TAMPA, Fla. — Judges from Boating Writers International recognized 13 technically innovative and problem-solving products at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference on Tuesday.
The Innovation Awards winners, selected from a field of 86 entries, were announced at the IBEX industry breakfast.
Judges recognized dual winners in two of 10 categories and gave a special Environmental Award. The hottest competition was in the OEM Electronics category, which saw 26 entries, the largest concentration. The Deck and Hardware category also was competitive, with 23 entries.
Alan Wendt, chairman of the Innovation Awards and past president of Boating Writers International, said judges saw the pontoon segment’s effect on product innovation.
“Over the course of two days of judging, we were seeing a lot of products that are eliminating problems in the pontoon boat field,” Wendt said.
Wendt said problem-solving innovation directed at pontoons and towboats — two of the industry’s biggest growth categories — was evident in the products judges saw.
Gamin’s Fantom 6 Doppler Radar is the electronics item of the year and a true game changer, Wendt said. “My prediction is everyone will have Doppler radar by the Miami show.”
Garmin’s Fantom 6 was a dual winner in the hotly contested OEM Electronics category, sharing the win with Wet Sounds’ SYN-DX 6-DSP marine amplifier.
“Sound is critical to the millennials,” Wendt said, and developments such as Wet Sounds’ amplifier show millennials’ effect on the industry.
“When you look around, you’re seeing younger people at the show, but also, look at the people making the products. A lot of innovation is coming from the younger generation. They understand the mindset of the buyers.”
Wendt said this year the judges were able to see more products demonstrated on the water, such as new steering systems on pontoon boats. Although much of the product development continues to borrow from the auto and other industries, Wendt said the innovation itself continues to be: “How do we make it work with boats?”
The 2016 IBEX Innovation Award winners are:
Boatbuilding Methods & Materials: Banova, 3A Composites Baltek Inc.
Deck Equipment and Hardware: Dual Winners — Roswell Marine, Triton Board Rack; T-H Marine Supplies, Snapflex LED Stern Navigation Light
Furnishings & Interior Parts: Kenyon International Inc., Texan Grill with IntelliKEN Touch Control
Mechanical Systems: Xylem, Rule Bilge Pumps
Electrical Systems: Mercury Marine, Electronic Steering Helm
Inboard Engines: Volvo Penta, Easy Drain
Outboard Engines: Honda Marine, BF6
Propulsion Parts, Propellers: Mercury Marine, VesselView Mobile
Boat Care and Maintenance: Pettit Paint, SeaGold
OEM Electronics: Dual Winners — Garmin USA, Fantom 6; Wet Sounds Inc., SYN-DX 6-DSP
Environmental Award: Fireboy-Xintex Inc., CG/MA and GA 3M Novec 1230 Fixed Fire Extinguisher
The panel of judges for the 2016 IBEX Innovation Awards included Wendt, who is also a contributing writer for Lakeland Boating and Southern Boating; co-chairwoman Zuzana Prochaska, 100-ton Coast Guard master, Sail Magazine charter editor, freelance writer and photographer for 15 marine and travel titles; and Gary Reich, editor-at-large for Chesapeake Bay Magazine, contributing writer to Anglers Journal, PassageMaker Magazine, Soundings and Lakeland Boating Magazine.
Also on the panel were Frank Lanier, marine surveyor and contributor to Practical Sailor and Southern Boating; Craig Ritchie, contributing writer to Boatguide and Boating Business magazines, which serve the Canadian market, as well as several other titles; Peter Robson, former editor and current contributor to Pacific Yachting, contributor to Canadian Boating Guidebooks; John Wooldridge, a writer, editor and photographer in recreational marine journalism since 1977; and Capt. Lou Gainor, Northeast radio host at Nautical Talk.