One of the latest tech buzzwords is the Internet of Things (IoT). Instead of person-to-person communication, the IoT is a network of internet-connected devices. They ‘talk’ between themselves via sensors that collect and exchange information. The widespread availability of Wi-Fi has made the IoT possible. Devices, in this case, are usually something other than the standard computer or smartphone. For example, the new features in cars such as backup camera and enhanced cruise control are all interconnected. Now, with great excitement, the use of marine industry IoT is here.
“The IoT in the marine ecosystem is how all of the products that we as a company manufacture interconnect,” explains Lee Gordon. Gordon is the director of global public relations and communications for Mercury Marine headquartered in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “In essence, driving a boat is now a lot easier than it used to be because all our devices communicate and interact seamlessly with the boat’s engine(s).”
What Mercury has accomplished in this area is an excellent example of the IoT as it applies to the marine industry. In this case, it all starts with the engine. From there it adds in devices such as the company’s Active Trim, Joystick Piloting, Skyhook and Vessel View mobile. Here’s how it works:
Active Trim: If you’re an expert boater, you like to trim the engines yourself. Novices don’t always know how to do this optimally. This device offers five selectable trim profiles. It can accommodate nearly any boat application from small runabouts to high performance yachts. The technology is based on the company’s patented GPS-based control system. It controls the trim in concert with boat speed and engine RPM. This enables you, experienced or novice, to focus on driving rather than trimming the boat.
Joystick Piloting. If you see a young boy or girl driving a boat don’t be surprised. Think of joystick piloting like a video game, but with Verado engines on the back. The joystick integrates three features, skyhook, route and auto-heading. The top of the knob notifies you of the mode they are in, just like the ‘check engine’ light on an automobile. A light ring was added to give you a visual indication of what you’re doing with the joystick and its state. Many customers, even experienced boaters, say they will never buy a boat again without Joystick piloting, according to Gordon.
Skyhook: If you find that perfect fishing hole, you no longer have to throw that heavy anchor in the water. Even if you do, you’ll still drift away from your point. This device uses GPS coordinates to hold position with the push of a button.
Vessel View Mobile: It seems like everything in life is available in the palm of our hands, i.e. on our phones. You may about to return from the grocery store and wonder if you have a full tank of gas? This device is a Bluetooth module that connects to the boat’s engine(s). It then transmits data to a connected smartphone via a free app. A boat owner can give their dealer access to that data to help diagnose engine issues real-time. Taking it a step further, the boat owner can give their dealer the ability to monitor maintenance intervals.
“Most boaters have mobile devices, all boaters need to drive their boats and trim their engines, so the evolution of technology has been adopted very favorably with boaters of all ages,” says Gordon. “We utilize several Voice of Customer techniques to make sure the products we develop are as easy to use as possible.”
What is the future for the marine industry IoT and boating?
Gordon’s prediction is “As customers get more accustomed to the ecosystem of a vessel, they will require us to advance the products and manufacture new ones. These, all working together, will continue to make boating much easier and more enjoyable for everyone.”