IBEX 2014: Cloud computing keeps you in touch with your boat

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Chetco Digital Instruments chief technology officer Joe Burke coordinated the Connected Boat display at IBEX.

Chetco Digital Instruments chief technology officer Joe Burke coordinated the Connected Boat display at IBEX.

TAMPA, Fla. — Clouds were on everyone’s mind on Tuesday at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference. And it had very little to do with the rain.

Amid IBEX’s 573 exhibiting companies and 7,000 registered marine professionals, the Connected Boat exhibit in the flashy Electronics Pavilion shone through the traffic. The dynamic, interactive display demonstrates how systems can interconnect using existing network technologies and cloud computing.

The exhibit and examples provided lay out a simple path for consumers to connect smartphones and home computers to the entirety of their boat’sonboard network, using cloud technology.

“One kid put it to me this way,” said Joe Burke, chief technology officer at Chetco Digital Instruments and IBEX’s creative partner at the Connected Boat exhibit. “He said, ‘I own a boat and I use it 5 percent of my time, but I think about it 100 percent of the time.’ Whether you’re onboard, at the office or at home, you can stay connected to your boat. You can check your systems whenever you want.”

One of Burke’s display screens at the IBEX exhibit shows real-time information from his own boat, anchored near the Pacific coast in Oregon. Burke’s fuel gauge, battery bank levels and oil pressure are accessible and visible, along with Oregon’s current temperature, wind speeds and tides. The most recent update on Tuesday afternoon showed that the information was current as of four minutes prior.

Chetco’s SeaSmart Pro, the next-generation vessel Wi-Fi network adapter, connects a boat’s data systems to the cloud. Smartphones, personal computers and satellite coverage systems such as Iridium retrieve the data through the cloud. When cloud access is not possible, the SeaSmart Pro data are stored on an SDT memory card. When connections become available, the stored data are sent in a fast, compressed manner.

Chetco can work with any brand of network services already aboard a boat and connect to smartphones, long-range Wi-Fi and satellite communication systems. Chetco’s cloud computing is done through its HelmSmart product, which is a paid data service.

HelmSmart can be used through an app or through smartphones and home computers. Along with displaying real-time shore power and fuel levels, HelmSmart can assist trip planning by tracking previous paths and routes and displaying weather trends. Chetco products are compatible with existing onboard systems such as SmartCraft, Navico, Simrad, Garmin and Honda.

Data analytics from these cloud transmissions allow the system to report when boats need refueling or batteries are low. “You can set the system to send you a tweet when the oil pressure is low,” Burke said.

The companies of common outboard brands such as Honda and Mercury can also use the compilation of data from the HelmSmart cloud (using data from numerous consumers) to look at performance and ultimately improve products. Many of the newer, larger boats come standard with fully integrated technology.

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