We talk a lot about how owners, guests, captains, and crew are increasingly more connected, with each person using multiple Internet-enabled devices on board every day. In fact, we started blogging about this idea back in 2013, when we posted Vessel Internet Bandwidth: Are you Addicted?.
But we haven’t really talked about how the physical items on board superyachts--and the vessels themselves--are becoming more connected. Today, many onboard gadgets and machines--from toasters and coffee makers to diesel engines and generators--are part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Even your Fitbit falls into the IoT category as it continually gathers data about your calories, steps and sleep to provide meaningful information back to you about your health (read more about wearables in Wearables—are they the Superyacht Computers of the Future?). You can see a list of more IoT examples from postscapes.com.
As IoT products become more prevalent, the physical items we use every day will be able to gather data to help them improve the way they do the tasks for which they are designed. That’s pretty cool, but an increasingly connected life comes with some challenges, especially on a vessel. I've outlined five of those challenges below.
What is the Internet of Things?
Before going further, let’s define and describe the term “Internet of Things.” Forrest Stroud of Webopedia says:
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for Internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.
The Internet of Things extends internet connectivity beyond traditional devices like desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets to a diverse range of devices and everyday things that utilize embedded technology to communicate and interact with the external environment, all via the Internet.
With the IoT, data is not only created and transferred between people using their devices, it’s also created and transferred by the devices themselves. And IoT devices do not rely on upgrades and servicing from humans to keep functioning or change their functions. Their imbedded software can be automatically altered by other devices.
This all sounds very futuristic, but the IoT is not a new, obscure idea. Stroud says, “As far as the reach of the Internet of Things, there are more than 12 billion devices that can currently connect to the Internet, and researchers at IDC estimate that by 2020 there will be 26 times more connected things than people.”
How does the IoT affect superyachts?
Along with exciting new opportunities, there are some key challenges on the horizon regarding IoT, especially for superyachts and other vessels. Todd Greene lays out 5 of the biggest challenges in his PubNub blog post. But here is a summary of Greene’s list of concerns:
- If data streams from IoT devices to the server and then back again are not fast and 100% accurate at all times, it can cause connectivity problems for IoT items on the vessel.
- Authorization, open ports and encryption issues with IoT devices can create security problems, possibly making the vessel’s network vulnerable to attack.
- IoT devices sometimes drop off the network, so there needs to be some way of monitoring which items are connected at any given time.
- IoT devices use a lot of power. Collectively, the amount of power used by all IoT devices could pose a problem for the vessel.
- Many superyachts have increased their bandwidth allocations to support the computers, cell phones, and other gadgets on board. But IoT devices use additional bandwidth that the vessel may not be able to spare.
Stay tuned for more IoT articles.
IoT is here to stay both on land and on our vessels, so it makes sense to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of increased onboard Internet-connected devices early in the game.In the next few weeks, I'll expand on some of the challenges above and provide ideas for addressing them. With a little planning, you may be able to avoid or overcome these challenges and enjoy the advantages of IoT devices on your superyacht, both now and in the future.
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