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ElecTech: Touch, and Go

Touch has become a near-universal interface. Marine electronics companies are responding both by extending system monitoring and control to mobile devices such as iPads and by bringing touchscreen gestures to a yacht’s dedicated systems screens.

Ubiquitous ashore, touchscreen technology goes to sea.

By Marilyn DeMartini

Palladium's SiMON Gold system

Palladium's SiMON Gold system

Do modern toddlers swipe touchscreens because it’s instinctive, or because they’ve watched us do it? Nature or nurture? At this point, it hardly matters. Touch has become a near-universal interface. Marine electronics companies are responding both by extending system monitoring and control to mobile devices such as iPads and by bringing touchscreen gestures to a yacht’s dedicated systems screens.

“We are on call 24/7, so it is advantageous for monitoring,” says Guy Cohen, chief engineer of the 142-foot Trinity Big Zip. The yacht has an updated 2010 Palladium SiMON (Ship’s Information Monitor) system, which blends alarm, engine controls, security, lighting and A/V systems under one common intuitive user interface. SiMON Gold software, combined with multi-touch monitors, gives users fingertip control. iSimon, running on wireless iPads, provides remote viewing of the status of engines, generators, tanks, bilge levels, batteries, air conditioning, doors, lights, navigation and other functions. Cohen uses SiMON’s remote technology for monitoring—security or alarms—but generally not for operations except turning on a bilge pump’s pneumatic valve.

T-SAT (Touch-Screen Automation Technology), introduced by Unlimited Marine Services, offers a similar system that turns the helm into a multi-screen glass dashboard with Hatteland 24-inch X series touch-screen monitors (or the monitor of your choice) providing full HD resolution and enhanced “real time” interactivity. The International Maritime Organization–compliant system displays up to 64 separate high-definition video sources simultaneously, throughout the vessel, which can be switched from one screen to another with the slide of a finger. Using fingertip annotation and a freeze-frame feature, crew can advise shift changes of alerts or potential hazards ahead.

Unlimited Marine's TSAT System

Unlimited Marine's TSAT System

T-SAT is based on commercial-grade touchscreen graphic-switching system from Crestron, the home entertainment company. Second-generation T-SAT extends control to iPads and iPhones. This means that while the yacht engine, security, operations and navigation systems are available via mobile, so are all the “infotainment” functions such as lighting, window-covering controls, music, movies, weather and news. The new G.U.E.S.T. entertainment option takes the passenger experience to another dimension, offering the ability to interactively view daily menus, activities and weather, as well as to make personal requests or select music or movies, all from a TV, laptop or iPad. With further customizable options, the staff can provide port information and activities, departure times and special onboard events or notify guests of fax or email arrival.

“We figured out how to deliver what customers are already expecting,” says James Porreca, Unlimited Marine’s president and CEO.

Melding systems offers savings in time, weight and cost when designing and building a yacht, as there are fewer remote controls, switches and holes to drill.

“Instead of spending $1.3 million on entertainment centers that require trained staff to operate, a number of $550 iPads, easily replaceable most anywhere in the world, can give individuals control of systems they already understand,” comments Greg Marshall of Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architect, “Software updates are more cost effective than new equipment. Technology changes so quickly that yacht designers have to think ahead so the yacht they design now is ready for ‘what’s next.’”

Palladium's SiMON Gold system

Palladium's SiMON Gold system

Westport echoes that sentiment, including touchscreen technology in its new builds, yet taking a conservative approach. “We want to go with what is proven,” says Westport Vice President Phil Purcell. “Every yacht owner’s Crestron needs are different—there is no ‘standard’—so each is programmed differently to accommodate the need. We think crew should be on hand to turn things on and off, though they can do things remotely. When you are running a $20- to $40-million asset—moving a small city on the water—someone should be ‘on it.’”

“No system is completely reliable.” says Cohen, who was among the early SiMON test teams and who appreciates the system. “It is a computer. We work in a volatile environment and anything can happen, so redundancy is important. Technology improves and we do a lot of training, but there is always a possibility of a glitch.”

But progress continues and today’s techno-savvy youth will run tomorrow’s yachts, says Marshall. “It is the ability to manage information from beyond the yacht. It is what’s happening.”

For more information:

Palladium Technologies

Unlimited Marine Services


Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architect

Dock Your iPad in Style

Strut, a California trendsetter that has brought bling to luxury automobiles, now brings its artisan sheen to the iPad with the Strut Launchport. A practical and elegant yachting accessory, the Launchport inductively charges an iPad on a jewelry-grade, triple-chromed, stainless-steel pedestal, eliminating the need for dangling wires. Handcrafted cases of burl wood, carbon fiber or select fashion prints protect the device and mount it securely to the base where it can conveniently tilt and pivot. Price: $1,500.


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