I’ve written a lot about the huge uptick in yacht technology over the past few years. Most of today’s vessels include complex on board computer, VSAT, audio/visual and security systems. And we can expect that on board technology will only become more complex and necessary over time.
In fact, changes in the world of technology have been happening so quickly that systems implemented can become dated, if not obsolete, in just a few years. That shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of what today’s technology has to offer, but it’s a good idea to make purchases with an eye toward future yacht technology developments.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what’s on the horizon in the world of yacht technology:
The Future of Yacht Security
Marc Franken of Frankentek expects big changes in vessel security in the near future and is currently working on several new builds with deliveries in 2016 that incorporate forward-thinking technologies. Franken says, “Although they are available now, future yacht security systems will be increasingly more integrated. Yachts will have intrusion detectors with cameras that automatically react to intrusion, whether it is a crew member or an unwelcome individual you need to react to.”
Franken says that people on board will increasingly utilize early warning detection, taking an “iPad to their cabin that will show live pictures of an intruder. The experience will be live and immediate so in effect, you’ll have eyes everywhere on the vessel.”
Access control via biometric fingerprint, which Franken is already implementing on new builds, is another progressive security feature. “Access control restricts access to certain areas of the vessel for certain crew and guests,” he says. “It allows for keyless entry to specific areas of the yacht, and with finger print readers the person doesn’t need to carry anything.”
Franken’s most security-sensitive owners request beyond the hull (BTH) protection. “The large new build projects we are working on have higher security needs. The owners want to protect the vessel’s perimeter before they get on the boat. They can set a security zone perimeter of 800 to 1000 meters around the yacht,” which detects any movement within that area. “We call it a secure bubble,” Franken says.
“Owners also want to make sure no one is a protection threat under water, on the water’s surface, or by air,” adds Franken. “We use such things as underwater protection sonar, thermal imaging cameras, and micro-radar on the mast. These sensors detect small objects and don’t produce harmful frequencies.”
Cabling and Integrated Systems
According to Darren Mayhead, Chief Technical Officer of Great Circle Systems, “There is one future trend we can be sure of for new yachts: more and more on board electronic technology and the infrastructure to support it.” Ample cabling, says Mayhead, is “One of the best ways new builds can avoid a premature technology refit.”
Mayhead explains that, “Adding network cabling after the build is completed can be difficult and expensive. So it’s best to include a generous amount of cabling during the build to support all present systems, while anticipating the needs of future systems.”
However, Mayhead says, “Yacht electronic refits are inevitable because technology will continue to change. So you want to lay the foundation for a less expensive future refit by incorporating the best that today’s technology has to offer. And the foundation of a yacht’s electronics is its cabling system.”
Mayhead believes that the type of cable you choose for your new build matters. "CAT 7 is the new standard for network cabling,” says Mayhead. “CAT 7 supports data rates up to 10 Gbps (gigabits per second). Even though there are not a lot of components available at this time that can take full advantage of that speed, those components are on the horizon."
Mayhead adds that, “For applications that require the fastest possible data rates, such as multiple streams of high definition video, fiber optic cable should be considered for the network backbone. Fiber should also be landed in locations on the vessel where upgrades to the technology package are most likely.” Because fiber allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility, Mayhead says that it, “Can help ‘future-proof’ those areas. An 8 strand fiber run with potential for data rates up to 100 Gbps, at a relatively modest cost, makes for a very good insurance policy.”
Controlling Vessel Systems with Apple Devices
J.D. Crawford, Sales Manager at Savant Systems says that, “The latest development for our new build customers is to incorporate the Apple platform into the vessel’s audio/visual system as much as possible. Owners are typically iPhone and iPad users already. They like using gestures incorporated in the Apple user interface, so they have a comfort level with an iOS-based system.”
“For today’s owners, guests and crew, sharing media is very important. People want to come on board with their own music and movies and share them throughout the boat,” Crawford says. “If customers want to distribute the same music in every area of the boat, we can do that in several different ways: we can synch it with the server, use Apple TV airplay, or dock an iPhone in a state room for use throughout the vessel.”
When asked what he sees on the horizon regarding technology and new builds, Crawford describes a, “Unique request from a customer to provide the ability to steer and dock his vessel using an iPad. We developed a system that controlled the ship through an iPad interface. It went through a Lloyd’s approval process, so it had a build-in safety mechanism. “
However, even though people love their Apple devices, Crawford doesn’t see this case as a trend for most captains. “More people might want to be able to control their vessel with a device in the future,” says Crawford. “But that probably won’t become standard because most captains will still want to dock their boat in the traditional way, even though the technology to maneuver the vessel using an iPad is available.”
(Photo courtesy of Great Circle Systems: Darren Mayhead)
Great Circle Systems was founded by Scott Strand and Andy Levy in 1999. Scott and Andy are uniquely qualified to serve the luxury yacht industry, combining extensive software development and network system integration experience with many years of hands-on yachting experience. Over the years, Scott and Andy have assembled a team of experienced and skilled yacht engineers and network specialists. Together, the company has built an impressive array of products and services to assist in the construction and operation of vessels 30 meters and larger. These products include Triton Administrator yacht management software and the NAS3000 Internet management appliance. GCS has provided IT solutions for many of the most beautiful yachts in the world, including M/Y Cakewalk V, M/Y Lady Sheridan, M/Y Jemasa, M/Y "A" and M/Y Katara.
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