can assist in developing advanced ocean precision models that simulate and predict the impacts of climate change on oceans and optimize shipping routes. These models will help businesses make informed decisions about mitigating climate change impacts and achieve their own sustainability goals.
  • Blue Food. AI can help optimize fish farming practices by analyzing data on fish populations, fishing patterns and environmental conditions, thus reducing overfishing and improving overall fish health. Using AI, businesses can determine optimal fishing locations and gear types, and predict the quantity, quality and precise nutritional needs of fish populations. Such pinpoint analysis will reduce the ecological footprint of fishing activities and promote sustainable fishing practices.
  • Blue Energy. AI can support the development of alternative energy sources such as offshore wind, tidal and wave energy. By analyzing data on ocean currents, wind patterns and seabed conditions, the technology will help optimize the design, placement and maintenance of offshore renewable energy systems. This will lead to more efficient and effective use of these clean energy sources, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Blue Transport. AI-driven analysis of ocean models will help optimize voyage planning and improve maritime transport operations. Maritime operators can use AI to optimize ship routes, reduce fuel consumption and minimize emissions. This will contribute to the decarbonization of the oceans, aligning with global sustainability goals and reducing the environmental impact of maritime transport.

    AI can also enhance ocean liner resilience byoptimizing operations, improving decision-making and minimizing disruptions, delays and unforeseen challenges. For example, by using digital twins and real-time data on vessel movements, weather conditions and port congestion, Cognizant Ocean helps maritime operators plan and optimize their supply chain activities; reduce inventory costs; minimize delays; and promote efficient logistics operations. All of this benefits both the ocean industry and global supply chains.

The Blue Economy imperative

The key to mitigating further water pollution will be creating holistic overviews of our oceans and rivers that not only identify but also predict incidents of pollution; this will speed the decision-making process, allowing intervention before accidents happen. By investing in these technologies, businesses can give a voice to the earth’s water resources. Leveraging the power of data and AI is no longer a nice add-on, but a necessity.

Moreover, governance of the world’s oceans needs to become a cooperative effort by both private and public entities. These organizations need to work together to unify fragmented regulatory requirements and ensure regulatory adherence.

Clearly, none of these changes can be made by a single institution or organization; addressing the Blue Economy will require a vast and cooperative ecosystem. Organizations associated with this vital area need to embark on this industrial shift together throughout the ideation, innovation and implementation phases.

Author Manoj Mehta is head of Cognizant Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Related: Read more Cognizant guest blogs here.

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