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Guest Blog: Scott Molloy – Will emerging satellite technologies solve connectivity challenges at sea?


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Intro

In the first of my blog entries written for Quay Crew, I’ll be discussing some hot issues surrounding the dynamic world of superyacht AV/IT and communications technologies. Although I’ve discussed the past and present in depth in other articles, this blog will have more focus on predictions for the future.

 

Past and Present – A brief history.

In 2007 the launch of the first iPhone arguably kicked off a consumer technology boom. Despite the backdrop of the world financial crisis, we witnessed a surge in consumer spending on hardware and services.

Lifestyle technology onboard yachts is no exception to the trends. We continue to see a myriad of current and emerging technologies brought onboard, or integrated into yacht interiors.

We’re all on this lifestyle technology curve, and a yacht is just another person’s residence. So as homes, hotels and various other travel mediums move with the times, so do we.

All this equipment requires connectivity: internally to the yachts’ network, and often externally to the internet off course.

So this brings us to the true topic of my first blog post for Quay Crew.

 

Will emerging satellite technologies solve connectivity challenges at sea?

First of all, sorry. I’m going to go against the grain and current industry optimism here.

Yes, emerging satellite technologies such as lower orbiting satellites together with more competition in the marketplace will give us faster and cheaper connections.

That’s great if our demands on connections remain the same. But they most certainly will not. The elephant in the room is the exponential rise in our connectivity demands.

Connections are becoming faster to keep up with our demands. Emerging technologies will certainly help but not “solve” our connectivity challenges at sea.

Although the cost to network performance ratio will no doubt continue to improve, I believe the ratio of cost to satisfaction will not. I predict the status quo will remain over the long term

 

But Why?

We’re becoming more and more data hungry, and connection technology speeds are trying to keep up with our demands. This is nothing new, ashore or at sea. This trend will not change.

 

But what is consuming all this bandwidth?!

A particularly heavy consumer is streamed video. Consumer video standards continue to increase every few years, Full HD” to “4K” and “8K etc. This means larger files and a requirement for faster connectivity.

There has also been an explosion in streamed video service providers. We cannot deny the owner or guests their favourite TV show. And we want to provide this with the highest-possible audio and video fidelity, to give the best possible experience via the onboard systems. We do our best.

Yet much of this content is produced and owned by the streaming service themselves, and only available through their proprietary online platform. Therefore, we cannot always circumnavigate the bandwidth issue by keeping such content onboard on a server. And we are often not able to download it quickly enough to satisfy a short notice request anyway.

But our increasing hunger for connectivity demands doesn’t end there. Also consider the advent of personal cloud computing. Consider the amount of personal tech onboard now compared to 10 years ago. And in more recent years, by default this tech is wanting to store and back up everything to the cloud. Consider the sheer amount of large video and photo files constantly being taken onboard, all of which want to upload to the cloud by default. If not properly controlled, this can really make things get out of hand.

With connections, a common misconception is that spending more to get more speed is the solution. What should be considered first is the best possible bandwidth CONTROL via the ship’s systems. Connectivity is king, but the king must be properly controlled. However this requires a level of IT systems expertise that most yachts will not have amongst the crew.

Whereas a dedicated AV/IT Officer is often the norm on a 90m+ yacht, I believe we are already in a time where much smaller yachts require it. Yet there aren’t enough experienced specialists around for this. And often the yacht may not have the cabin space or budget anyway. This is where the “role” of AV/IT responsibilities can fall upon whichever crew member is deemed most suitable. However, they will usually not have the experience to manage the IT infrastructure. Responsibilities can be moved ashore to a trustworthy service provider off course. However there still seems to be a lack of parties offering a proper support services for all systems.

Find out more about Just ETOs here: justetos.com