The marine industry’s connected-vessel race is accelerating, with multiple manufacturers vying to become the leading brand. About half of those providers manufacture systems with the ability to diagnose on-board systems remotely at any time, including brands like Siren Marine, Nautic-On, Boatrax, and Glomex Zigboat.
Two of those manufacturers, Siren Marine and Nautic-On, have signed OEM agreements with boatbuilders so that their systems are now standard equipment on specific models. Supplying OEMs could be the seal of approval that many observers have been watching for, as an anticipated move towards the “connected boat” shifts into higher gear.
“This seems to be the year of the connected boat, similar to what consumers have seen in their smart homes and cars,” says Daniel Harper, Siren Marine CEO. “Most new cars come with some telematics and apps. Why aren’t we selling $250,000 boats with the same sort of equipment?”
Siren’s partnership with Southport Boats in Maine and Vanquish Boats in Rhode Island has made its Siren MTC (Monitor/Track/Control) system standard equipment on their models, while Cobalt Boats said it will add Siren to its options list on its new A series of outboard sportboats.
Nautic-On said it has also signed agreements with Boston Whaler and Sea Ray Boats so that its units will be standard equipment on models longer than 24 feet. The partnership with the two boatbuilders will commence with 2020 model-year boats. The companies are all owned by Brunswick Corp.
“We’re seeing a high adoption rate for our Siren systems among dealers and installers,” says Harper. “So, the timing seems to be right to make our Siren systems standard equipment with the builders.”
Jonathan Kirby, director of sales at Southport Boats, thought the same thing. “We’d been hearing about Siren through our dealers and they had a reputation for higher functionality than some of their competitors,” says Kirby. “With people having smart systems in their cars and homes, it seemed like an obvious technology that our owners would appreciate. Frankly, it also helps differentiate ourselves in the marketplace as a premium brand.”
Kirby said the cost of the Siren units — “about the same price as two marine stereo speakers”— made it a “no-brainer” to include them as standard equipment. The first three Southports were shipped to Florida, with Siren units installed at its facility in Maine. Kirby knows the system works because, after arriving in Florida, the unit alerted him that the house battery was dead on one boat. “I called up from 1,000 miles away and told the yard that the batteries had died,” he said.
Jason Turner, vice president of engineering and product development at Cobalt Boats, expects the Siren system to have a “high take rate” as an option among many customers. Cobalt designed its new A-29 with compatible electrical architecture for the Siren system. At the Miami International Boat Show, where Cobalt displayed the first A-29, hull one was fully rigged with the Siren system, a glass cockpit, built-in wireless charging station, and Android OS-driven vessel control system for intuitive operation.
“We looked at other brands besides Siren,” says Turner, including models from Australia and Europe. “Nautic-On was a good product as well and had a lot of similar features, but at the end of the day, we felt the Siren app and dealer portal were more intuitive and easier to read. We were also cognizant of Nautic-On being part of Brunswick.”
Because the Siren system is “not that expensive,” Turner expects it to do well as an option on the A-29 and other A-series models the company will launch over the next year.
“We’ve worked hard to build a valuable product and keep the pricing the same for the last 10 years,” says Harper. “Most boatbuilders totally get the value of this technology since most cars come with some kind of telematics and app. We make the same argument with boaters—that they don’t have to lie awake at night and wonder if there’s a problem with the boat down at the marina.”
But in this field, the size of the company could determine the eventual winner—at least seen from the eyes of Brunswick, the company with the deepest pockets.
In a year or two, Nautic-On’s partnership with Sea Ray and Boston Whaler could quickly surpass Siren’s total unit sales over the last ten years. “That’s where it could be game over for any of the guys competing against us,” says Lou Sandoval, national director of business development for Nautic-On.
Nautic-On has also signed an agreement to make its system standard on Ocean Alexander’s new 45 Divergence motoryacht which, Sandoval says, will give it good exposure in the larger vessel category. The company also plans to announce new distribution partnerships with dealer networks like MarineMax and Skipper Bud’s. Nautic-On currently distributes to the aftermarket through Land ‘n’ Sea.
For his part, Harper is happy to see Brunswick entering the field. “Before, if you were talking to an investor and you’d say you were in production, they’d say, ‘that’s nice,’ and act like it was hobby,” he says. “Brunswick has legitimized our space. People are now saying the connected boat is real thing.”
Siren has distribution agreements with West Marine, including signage and information about its systems in each store. It recently signed an exclusive supply agreement with OneWater Marine.
“We’ve been putting together collateral materials and are training their dealers,” says Harper. “If a customer wants a Siren system installed, we’ll have products at all 31 dealerships. Our product, combined with their dealership management portal, gives them the ability to have OneWater Connect, where certain data would be provided back to OneWater for servicing the clients.”
Beyond customers being able to monitor their own data, the connected boat platforms can also provide data to dealers and potentially to engine makers and boat builders. Harper says that the company is working with three partner marinas and has provided ten free units so that Siren can collect the data and share it as macro-data.
“It allows us to see maintenance trends, engine hours and where boats are operating most frequently,” says Harper. “We also think the boat dealers and marinas could be more proactive and tailor specific programs for their customers.”
Sandoval also sees where boatbuilders could benefit from long-term data about boat usage. “They’ll be able to see which features are most popular, how the boats are used and then do new designs around that,” he says. “Dealers can also streamline their operations once they have this data to set up specific maintenance programs. It’s faster and more efficient and will be more profitable for them.”
Harper believes that Siren has an edge over newcomers like Nautic-On because Siren currently is in its third generation of technology.
By contrast, Sandoval believes that Nautic-On’s link to Brunswick will give it guaranteed staying power and access to larger volumes through the Boat Group. He thinks other large manufacturers may also be working on their own systems.
“I think we also have an edge over competitors because we have access to Mercury SmartCraft data, so there is greater depth to our data along with better remote diagnostics,” says Sandoval.
As the connected vessel becomes the norm, the telematics race will become faster and more furious as competitors vie for more boatbuilders to show off their brands.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue.