The smart boat

By Adam Quandt

Boats are getting smarter. This is a trend that isn’t going away. Over the last five or so years, we’ve heard the term the “connected boat” more and more across the industry. But what is the connected boat and what does it mean for the future of the industry and boating as a whole?

As technology and innovations continue to propel boats into the future, we at Boating Industry wanted to really dig into what the connected boat is, how it’s created and what it means to the industry. Over the next year, each issue of Boating Industry will feature a story digging into new aspects of the connected boat with the help of various industry experts.

Begin with the basics

So, what is the connected boat?

“The way I like to think about it is connectivity, or boats being digitally connected and smart,” Brunswick VP of enterprise technologies John Reid said. “Quite simply, it’s two-way communication between various boat systems.”

The connected boat isn’t just one thing. It is a variety of systems all working together and communicating with one another to create a seamless experience for the end user.

The connected boat involves elements that tie together the engine, displays, audio, security systems, bilges and much more, and allows them to communicate with each other for a variety of purposes.

For example, last summer Siren Marine unveiled the Siren 3 Pro, the company’s next-generation connected boat product. The Siren 3 Pro offers users built-in GPS tracking, worldwide LTE cellular connectivity and ties together a variety of boat systems via both wired and wireless sensors. The system can monitor conditions such as security, geo-fence alerts, bilge pump activity, battery status, shore power status and more.

Similarly, NAUTIC-ON systems offer remote monitoring and smart diagnostic solutions by utilizing a cloud-based platform that stores data from its hub, wireless sensors and smart components installed on a boat through two-way communication.

What’s the driver behind this burst of technology in boating? Simple, the experiences we’ve come to expect in other aspects of our daily lives.

“We almost all live in a connected culture in terms of technologies helping make everything easier,” Reid said.

Reid indicated that the automotive industry especially has been a huge force in increasing technology in boating. Today and tomorrow’s customer expect the same capabilities found in their smart cars to be available in their boats as well.

“It’s all about making boating and boat ownership easier, which also makes things easier for those in the industry,” Reid said.

As consumers find boat ownership easier through the ability to monitor their boat’s systems through their smart phone or easily schedule maintenance when the time comes, because their boat reminds them automatically, those boaters are more likely to maintain positive boating experiences.

“These systems don’t just help the end consumer,” Reid said. “They allow the industry to learn from them. We find the pressure points of boating and boat ownership, allowing us to build better boats from the get go, or quickly diagnose a boat when it comes into the service shop.”

With more technology, comes more challenges in the beginning. On land, Reid said that we’re getting more and more connectivity with things like LTE, 4G and now 5G setting expectations. However, the boating faces the challenge of harsher environments, sometimes offering less connectivity.

“Having the infrastructure is definitely the driver of everything, things just get a little more difficult out on the water,” Reid said. “Connectivity in itself enables all kinds of innovations, but we’re still very early in the journey in the boating industry.”

Connectivity is at the core of Brunswick’s ACES (Autonomy/ADAS, Connectivity, Electrification and Shared-access) strategy, according to Reid. ACES is what Brunswick believes is leading the future of boating and creating a seamless boating experience for boaters of tomorrow.

While the connected boat is not necessarily new, it is still in its early stages and is certainly ever evolving as more technology becomes available as the industry invents and innovates while learning from other industries and customer demands.

“At some point, the thought process of boat building will boil down to a collection of systems with connectivity allowing for communication between all of them, using common architectures, and we’re very much on that journey in the boating industry right now,” Reid said.

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