Staying Connected

An array of companies offer various levels of vessel integration and remote monitoring
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Siren Marine’s  systems are part hardware, part software 

Siren Marine’s systems are part hardware, part software 

The marine industry, like most other industries, is integrating technologies in new ways. In the near future, a boat may greet its owner with a cheery, “Ahoy, captain,” automatically fire up the engine, send diagnostics and maintenance alerts to a smartphone, set course via voice command, and order cocktails to be served at the destination upon arrival. Maybe the boat will even post on Instagram pictures of the whole trip.

Here’s what marine companies are working on now, with that type of future in mind.

Siren Marine: A Digital First Mate

Siren Marine, founded in 2011, has been in the integrated-boat game since its inception, with systems that are part hardware, part software. Its Connected Boat system has a black-box-style hub. Relevant systems are hardwired into the hub, which communicates with the Siren Marine app on a smart device.

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Siren Marine also makes wireless sensors that communicate additional data to the Connected Boat system, including engine metrics, GPS coordinates, security status, temperatures, shore power usage, bilge water levels and battery behavior.

Remote switching can be enabled on the smart device, so the boat owner can activate cockpit lights, turn on the air conditioning, flip off battery switches and more. Owners also can use the GPS data to set up a geofence, which sends an alert if, for example, the anchor drags. A maintenance log helps owners keep records of scheduled service, and all data is cloud compatible, so service professionals can access it.

The system can also be applied to numerous vessels via Siren Fleet, providing an overview of each boat in one place and letting owners schedule maintenance, among other things. “Siren Marine is the gateway that connects all of these stakeholders back to the boat, resulting in a truly integrated boating experience,” says Sam Handy, direcor of marketing.

Siren Marine’s MTC boat monitoring, tracking and control device hub is $599; a starter kit that includes two sensors is $799. Subscription plans range from $17.97 monthly to $180 annually.

Boat Fix: The Troubleshooter

Boat Fix approaches integration with the philosophy of safety first and everything else third. Its system includes a monitoring hub hardwired to the boat and an onshore support team that’s available 24/7. The fundamental concept is to provide the support team with the data they need.

The monitoring device sticks to the core systems of batteries, bilges, engines and GPS data. This data is continually shared with the on-shore team, which can tell if shore power is disconnected, how well the batteries are charging, whether there is bilge pump activity, whether theft is occurring, and so forth. The data is also shared on the Boat Fix app for the owner to review or receive alerts.

The Boat Fix team also serves as a kind of on-water AAA. If the owner has engine difficulties while underway, the Boat Fix team troubleshoots the problem to get the boat home. The service includes free phone access to mechanics.

A one-time membership fee (including hardware) is $149, and a subscription is $19.99 per month.

The GOST Mini-Dome PTZ 1080p camera is only 4.8 inches in diameter and features pan/tilt/zoom capabilities with a 4x optical zoom lens and a high-performance sensor, all in a robust housing suitable for outdoor or indoor use. 

The GOST Mini-Dome PTZ 1080p camera is only 4.8 inches in diameter and features pan/tilt/zoom capabilities with a 4x optical zoom lens and a high-performance sensor, all in a robust housing suitable for outdoor or indoor use. 

GOST: Security for Hire

Global Ocean Security Technologies, founded in 2005, is hyper-focused on vessel security and tracking. Several GOST systems utilize security cameras, motion sensors and real-time GPS tracking, and are compatible with smart devices.

GOST Watch HD cameras are placed on a boat, with their position and quantity determined by the owner’s needs. The company’s GOST Mini-Ball 1080p cameras are a popular choice; they can livestream what they see to the owner’s phone and online. The video also stores locally to hard drives.

Security sensors also are placed throughout the vessel to combat trespassers. GPS tracking lets satellites follow the boat’s coordinates if it moves.

GOST also offers anti-theft strobes, acoustic sirens with frequency patterns that rattle the inner ear, and the GOST Cloak, which releases a thick, disorienting fog that deposits a unique, location-specific DNA marker on skin, clothing and stolen items, acting like ink bombs that banks utilize to mark robbers.

BoatFix sticks to the basics but also offers geofence protection and 24/7 troubleshooting. 

BoatFix sticks to the basics but also offers geofence protection and 24/7 troubleshooting. 

Prices vary widely, with most boat owners building custom systems.

BoatConnect: No Frills by Design

BoatConnect is a Simrad (and, by proxy, Navico) boat integration and monitoring system. The basic hub is a black box that hardwires into the vessel and that can communicate with three sensors (also hardwired). The metrics monitored are battery status, boat entry, temperature and GPS data; they all can be displayed on a smart device. Location tracking, battery status, trip history, and alerts for sensors and a boat’s geofence can all be seen. Weather at the boat’s location is also integrated into the app.

The hub is $99. The app is free but requires a $19.99 a month subscription. Sensors are sold in kits that include wiring, priced around $70 apiece.

VesselVanguard: Cloud-Based Fleet Management

Virginia-based VesselVanguard has a cloud-based system that requires no hardware. The system unifies vessel information and digital management tools, helping owners and service providers keep track of maintenance.

The company has more than 104,000 equipment components in its digital library, meaning the system is compatible with the equipment on most boats. A VesselVanguard user or boatbuilder provides the make, model and year of each equipment component, and the VesselVanguard team creates a management schedule with service notifications, boat manuals, a master equipment list and more.

The service has a mobile app that is functional offline, to deliver information even if Internet service is unavailable. The app’s dashboard shows a color-coded readiness status of each boat in the fleet.

Subscriptions start at $499 annually for one boat smaller than 60 feet. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.

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