Daniel Harper Q&A

Founder & CEO of Siren Marine talks with us about how marine prod­ucts are be­gin­ning to take ad­van­tage of on­board data.

Passage Maker - - Shop Talk - BY BRIAN K. LIND

Last year we had the chance to meet Daniel Harper to dis­cuss Siren Marine’s boat mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem. As mo­bile data plans have be­come cheaper, and ac­cess to the in­ter­net be­comes ubiq­ui­tous, com­pa­nies have gone all-in to de­velop com­pre­hen­sive but sim­ple-to-use mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems. These sys­tems gather and in­ter­pret the data spat out by the var­i­ous in­stru­ments on your boat, and the term as­cribed to such data has been dubbed the “In­ter­net of Things,” or IoT for short. Here is a bit of our con­ver­sa­tion with Daniel about how he came to mon­i­tor­ing, what makes Siren Marine unique, and what he thinks is the fu­ture of IoT in the marine world.

How do you iden­tify the In­ter­net of Things? How does the In­ter­net of Things ap­ply to the marine world?

Re­call one of the early nick­names of the in­ter­net: “the in­for­ma­tion su­per­high­way.” The In­ter­net of Things is very much just that: it is in­for­ma­tion from our things or our stuff; like our cars and de­vices, that comes to us via the in­ter­net. At Siren Marine, we of­ten de­scribe our­selves as “bring­ing the In­ter­net of Things to boat­ing.” And we think that the marine ap­pli­ca­tion is one of the very best ap­pli­ca­tions for IoT that ex­ist. Why? Be­cause folks love their boats. We gen­er­ally don’t get as much time to use them as we would like. They are more of­ten left un­tended than not, they are ex­pen­sive and ex­posed to the marine en­vi­ron­ment. There are many key things we would like to know about our boats when we are not

aboard, like bat­tery state, leaks, and if the an­chor is hold­ing. The In­ter­net of Things can bring all of this in­for­ma­tion to us via our mo­bile phone or com­puter. Voila.

What are the unique ways you have found to use the data from In­ter­net of Things on boats that one might not im­me­di­ately think of?

Great ques­tion. The pri­mary ones are some­what ob­vi­ous: bilge, bat­tery, po­si­tion, and se­cu­rity. But what about shore power? Wouldn’t it be nice to know if a tran­sient came in and plugged their shore power cord into your power post? There goes your re­frig­er­a­tion and bat­tery charger. Engine hours: With the Siren Marine de­vice, we can au­to­mat­i­cally keep track of the hours the engine runs, and re­mind you when it is time to change the oil and fil­ters. Have kids who love boat­ing? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know ex­actly where they are when they are out ski­ing or are a lit­tle late get­ting back in from a fish­ing trip. And how about this: know­ing that the ser­vice guy came to work on your boat, and ex­actly what time he ar­rived and left (think bill­able hours) from your en­try mo­tion sen­sor ac­tiv­ity. Or that the yard has your boat in the travel lift and is launch­ing right on time, as you watch the track­ing on your smart­phone. Pay­ing for in­door heated win­ter stor­age? Do you know if the heat ever goes off or the tem­per­a­ture is way be­low what it is sup­posed to be? You could. We have heard these very re­ports from many of our cus­tomers, and they love be­ing this con­nected to their boat, even if they are on the other side of the coun­try or an ocean away. Con­nected boat­ing is quite sim­ply a bet­ter boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Siren Marine ves­sel mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems seem to dif­fer from other sys­tems on the mar­ket. What are some unique ways you have in­cor­po­rated the In­ter­net of Things into your sys­tems?

We took the ap­proach from the boater’s point of view, rather than from a tech­nol­ogy point of view. Siren Marine is a com­pany “by boaters, for boaters” and by this we are re­fer­ring to the fact that all of our em­ploy­ees to date are avid boat own­ers and oper­a­tors. I founded the com­pany af­ter work­ing in the marine in­dus­try for over a decade as a pro­fes­sional cap­tain, and dis­cov­ered that this prob­lem, the prob­lem of lit­tle prob­lems be­com­ing big prob­lems when the boat is un­tended (most of the time), or just ma­jor in­con­ve­niences (think dead bat­tery…) could be mit­i­gated by tech­nol­ogy. At the time, IoT was not a term and smart phones didn’t ex­ist. But cell­phones did, and I set out to solve this prob­lem by us­ing cel­lu­lar tech­nol­ogy—sent via text mes­sages—to mit­i­gate the un­tended boat prob­lem, and con­nect boaters to their boats, no mat­ter the dis­tance via cel­lu­lar

and the In­ter­net. The In­ter­net of Boats was born.

Since I de­vel­oped the tech­nol­ogy start­ing with the prob­lem, and not the tech­nol­ogy look­ing for a prob­lem to solve, Siren Marine’s so­lu­tion is a di­rect an­swer to the things boaters worry about, and want to be able to do and mon­i­tor. We can do things like turn on the air con­di­tion­ing be­fore you get to the boat on a hot sum­mer’s day so the boat is cool when you ar­rive. We can turn on the spreader lights on a dark night when the launch driver is hav­ing a hard time find­ing the boat in a crowded an­chor­age. With our sys­tem you can turn off the bat­tery switch from home that you for­got when you left the boat. Our sys­tem is truly about the con­nected boat. We have con­nected boat own­ers to the things and in­for­ma­tion that they want, and not given them a piece of tech­nol­ogy that does things and pro­vides in­for­ma­tion that is not use­ful. A lot of IoT com­pa­nies do just that. They build tech­nol­ogy and then try to cre­ate func­tions and uses to match the prod­uct, not the prob­lem. We think that’s back­wards.

A great ex­am­ple of this is weather. Many boat-mon­i­tor­ing com­pa­nies claim to have weather on their app. All that means is you get generic weather re­ports from the In­ter­net based on the area in which the boat is lo­cated. There is no con­nec­tion to an ac­tual sen­sor or mea­sure­ment of the weather at the boat through a de­vice. We all have great weather apps on our phones that do an in­cred­i­ble job reporting weather con­di­tions. We don’t need that cloud­ing the use­ful in­for­ma­tion that is rel­e­vant to our boat and boat mon­i­tor.

How do you see the In­ter­net of Things grow­ing in the fu­ture?

We pre­dict that there will be 650,000 con­nected boats by 2021. That is a huge num­ber by marine in­dus­try stan­dards. And what I see it do­ing for the av­er­age boater is aligned with some or our core goals at Siren Marine. Our new de­vice will con­nect with a re­mote bat­tery on/off switch, “out of the box, plug and play,” giv­ing boaters the abil­ity to “turn on the boat” as they walk down the dock, or from home when they for­get to turn the bat­ter­ies off. Ul­ti­mately, I see the In­ter­net of Things in­fil­trat­ing the en­tire boat, and rather quickly in the new-boat seg­ment. With dig­i­tal switch­ing, NMEA 2000 and Sig­nal K, the abil­ity to con­nect with and con­trol or mon­i­tor vir­tu­ally every piece of elec­tri­cal or elec­tronic equip­ment, ap­pli­ance, or gear on the boat is pos­si­ble. Our new Siren Marine de­vice, be­cause of our pro­pri­etary wired or wire­less op­tions, can in­te­grate with al­most any sys­tem on any boat, re­gard­less of age, and turn it into a fully con­nected boat. As we say here at Siren, think LoJack + OnS­tar + Nest for boats, and you have IoT for boats or what we have coined, The Con­nected Boat.

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