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The RV-Boat Connection

RVers and boaters want to stay in touch while they’re getting away
RV owners, as well as boaters, are increasingly eager to stay connected both with their 
vehicle’s systems and the world around them.

RV owners, as well as boaters, are increasingly eager to stay connected both with their vehicle’s systems and the world around them.

The recreational vehicle and marine industries have both seen unprecedented growth since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with families trying to socially distance and recreate away from home as cabin fever takes hold. And yet while “getting away” is on the minds of consumers in these industries, so is “staying in touch,” both when it comes to getting online and also when owners want to keep an eye on their RVs and boats while they’re not using them.

Meeting those needs is something both industries work on daily, as offering the same conveniences that consumers enjoy at home will be key to retaining newcomers and adding more customers in the future.

Siren Marine, recently acquired by Yamaha Marine, has a number of monitoring and tracking functions.

Siren Marine, recently acquired by Yamaha Marine, has a number of monitoring and tracking functions.

The KVH TracPhone V30 can provide up to 6 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload speeds for off-the-grid connectivity. 

The KVH TracPhone V30 can provide up to 6 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload speeds for off-the-grid connectivity. 

Connecting With Customers

Many first-time buyers are digital natives who expect connectivity for all kinds of reasons. The 2022 RV Industry Trends Report from Integrated Dealer Systems, which provides software for RV dealers, shows that the influence of younger generations means 89 percent of customers now prefer texting for communicating about sales and service. In addition, 77 percent of dealers plan to rely on smart technology in the coming year to help schedule service and diagnose problems.

Most major RV companies have already embraced the Internet of Things “smart home” concept. Airstream’s new Smart Control Technology is just one example of systems that let users monitor and control virtually every system and feature, remotely, from their smartphone. In the marine space, Brunswick Corp. uses Mercury VesselView to give owners and dealers a portal into usage and issues via SmartCraft Connect. An interface directly attaches to Mercury engines, helping with scheduling service and potentially heading off problems. It’s just one of the components in Brunswick’s ACES strategy of autonomy, connectivity, electrification and shared access.

Yamaha recently purchased Siren Marine, which has been doing remote monitoring since 2006. The deal should give Yamaha outboard owners and dealers a seamless way to communicate. Integrating the Connected Boat technology from Siren with the MyYamahaOutboards app opens up many possibilities. And Maretron’s MConnect HTML5 Web Surfer is the newest way to transmit boat-operation and engine-performance data, as well as controls, to multifunction displays and smart devices.

Airstream’s Smart Control Technology allows users to remotely monitor virtually every system in the vehicle.

Airstream’s Smart Control Technology allows users to remotely monitor virtually every system in the vehicle.

Dedicated Desk Spaces

According to the editors of Go RVing, the first wave of buyers in the pandemic boom wanted freedom, control and fun during summer and fall vacations, while the second wave is driven by those seeking to use RVs as mobile offices. In addition, many RV families want their children to learn about this country firsthand. So RV manufacturers are optimizing their units for taking work and school on the road. The two elements needed to pull this off are dedicated work spaces and Web connectivity.

While high-end yachts often have work spaces, the concept has been slow to filter down to mainstream boating and somewhat lags behind the RV industry. By comparison, Airstream’s Flying Cloud 30FB Office has a dedicated corner work space and an adjustable-height, standup desk option. Living Vehicle’s Mobile Office Package has an 80-inch-wide desk for two people to work side by side, and a backdrop perfect for whiteboards, calendars and corkboards. When the workday is done, the user flips the backdrop down, and the area converts to a queen-size bed without having to move anything on the desk.

Mercury VesselView gives owners and dealers a portal into engine stats and diagnostics via its SmartCraft Connect technology. 

Mercury VesselView gives owners and dealers a portal into engine stats and diagnostics via its SmartCraft Connect technology. 

Connectivity

The RV and marine industries take similar approaches to staying connected. The new standars will be 5G, as most 3G networks will shut down in 2022. For most places in America, Internet service using boosted Wi-Fi or cellphone hotspot connections are the least-expensive and fastest options. For those venturing farther off the grid, satellite Internet service is needed.

Most high-end customers use a hybrid approach, such as pairing a MobilSat 840 satellite Internet system with a Peplink BR1 Pro 5G. This router is Wi-Fi 6 and 5G capable, with a Cat-20 radio that reads all major 5G and 4G bands, including the popular band 71 used by remote travelers. As with cellphones, a service provider is required for satellite connections. ViaSat is a good choice for off-the-grid users, with a Platinum 100 plan that runs $170 a month and gives users 100 Mbps speed with 300 GB of data.

Living Vehicle’s Mobile Office package includes an 80-inch desk with work space for two people.

Living Vehicle’s Mobile Office package includes an 80-inch desk with work space for two people.

Airsteam’s Flying Cloud 30FB Office has a corner work space with a standup desk as an option. 

Airsteam’s Flying Cloud 30FB Office has a corner work space with a standup desk as an option. 

Bluewater Internet

Accessing the Internet via satellite while offshore is an expensive undertaking, and latency is an issue. The hardware uses a gyrostabilizer and computer to maintain a lock with a satellite signal, even when the boat is rocking.

KVH’s newest, smallest and least-expensive model is the TracPhone V30. Its dish is 14.5 inches in diameter, retails for $11,995 and has speeds up to 6 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload. Airtime starts at $109 a month, and users can temporarily suspend service, then ramp it up a month at a time. In combination with KVH’s TracPhone LTE-1 marine cellular system, this device lets boaters stay connected everywhere.

Offering the same conveniences on the road or the water as customers enjoy at home will be one of the keys to retaining new converts and adding new enthusiasts. 

The MyYamahaOutboards app provides connectivity for owners and service departments.

The MyYamahaOutboards app provides connectivity for owners and service departments.

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue.

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