Searching for inspiration at CES

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The Augmented Reality above the Sea Ray SLX-R 400-e at the CES booth shows the boat’s inner functions.

The Augmented Reality above the Sea Ray SLX-R 400-e at the CES booth shows the boat’s inner functions.

LAS VEGAS—A few years ago, Internet of Things, or IoT, became a favored buzzword regarding the future of consumer goods. Phase two of that electronics revolution has arrived, according to Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, who says that every company wanting a stake in the future must now embrace the Intelligence of Things.

The consumer world has seen multiple advances in design and technology. Cars not only became directional know-it-alls with advances in GPS, but refrigerators told homeowners what kinds of food were needed via a text that popped up on the car’s video dashboard with a complete shopping list.

In the past five years, recreational boats have also seen rapid advances in new technologies, including digital-electric switching, integrated systems, sophisticated chart plotting, as well as other advances in both front- and back-end operating systems on a boat. 

The Sarcos exoskeleton can be worn like a backpack, but allows the wearer to carry up to 200 lbs.

The Sarcos exoskeleton can be worn like a backpack, but allows the wearer to carry up to 200 lbs.

At this week’s CES, Sea Ray also advanced boating technology with the launch of its SLX-R 400-e, a 40-ft. boat that no longer needs a generator and instead uses a sophisticated electronic interface powered by Lithium Ion batteries. Brunswick engineers also created an augmented reality display above the boat that showed its inner functions to passing CES visitors. The AR visually displayed how all energy or electricity is transferred from the lithium-ion battery pack to all onboard systems.

After the successful launch of the 400-e—which ended with a surprise buyer on day two—engineers from Brunswick walked the exhibit-filled halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center in search of different forms of adaptive technologies. Brunswick had a large contingent of more than 50 employees at CES.

Troy Kollmann, head of the Brunswick iJet Lab at the University of Illinois, had already received a visit from the Bluetooth consortium. Bluetooth, long associated with the transfer of music from smartphones to a boat stereo, also wirelessly connects data between components in the boat. Removal of wire saves both material cost and labor. Bluetooth had a few fresh ideas they wanted to share with Kollmann about emerging technologies.

Kollmann also saw other innovations at this year’s CES that might find their way into future Brunswick product lines. “Sensors took a huge leap forward at this year’s show,” said Kollmann, who has been coming to CES for six years. “We’re also seeing major advances in Lidar, a laser-emitting radar used in rotational scanning, and 3D-sensing that Audi has perfected for their cars. These hold tremendous potential in the autonomous car space and, eventually, marine.”

Kollmann says Brunswick is already looking at advances in vision systems to expand the progress Raymarine has made with its Docksense assisted-docking technology.

Some of the tech at CES this week required some creative thought about how it could apply to marine, but Brunswick’s executives and engineers and other members of the boating industry moved across the show with open minds.

Delta Airlines and Sarcos displayed the first untethered full-body-powered exoskeleton that enables a single worker to lift up to 200 pounds. The device, which feels like a backpack, runs eight hours on the same lithium-battery package in Sea Ray’s SLX400e. The device might be useful in boatyards and around marinas.

Delta also unveiled a new overhead flight monitor system for airports that creates a personalized message for individuals. Called Parallel Reality, a traveler only sees their own name, flight, and directions to the gate, instead of the cluttered menu of all departures. Upon landing, the screen displays the person’s name again and luggage carousel number in the traveler’s preferred language. This provides personalized service, but up to 100 travelers can look at the same monitor at the same time and each person receives a personalized message that only they see.

Designed by a company called Misapplied Sciences, the secret is in a pixel technology that sends different colors in countless angles, all generated by algorithms and processors, as an overhead camera system identifies and tracks the movement of each passenger. The technology will go live at Detroit’s Metro airport in mid-summer.

This new specialized monitor is one of a half-dozen concierge-level services that caught the attention of Brenna Priesser, Brunswick’s president of Business Acceleration. Priesser has been tasked to find ways to make boating more relevant to new prospects in the age of accelerating technology.

“We’re asking ourselves how to imagine the future of recreational boating. Do we have the right foundation in place to where the tech is going?” Priesser told Trade Only Today. “Winning in the future requires partners who are exceptional at what they do and combining their talents with products that match consumer expectations.” She cited Harley Davidson Motorcycle’s partnership with Panasonic for cameras and displays on new motorcycles as an example of consumer-friendly, tech-based product development.

Priesser also pointed to Brunswick’s recent acquisition of Freedom Boat Club as another example of the changing boating market. One of the trends noted at this year’s CES is the movement from an ownership economy to one of shared services. “We see tremendous advantages to developing a boating app where the customer reserves one of our brands of boats for a day, says I’ll be dockside at 1, and we have the boat stocked with food, ice and their favorite beverages,” says Priesser.

Dealers in attendance also found that technology can solve other on-board issues. Mike McLamb, executive vice president and CFO of MarineMax, was enamored with razor-thin LG Signature OLED R series monitors that could roll up and quickly disappear in a compartment on board a yacht, thus freeing up prized interior space. The screens debuted in a static display last year at CES, but McLamb and other boatbuilders quickly grasped their possibility aboard boats. Like IBEX, the first round is often just a concept. The following year, the technology is proven and positioned in a more functional setting.

Walking the show at CES gave boating executives more than a glimpse of brilliant 8K television displays, and ways to harness virtual reality in dealerships and boat shows. The show also opened up creative ways to move new technologies towards marine.

Several boating executives told Trade Only Today that they found CES a source of inspiration. Brunswick, in fact, was in the CES show office by the end of day one, confirming its exhibit space for the 2021 show. 

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