THE IT GUYS AND DEVELOPERS NEVER CEASE TO COME UP WITH NEW TECHNOLOGY THAT MAKES ENTERTAINMENT ONBOARD THE YACHT MORE FUN AND MORE REAL
Put the kettle on, ground the beans, sit yourself down and concentrate. This is going to be tricky but worth it. We are delving into the techie world of AV and internet. Say if half way through things are as clear as mud, by the end you’ll witness the way ahead in terms of what you really can do right now to
keep owners and guests AV happy, and where you need to sit tight and wait for the next wave of disruption to roll us into a new phase of innovation.
A bird’s eye view of the latest technological developments looks spookily like a shopping list for Star Ship Enterprise but we know the whizz kids make sense so let’s listen. Sales Manager Daniel Kerkhof at CRESTRON Netherlands suggests the following are the most exciting developments for the yachts: “For entertainment systems it is nowadays all about AV-over-IP solutions. Last year we launched our new video distribution solution DigitalMedia™ NVX which is full of features that the marine market has been eagerly awaiting. It offers incredible image quality delivering stunning 4K60 4:4:4 and HDR over a standard 1G Ethernet network. This means it’s not only suitable for new builds but also refit projects. Utilising a transmitter at the source, a 1G network switch in the middle and a receiver at the display means it is infinitely scalable. Offering zero latency, total security and encoding and decoding in a single unit makes this technology a game changer for distributing entertainment on board. Thanks to DM NVX we are able to provide the owner with unlimited flexibility, superior image quality and rock-solid reliability.”
“Today,” says Sara Stimilli, Marketing and Communication Director at VideoWorks, “we’re getting excited about LTE-A (that’s a mobile communication standard and an enhancement of the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard). Tomorrow, or by 2019, we’ll have 5G that will allow guests shoreside to enjoy their own streaming services like Netflix or SKY GO.”
Michael Munro, Technical Director of CIPOD cinema recommends CIPOD cinema (funnily enough): With entertainment systems including Dolby Atmos enabled sound, 4K digital projection, gaming compatibility and full design features, this will change your view on what a cinema can be.
“In terms of Audio Visual innovation, there is nothing particularly new. Nothing disruptive or innovative to speak of.” That’s the perhaps refreshing view of Antoine Perry, CEO and Founder of SeaSatCom. He says, “Although control systems are more and more efficient and stable, they are not really ready for yachts yet. The owner needs to keep his AV needs as simple as possible. There’s no new software yet that will make it more simple to use. There are so many things no-one on board knows how to work, it’s very difficult. We need to bear in mind that crew don’t have diplomas in IT.”
LTE-A, DigitalMedia™ NVX and AV-over-IP solutions are what owners would be wise to get excited about. Systems that are currently on the market and best-sellers include: Video on demand and lighting automation systems, and, in the case of CRESTRON, their total control solutions. Penny White at Veritais agrees that control systems, mainly Control4, Crestron & RTI are popular because they are versatile and can be adapted to each yacht’s requirements. They can control HVAC, Audio, TV, lighting and more. Crestron control systems are used as the industry standard on superyachts suggests Michael Munro, because they offer flexibility and remote management as well as app-based control allowing for ultimate ease of use through bespoke user interfaces.
Crestron best-sellers include the DigitalMedia™ NVX, the Crestron 3 series control systems, TSW series touchscreens that allow integrators to create a User Interface for the owners, as well as providing an overview and customising options for the ETO or Captain, and the Crestron HR remote controls. Simplicity is the key says White at Veritais and there’s also a fair trade in the latest spec large screen TVs, the larger the better. Being able to control everything including music, lighting & TV all from the comfort of your armchair or sunbed using a single device is another winner. Videoworks are doing good business in 4K displays (screens and projectors), premium quality audio and CISCO networking.
So if these technical experts were in charge of the yacht’s AV/internet shopping list, what would they be putting in the basket to wow guests and owners?
