The second edition of the Superyacht Technology Network Show & Conference took place from 11-12 October at the World Trade Centre in Barcelona, an outstanding event that more than lived up to its promise. If commercial collaboration is lacking in the wider superyacht industry, it was certainly alive and kicking here.
Welcome drinks at the trendy Opium Beach Club on the eve of the event set the tone for what followed during two days of learning and networking, with every detail, from the layout of the venue to the general stewardship of the event bringing people together to share knowledge and ideas. With back to back presentations across a wide range of disciplines, dominant themes included connectivity, immersion, ease of use and the death of the black screen.
Integration, immersion & the metaverse
Leading the march following the recent launch of their Invisible Technology, Jeroen van den Hurk of VBH spoke of exploding complexity with a fall in client appreciation saying: “There are two things that owners want: Beauty of integration and ease of use. So why is this not happening already? Integrators are still focussed on efficiency so if you can’t buy it, you have to develop it yourself.” VBH was also the worthy recipient of the SYTC Innovation 2022 Award announced at the gala dinner on Wednesday 11th October.
In the field of immersive audio, Nick Fichte, Global Business Director of L-Acoustics Creations, presented exciting developments in sound space design, from altering the ambience of the sonic environment by connecting space and sound, to ‘audiomorph’, which brings content to life with virtual positioning to dynamically change the audio throughout an entire room.
Tommy Lexen, MD of Immersive International spoke of the two opposing forces - the desire to feel something real and the allure of the virtual world – with the blurring of these boundaries as the physical, digital, virtual and metaphysical worlds become ever more connected. “Digital art is being defined from the bottom up with innovation-driven immersive art and spatial storytelling,” he said, pointing to giant strides in real-time rendered art (RTRA) and content-driven interior design (CDID), showcased the following day in Lurssen’s magnificent 98m Concept Alice with interior design by Dasha Moranova.
Turning to the metaverse, Jamie PGR, Producer and Founder of Studio 8ight blew our minds with an impassioned case for joined up thinking in the virtual world saying: “The proposed metaverse needs to be compatible and seamless to work, not standalone such as Microsoft and Meta.” He also spoke of the need for better back end support for software developers, a problem not only limited to the world we know. With specific relevance to the superyacht sector, he highlighted the use case for mixed reality – virtual and augmented – including hand tracking and haptic feedback in education, maintenance and training.
New ways of thinking
The importance of collaboration was high on the agenda in a range of presentations, from energy and design to autonomy and digitalisation. Anu Peippo, Chief Experience Officer at VTT SenseWay also challenged the idea that innovation only happens in large organisations, citing the potential barriers of bureaucracy, legacy and internal politics. She argued that smaller companies too should “cooperate with start-ups, engage with other ecosystems and hire people who think differently."
This was echoed by Feargus Bryan of the Superyacht Technology Steering Council (STSC) which was jointly set up with Jack Robinson. The purpose of the STSC is to encourage open conversations about technology, providing a forum to nurture and support innovative technologies within yachting, underpinned by the knowledge and creativity of those more established in the industry. Creating pure networks for problem-solving and open dialogue, the STSC also fosters industry-wide links with universities to encourage ethics, sustainability, equality and collaboration. The AGM is currently scheduled for June in Monaco and more information will be available soon.
Women in technology
Continuing this theme, Margarita Amam, MD of IMS GMBH made a compelling case for the importance of diversity in the workforce to foster new ways of thinking, and it’s worth noting at this point the prominence of young blood and female speakers at the event itself, a conscious objective on the part of show organisers Jack Robinson and Joanna Palmer.
“This year we spearheaded a Women in Technology photoshoot and this is something we will be trying to make a connection with at each of our events and external events too,” said Palmer. More information will follow as the initiative unfolds.
Building for the future
Representing Feadship, CMO Farouk Nefzi spoke of the increased collaboration between shipyards in the quest for greener solutions, as well as the growing number of yachts giving back by facilitating marine research and supporting marine reserves, referencing the work of the Blue Marine Foundation. With major ongoing investment towards ‘fuel flexibility’, a full program for green retrofits is also underway at Feadship.
Philipp von Arnim, Head of Business Development at Lurssen Yachts, another frontrunner in the development of fuel cell technology, presented the 98m Concept Alice with her radically different layout and use of interior space, and a propulsion and energy solution based on methanol which he described as ‘fuel cell complementary’. Alice is scheduled for launch in 2024.
New age connectivity
In the wake of Starlink - the first LEO satellite operator to hit the consumer market - connectivity was another hot topic in discussions. Acknowledging that it will be a gamechanger in the superyacht industry, David Savage, Group Executive Chairman of Excelerate Technology Group said: “Not in a million years will clients hang their connectivity needs on one provider.” Furthermore, anticipating an inevitable drop in bandwidth as uptake grows, he said: “We’re developing a product that will actually make Starlink work better!”
Mixing it up with a Q&A format, Adam Aquilina, Director of Eagle Marine, and Kris Cardona, Director of YOT Store, described what the future will look like on board, predicting wholesale movement to the cloud (including files and media), a reduction in complexity in IT on board, and an increase in internal complexity – intelligent resilient networking.
YOT Store is now exploring ways to maximise the stability and efficiency of these internet connections by utilising SD-WAN/Cloud technologies without compromising security. Encapsulating all of the data scattered across the internet into a secure bubble will bestow all the benefits of cloud solutions without being reliant on them in a hybrid-connected IT world.
Turning attention to crew training, John Wyborn, Crew and Training Director at Bluewater Yachting argued that we need to look at the realities of the job on board and create training that’s relevant today. With specific regard to AV/IT on larger yachts where we see a separation of function, there is still no qualification for AV/IT officers as distinct from ETOs, for whom an MCA recognised CoC was introduced in 2018.
Following widespread consultation with relevant organisations such as The Maritime Skills Alliance, The Merchant Navy Training Board, a range of AV/IT companies and expert trainers such as Scott Molloy, MD of SEACertify, the first draft of a new training standard for AV/IT officers has now been produced. Watch this space.
True spirit of collaboration
Unsurprisingly in the current economic and political climate, Farouk Nefzi also hinted at growing concerns around external perceptions – the subject of a forthcoming white paper – highlighting the urgent need to reframe communications between our industry and the outside world. It can’t be denied that superyachts are increasingly difficult to defend in the court of public opinion, but change is coming and events such as this are an important catalyst.
This year’s Superyacht Technology Conference was excellent from start to finish. As well as the immense amount of knowledge and information being shared and discussed, there was a true spirit of collaboration and positive energy in the air. Congratulations to the show organisers - this was the superyacht industry at its best.
The next event from the Superyacht Technology Network is the Superyacht Summit-on-the-Go, taking place on 31st of January 2023 during ISE, the biggest professional technology show in the world. More details here.
Image credits: OnboardOnline and Nautical Digital