Ship automation transmits alarm messages via SMS

Specially developed software connects automation system to API via OPC UA interface

Today, both luxury yachts and container ships are usually equipped with elaborate ship automation systems. The automation systems consist of software and hardware, with countless sensors, controls and regulators integrated. With this highly complex technical monitoring, a ship can sail with half the number of personnel or lie in port without supervision. The Kiel-based company ROCKSON Automation specializes in maritime automation.

ROCKSON’s team of experts has developed its own automation system for ships: EVOLUTION V5

In a ship there are 1000-2000 so-called measuring points, which play an important role in the complex automation systems. These individual sensors measure, for example, the fuel, the cargo hold temperature or they report leakages as well as power failures in the ship’s equipment. Depending on the shipping company’s operating concept, the ships are designed differently in the shipyards. The ROCKSON team is involved from the very first day of the planning phase and uses its know-how to calculate, among other things, the required measuring points.

To ensure that the technical staff can be informed immediately about error conditions even when the ships are in port, the ROCKSON engineers have been looking for a reliable way to send error messages directly and without delays internationally.

The initial situation:

“A ship is a very high-value investment. If the technology fails and the failure is not noticed immediately, this can lead to cost-intensive accidents,” state the ROCKSON engineers.

We needed a contemporary and modern solution to optimize our service.

“For this purpose, we developed a special software, the AlarmMessenger. With this link, it is now possible for the technical staff to be informed at any time, for example on a shore leave, if limit values are exceeded or not reached. Now all we were missing was an option on how to transmit the messages reliably,” says the ROCKSON development team, explaining their latest innovation in the maritime automation sector.

An tausenden Messstellen könnten potentiell Fehler auftreten. Die Schiffsautomation hat sie alle im Blick.

Thousands of measuring points are integrated into the ship automation system.
Image: © Klaus Jordan

The AlarmMessenger software is the link between the ship automation, the OPC UA interface and the API of

Nowadays, every ship has its own Internet access. This is mainly a service for the ship’s personnel. It’s a way for the crew to stay in touch with their families and the world at large while at sea. “This is very convenient for us, because our AlarmMessenger requires an Internet connection. At the beginning, our sales and development team discussed the pros and cons of different alternatives to send the alarm reliably.”

The use case:

“We discarded the initial consideration of using a special device to send the prefabricated alarm SMS via our own mobile connection. One reason was that an existing Internet connection would enable us to use the existing ship infrastructure and thus avoid the need to purchase additional hardware. Furthermore, since the ships are deployed internationally, SIM card roaming across different mobile carriers would cause problems. Moreover, with this solution we would also have had to install a cellular antenna. Unfortunately, there are also hardly any suitable mobile phone providers for international shipping.”

We needed a custom-fit, lightweight solution for text messaging.

“So as soon as the ships go to a foreign cellular network, there can be high costs. Using a cloud alert server would have been far too complex for our task. It was also important to us that the SMS be sent reliably. With the Kiel-based messaging provider, everything fit pretty precisely,” the ROCKSON developers describe the process of finding the right dispatch solution.

Hochkomplexe Systeme senden Fehlermeldungen per SMS

Ships like the superyacht Kismet are equipped with highly complex systems
Image: © Guillaume Plisson

The decision process:

The AlarmMessenger software was meant to connect the ROCKSON automation system to the API of via the standardized OPC UA interface. This interface is standardized worldwide and unifies automation technology. The transport of data is specified as well as interfaces, security mechanisms and the semantic structure of the data. Transmitted machine data can be, for example, measured values, sensor data, controlled variables or control instructions.

Three solutions were discussed

“Initially, we had discussed the possibility of using a special device that sends prefabricated alarm SMS messages via a dedicated cellular connection. Another option was to transmit the error messages using the Signal messenger. However, in order to be able to use the messenger, we would have had to convince every single user to install the Signal app.

Finally, we decided on the third option of sending the alarm SMS via a professional SMS gateway provider, since nowadays every cell phone can receive and display SMS,” the ROCKSON developers explain the planning phase.

Solutions and improvements:

“It took about a month to get the product up and running. The cooperation with fully met our expectations”, the ROCKSON developers say.

Every registered recipient worldwide now receives the original message via SMS via

“With the OPC UA interface, the transmission of alarm texts has become much easier, no intermediate level is necessary anymore. Due to the OPC UA connection, the alarm texts from our system can now be forwarded directly, so that no further configuration effort is required and the user receives the original message via SMS,” the entire development team explains the technical advancement.

Sending error messages via SMS can save a lot of money

A message like this can be of immense value.


“The EVOLUTION V5 AlarmMessenger now offers the possibility that an alarm is received by SMS on cell phones. Thus, we succeeded in extending the core product in a meaningful way and in increasing customer satisfaction with an additional module”, the ROCKSON engineers conclude.

ROCKSON Automation relies on “It offers exactly the functionalities we need for this project”

“The EVOLUTION V5 AlarmMessenger is a software module within Automation that is used to realize the SMS function. Nevertheless, it was designed in such a way that it can also be used autonomously, i.e. for other automation companies, for example in the industrial sector, for sending SMS via OPC UA”, the ROCKSON development team concludes hopefully in regards to the newly developed software.

Here at we are very pleased that SMS is seen as a reliable dispatch option in marine automation. It is exciting for us to see how SMS is additionally used as alarm notification in a maritime automation system like EVOLUTION V5. And of course we are happy about the successful cooperation with a local maritime company!

All the best
Your sms77 team

The header image has been kindly provided by ROCKSON Automation and is the property of ABEKING & RASMUSSEN
Schiffs- und Yachtwerft SE

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