Kerkhof at Crestron is currently working on a project with a swimming pool floor that is completely made from a OLED video-wall. He definitely believes that is going to surprise people! Says Stimilli at Videoworks, “I would devote a couple of internal areas and a couple of external areas with astonishing performances and into the remaining areas solid rocket wifi for personal devices.” White is all for outdoor cinemas with folding screen & 4K projector which can easily be removed and stowed whilst at sea and dance floors with high end sound systems.
Needless to say Michael Munro opts for a dedicated cinema room by CIPOD for the ultimate escapism and a space to kick back and enjoy movies, sporting events or gaming. Says he, “Due to the unique patented materials used in a CIPOD cinema and design that enhances soundproofing, a CIPOD cinema also allows guests or family to enjoy a movie or gaming experience without the sound influencing and affecting other guests or areas of the yacht.”
Antoine Perry is non-plussed by developments in the AV area, but on the other hand, he says, the internet is changing and innovating very fast. And it’s all about SD WAN. “Huh?”, you say. Yup, I’m hearing you. The softwaredefined
wide-area network (SD-WAN or SDWAN) is a specific application of software defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections, which are used to connect enterprise networks, including branch offices and data centres, over large geographic distances.
A WAN might be used, for example, to connect branch offices to a central corporate network, or to connect data centres separated by distance. In the past, these WAN connections often used technology that required special proprietary hardware. The SD-WAN movement seeks to move more of the network control into the ‘cloud’ using a software approach.
Many of the new software-defined WAN offerings, for example, can be used to improve and secure Internet connectivity. In some cases, software-defined WAN technology uses Internet broadband connections to replace more expensive solutions. Virtualisation technology can apply security and virtual private networking (VPN) technology to broadband Internet connections, making them more secure.
Software-Defined WAN also has the advantage of removing potentially expensive routing hardware by provisioning connectivity and services via the cloud. Emerging SDWAN technology can also be more flexible. For example, because SD-WAN connectivity can be controlled through cloud software, a customer might be able to scale up or ‘burst’ connectivity during times of peak demand. Says Perry, “So you can have real Broadband on board. That is going to make a difference. Captains need to think ahead about how to manage local connections. They might need SIMs from multiple suppliers,depending where they are cruising. Therevolution is not faraway; two or threeyears. And then we will able to bring what you have at home, onto the yacht: Your Netflix library etc… not the one available where the yacht is currently based. It’s getting the content that is the sticking point right now. Inmarsat offer Fleet Media, an entertainment service that brings the best Hollywood movies, international films, TV box-sets, and international news and sports, anywhere at sea to the boat. So the revolution is coming. In five years time we will see fibre optics onboard and the service will come behind that.”
In the past entertainment (Audio/Visual/ internet etc) systems have been the bane of Captains’ lives, always malfunctioning the minute guests arrived. Has this improved? And if so how? It’s a question of money says White at Veritais: “More money needs to be spent on these systems. AV is the primary source of entertainment on board, used every day by guests but is given the least amount of resource and attention.”
Says Kerkhof, “We put a lot of effort into speaking with the Captains and ETOs on board the yachts that use our systems, in order to minimise the risk of not understanding the system/ malfunctioning. Additionally, all Crestron systems can be displayed and monitored via the variety of software solutions we have in our portfolio. With these tools it is possible to create easy to understand dashboards for the ETOs and Captain that provide a comprehensive status update at a single glance. So, they can be sure everything is working perfectly when somebody comes onboard.”
“The good news,” says Stimilli, “is that HDMI looks less like a nightmare and wifi is getting easier too. But the only solution is proper training, remote maintenance and a comprehensive after-sales network.” Says Munro at CIPOD, “Whether it’s a full yacht audio-visual system or a single room not working, things with technology can go wrong from time to time. It’s about managing if and when this happens. At CIPOD we manage all our systems remotely and input fail-safe controls for clients or crew to simply ‘reboot’ for ultimate peace of mind including 24/7 support if needed, whether it’s over the phone or an engineer sent to the location.”
So there we have it, OLED video wall swimming pools, DigitalMedia™ NVX, dance floors, cinemas, solid rocket WiFi for personal devices, IMMARSAT Fleet Media, and soon, very soon, your home library of movies onboard your yacht. The tech world is taxing on the brain, but the results are out of this world delightful.