In Superyacht Technology Digital Magazine, we feature ETO X: The Anonymous Voice of ETO’s
Modern technology; where we find ourselves in an ever-changing industry and also changing the way we approach it. In reference to automation systems for vessels, sail or motor, such as Crestron, we as ETO’s are responsible for the upkeep of these systems after integration by a company.
Our first dilemma is to actually sell this product to the owner of the vessel, and to also simultaneously explain to the owner what exactly it is that he is buying, especially if the owner has no experience or knowledge in the field.
I have recently come across a company that temporarily integrates demo systems for Crestron. With this demo system, one single room is fully equipped with a functioning Crestron automation system. This includes lights, shades, TV, sound operation, extending as far as the new Crestron partnership with the Alexa voice control unit and its integration. This demo will then be left on board for the owner to play with and make notes of adjustments to his/her preferences for the automation system. This approach has advantages for any ETO, not to mention for a company trying to sell their equipment. It brings a whole new spectrum of competitiveness in the industry; filling the massive gap that has been left in regards to sailing vessels. Sailing vessels might not always have the budget of an 80 – 130 meter motor yacht, but this way it can be shown that integration can also happen on a much smaller scale. Showing someone the value of what he/she is buying is half the battle won.
In regards to Crestron, I feel at times that the capability of it comes close to limitless. Every vessel is equipped with an alarm and monitoring system and with some Crestron systems being I/O based, they are already half way there, filling a gap which is quite hard on a yacht, minimalising hardware equipment of onboard systems.
Instead of an ETO having to gain knowledge about multiple different systems and brands, using one brand to fill several areas of a vessel’s needs can ease this problem. The CEN-I/O unit from Crestron would be a good stepping-stone for this form of integration. This area of the tech industry could be a game changer for an ETO that has good knowledge of Crestron as well as the downscaling of equipment to one single brand. Even someone that has no knowledge of Crestron can benefit from this. Each monitoring system can then be specifically designed to the vessel’s needs, how they would like the layout to look and what parameter needs to be set.
Crossing over to the multimedia side of Crestron, they have introduced the new DigitalMedia NVX series, changing the way AV systems are integrated on vessels. Instead of using 100 Gigabit switches, NVX is able to transmit 4K60, 4:4:4 and HDR over 1 Gigabit Ethernet. This would be a more cost effective approach and would be beneficial for targeting the sailing yacht market. It offers encoding / decoding and scaling at the same, without any latency occurring in the transmission of it over the network. It also provides network security, and, ranging from end to end user implementation to infinite scalability, it’s a small piece of equipment, packing a massive punch.
Finally, the question we ask ourselves;
“What do we as ETO’s need to do to ensure a redundant working automation system”?
I feel it is a question that carries a lot of weight in day-to-day maintenance. Firmware and software updates are crucial in automation system. From the point of view of an ETO, it is a crucial point on all our systems that we have on board.
The continuous launches of these updates are crucial for yachts. Take for instance Apple, we receive monthly (if not weekly) software update notifications. Taking into consideration how many Crestron systems onboard are interacted with via an Ipad, if the software and firmware of your automation system is not up to date, you might be looking at some compatibility issues down the line. This is an issue you would not want to have mid-season, when you’re anchored off in the Med somewhere on the milk run and need to download updates via VSAT while you have your boss onboard. We all know how they feel about slow Internet…
In this regard, ease of access to these types of updates isn’t always as easy as you would think. Companies such as Crestron should carry a customer portal directly for the ETO’s or any end user for that matter, instead of the dealership company having to forward you all the updates. A notification of updates of new releases needs to be sent to the end user by email as soon as they become available. Cutting out the middleman speeds the process, delivering good end results and a happy customer.
I for one, am excited with the ever changing technology that we can use that’s at our disposal and to ease the life of an ETO onboard, simultaneously creating a competitive market for technology to grow even further and better in the ways we integrate automation systems onboard vessels.