As integration, communication and technology evolve at an astonishing rate in the superyacht industry, Joanna Palmer, editor of Superyacht Technology News spoke to YachtCloud – one of the most innovative superyacht technology and systems companies in the business. Here we talk to Andre Klepper, founder of YachtCloud, to explain everything about their innovative products, including the GEST service call system and their flagship product, OMNIYON.
Your first few projects were on some of the largest most well-known yachts in the world, you certainly went in at the deep end! Tell us about the challenges and how you overcame them.
YachtCloud has worked on some great yachts but, as it goes in this industry, we’re not allowed to discuss the specifics or name the yachts! YachtCloud sells to a wide range of trusted integrators: Videoworks, VBH, Ideaworks, Yacht Living Solutions, Platinum Vision and OneXP, to name a few! So, with the reputations of the integrators and the prestige that comes with our experience, we’ve been able to secure several large contracts. We can say that we’ve been involved in installations on some groundbreaking new yacht builds. Each project has its challenges, but we try to face challenges as early in the process as possible.
OMNIYON is developed completely in-house and was upgraded to OMNIYON 2.0 in 2018. Tell us about the upgrade.
When we first established YachtCloud, we partnered with a separate company for parts of the development of Omniyon. Eventually, we wanted to take complete ownership of every aspect of the product and company, so we had to change the codebase. It was a steep learning curve and to successfully make the transition; we had to upgrade to Omniyon 2.0, which was a blessing in disguise. OMNYION 2.0 has more features for clients and is faster and more stable. It’s now in use of 34 vessels. It is gratifying for everyone involved to see that dealers/system integrators are now selling OMNIYON in new markets, not just the yachting business. The first palaces and enormous residences are currently being equipped with an OMNIYON system, with the media libraries often synchronized with other locations that have OMNIYON systems.
Tell us about the Open Source Software in OMNIYON.
The OMNIYON player uses Kodi as a basis for as its video player. Kodi is the software we use for video playback, in a custom and centralized way. Two people in the team are active Kodi contributors, upstreaming code into Kodi on a regular basis. Pretty much any software these days has something open source in it, in the end, it improves products, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you do something. It’s great to work together with a leader in the video playback world.
Many AV companies are developing media systems. Why should clients choose OMNIYON?
The answer has different levels for different stakeholders. First of all, the feature set is totally unique for the end-user. Looking at the UI/UX that most yachting clients were experiencing over the years, we saw a huge gap in the market. Consumers at home had more features available than superyacht owners with a $1 million AV-system installed – which is truly madness.
OMNIYON is a fully integrated solution with features like LiveQ, which provides a grid of up to 12 channels visible live on tablet or TV. It’s possible to play content on both tablet and TV. We can integrate all Electronic Program Guide data in one overview, OMNIYON searches through all media data (movies, music, TV-shows & EPG) and the system smartly synchronizes media between locations – it’s even possible to mirror the tablet GUI to the TV. But the central vision remains our USP: the system is extremely fast, responsive, intuitive and straightforward.
For our dealers, it’s possible to offer something new and innovative to their clients, plus it is easy to configure and manage. We can control many protocols directly, such as Lutron and KNX, but also offer smart integrations with Crestron NVX, BSS/Soundweb and Symetrix and many others. We provide frequent updates to all of our clients, enabling them with a new feature set – this is covered under the standard support contract they have with us. Therefore the system is fed with new features after every new release.
How do you tackle content delivery?
‘We have seen libraries so extensive that you would need multiple lifetimes to watch it all. There are several content providers, but we don’t supply content ourselves. Our clients prefer to have the content living on the server locally, not needing to use any bandwidth for downloading which can be particularly troublesome when a yacht is out at sea with limited bandwidth. We are investigating to integrate content services (streaming and download) into the system, we aim to provide the market with more info later this year.’
We see systems with fantastic front ends in our sector, but the back end is key to our readers, what does it take to run a YachtCloud system?
The YachtCloud System consists of players which is a physical device, multiple players can be connected, but as a minimum, you need a server and storage and one player. This can then be scaled to whatever size you need.
The yacht will need a 1Gb network to support 4K content playback. Of course, you need Wi-Fi too for the control, and tablets are also required to run the apps. There is a ready-made Crestron module so that it can be easily integrated into Creston. Although there is no formal relationship with Crestron, we’re huge fans of the Crestron product range as they complement Omniyon so well. When we require a physical product to interact with, we prefer to use Crestron, and their NVX range has a full integration model within our products.
How many languages is Omniyon available in?
Russian and English in the metadata but the user interface can be configured for any language, though you have to add the translations yourself through the web GUI or YachtCloud can provide a translation service. There are multiple languages in the back-end system but only launched in Russian and English, therefore upon request, we can provide most European languages. It is the Russian function that has allowed us to secure two of our largest yacht contracts.
Where will the system be in a year?
8K is on the radar, but it depends on when the hardware can become mainstream – although it is not YachtCloud’s main focus for this year. As our vision has always been a merge (of “fusion”) between content and control, we are looking at adding some media services into the platform.
Essentially, we want to offer a quick, complete, integrated service to their clients, and we’re busy developing our mobile app to make the whole system even more personal and user-friendly. Most people have their phones on their person wherever they go, so this would provide instant access to OMNIYON. For our dealers, the OMNIYON manager will be even more easy to configure or adjust the system
Where will YachtCloud be in five years?
We are planning to expand our reach further into high-end residential, particularly in areas like Dubai and the rest of the UAE. We are also planning to have an even more diverse product portfolio in the pipeline, which would assist us in our goal to be a larger player in the media & control system industry.
Support is critical in the superyacht sector. How do you support the YachtCloud products?
We offer a full hardware scope, software licences and annual support with our dealers. The first point of contact for the customer is their dealer, but we also offer an internal support package. Depending on the size and complexity of your system, you can choose your support package. None of the support is mandatory, but, if you have it, you receive free upgrades to ensure that you are always up to date. At the time of speaking, we are currently releasing version 2.4. Most issues can be fixed remotely, but if there are hardware issues we need to solve, the YachtCloud team is on hand to attend the yacht in person.
SYTN Barcelona 2020
YachtCloud will be holding an event during Superyacht Technology Conference in April 2020. In a live environment, they will be simulating a superyacht with their infrastructure laid out to add or remove from the content suite. This is our opportunity to really show the strength of our solution to ETO’s and other crew, who require the power to be able to respond immediately to owner requests, as this is a customisable product which means that requests can be completed immediately
As well as SYTN Barcelona 2020, you can find YachtCloud at the Monaco Yacht Show 2019, METS 2019 and Fort Lauderdale Boat Show 2019.
What is YachtCloud?
Founded in 2014, YachtCloud specializes in developing and delivering innovative products for AV and IT systems. The company is comprised of skilled engineers and software specialists who lead the field. How? YachtCloud believes that details and dedication lead to difference and distinction, allowing them to deliver truly unique products and an unparalleled experience for every customer.
OMNIYON is one such product from YachtCloud, dramatically simplifying the way that people interact with media and control systems on board some of the most luxurious and technologically advanced superyachts in the world.
Developed entirely in-house from their offices in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, OMNIYON is a complete media and control system, blending media and control into one intuitive user interface.
Imagine the freedom of having your movies, favourite TV channels, music and onboard services whenever and wherever you are: one complete system combining media and user interaction. A captivating fusion of content and control for a naturally intuitive experience.
OMNIYON is targeted on clients with multiple yachts and luxury properties all over the world. YachtCloud products can be used in all residences and this, therefore, allows the owners and their guests to only have to get used to one type of system, function and interface, thus making it much more user-friendly. YachtCloud standardizes all properties, so there is one function on all properties whether they are on water or not.
This provides each client with a unique tailored experience, allowing content to be accessed whenever, wherever. “Clients that have chosen Omniyon were looking for a smooth, simple, fast and modern User Experience (UX),” explains Andre Klepper. “The media content plays a central role, where the client isn’t bothered by where the content is coming from. The main search option will provide the results from the movie, music & TV-show library, but also the electronic program guide. The logic behind the system is not visible to the end client, so for example, TV-channels that aren’t available will not be shown, and when switching channel, that can mean that a different satellite box is selected, or another IP-stream has been called.”
The benefits of intuitiveness and ease-of-use are not only for the owner, however. System integrators and supporting staff will have an ‘integrator-friendly’ way of configuring the system. It is designed to set up new rooms in the OMNIYON web interface easily; hence, changes are made easily without needing to call for a programmer.
GEST Service Call System
GEST is another product in YachtCloud’s portfolio that is exclusively designed for the world’s most discerning clients. Excellent service and unrivalled privacy are at the core of the GEST service call system, easily enabled with a simple WiFi connection. GEST’s high-end service call button comes in a range of ultra-chic designs to fit any interior design and can be used to make efficient and secure service calls on a yacht or large luxury residence or hotel.
The button can change colour so that the crew and clients know what stage the request is at and that the owner or guest request is being dealt with. The system is available in a portable option and built-in option available. If a portable option is used, Bluetooth can scan for beacons so that it knows which room it is. “Demand for our GEST system is high – it has been incredibly well received in the superyacht and luxury services industries,” comments Klepper.
The next iteration of the Gest system is a multi-touch button, with requests so that the crew can know the primary needs of the caller, providing an even smarter way of interacting with the crew. The app is currently available on IOS, with an Android version currently in development.
The YachtCloud team
YachtCloud currently consists of 18 people, a few are in the sales team but the majority are developers and testing engineers. Through great dedication and perfectionism, the team delivers truly unique products and a great experience for any customer.
Andre Klepper, the founder of YachtCloud, started as an IT professional and gained over eleven years of experience in the yachting AV & IT industry within van Van Berge Henegouwen (VBH) as CTO. He always had aspirations to have his own company focusing on the professionalisation of audiovisual applications on board. He has been working on the most prestigious superyachts, ranging from 40 to over 170 meters as an IT specialist, and in 2014 he launched his own technology company and continues to develop. This is one to watch.