Interconnectivity between technological systems on board

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by Grazio Basile

When we talk about technological systems on board, we usually refer to entertainment, lighting and/or audio/video systems. In recent years, however, there have also been many innovations with regard to electronic devices that manage vital functions and can often be ‘networked’

 

“Technological installations” are combinations of systems that are functionally coordinated with each other and have strong interconnectivity.

This requires detailed planning and equally stringent testing in order to allow the entire system to take full advantage of its features: in-depth monitoring and control of all major functions, immediacy, ease of use, durability.

Programmable Logic Control (PLC)

Whether it’s sanitary installations or pure entertainment such as Audio/Video systems, all these are now controlled by Programmable Logic Control (PLC) units. This tool allows on-board systems to be ‘technologically advanced’ and increasingly usable by the end customer.

The structure of the PLC is adapted according to the process to be automated or ‘the scenario’ to be realised, as in the case of a lighting system that can create different settings according to project requirements.

Once the programming has been carried out, the appropriate hardware cards are selected for the electrical quantities involved, which are then inserted into the BUS or placed in the PLC rack.

These systems are increasingly connected to ‘user-friendly’ devices that provide a personalised experience thanks to easy-to-use and accessible interfaces: tablets, mobile phones or specially dedicated remote controls, which exponentially enhance the experience of each individual user.

Keeping up with the progress of technology on the ground
It has always been difficult on board to keep up with the IT developments taking place on land.

However, the increasingly challenging requests of demanding shipowners have ensured constant research in an attempt to anticipate or reproduce the same technologies. All this has generated a real technological revolution in terms of both hardware interfaces and connectivity.

On the other hand, yachts have some objective limitations: just as in the most inaccessible places on the planet (deserts, forests, sparsely populated areas…), the centre of the ocean is one of the most difficult and costly areas to secure fast and reliable broadband.

Moreover, the construction timeline of a megayacht, often exceeding 40 months, is a highly challenging project for both suppliers and designers: technology continues to evolve and it is not acceptable for such a new object to have outdated audio, video, and IT technology.

The ‘technological revolution’ has enabled innovative solutions to the problem by introducing flexible software-based connections: thus, it was easier to connect new hardware at the end of construction, just before delivery, and to update software that has certainly developed more stable and advanced versions in the meantime.

On-board connectivity

Yacht guests want the same experience on board that they have at home, so robust and secure Wi-Fi is definitely the priority. Installations in the next two years will see larger Internet cables to enable 5G and next generation VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal, a compact two-way satellite antenna).

While superfast connectivity is also becoming a reality in the marine environment, there are many other developments in the pipeline. On-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have raised our expectations of how quickly we want to get everything we want right away: this includes being able to watch the latest films and TV programmes wherever we are.

Modularity and flexibility

Superyacht owners are not always on board and charter yachts are not booked every week of the year, so on-board technology must necessarily be scalable to meet needs without requiring high fixed costs.

Flexibility is key when it comes to connectivity for yachts; the latest generation of satellites was launched two years ago and allows for greater bandwidth.

These services have been readily adapted to the marine industry with dedicated teams reported to have performed more than 10,000 installations in the last two years; they allow owners and operators to increase and decrease bandwidth depending on usage and the number of people on board at any time, and even allows customers to suspend payment and use of the service in the off-season.

Multifunctional spaces

Once installed, these technologies also serve to make multifunctional spaces (which are becoming increasingly popular on board) function differently, evolving throughout the day and adapting from one experience to the next.

A heliport could host a yoga session in the morning, a basketball game in the afternoon and a live music show, disco or movie under the stars at nightfall as well as providing lighting to allow a helicopter to land when necessary.

This type of flexibility exploits multiple hardware solutions, from video walls, sound systems, lighting control and motorised blinds, to ensure the freedom to programme and manipulate the visual and auditory experience according to different needs. Obviously, this level of functionality must be foreseen at the design stage of the system.

The value of experience

The modern consumer relies more on the experience that the technology offers rather than on the technology itself. Millennials are starting to lead the way: whether children or grandchildren of owners, they are much more willing to pay for exceptional experiences.

Meeting this demand is the rise of dynamic, interactive “emotional technology” on board.

Marine systems that modulate sound and lighting on a yacht are now commonplace: these are key components in creating a magical or surreal atmosphere.

Today both charter and private clients can have on board on request: a jazz trio, a great DJ, an internationally renowned artist, or a renowned band playing a private concert on the deck of their yacht in a remote corner of the world.

All this becomes fantastic only when accompanied by a special atmosphere: interactive walls and corridors completely transform the spaces of the superyachts into magical and each time different environments, using content displayed on custom-built oversize screens, operating them as supplementary backgrounds to create the feeling of being deep in the sea, in boundless spaces of glacial horizons, even introducing themed rooms.

Smart technology learning about us

Lately there has been much talk about a project in which the already sophisticated ‘Emotional Rooms’ will even be implemented.

Cameras in the room will scan the guests’ faces and use algorithms on a neural network to assess the mood of people in a space (by mapping ‘points of interest’ on their faces, such as their eyes, lips and cheekbones), then adapting lighting and music accordingly in order to enhance human emotions.

Just like the most common everyday applications, they “get to know us” during use, for example by playing music akin to the tastes expressed in our requests; this self-learning system will evolve during use in order to replicate the conditions it registers as the most pleasant.

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Continue reading:

  • HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems
  • Extended Internet coverage
  • An adaptable yacht
  • Multi-service app for centralized management
  • Protecting yourself from cyber risks
  • Sophisticated cyber security technologies

 

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