Mes­sages from your boat

Even if you’ve never heard of the ‘In­ter­net of Things’ (IOT) – the hot buzz-phrase danc­ing like pop­corn through the con­ver­sa­tion of ev­ery self-re­spect­ing techie – you should know it can make a huge dif­fer­ence to the safety and se­cu­rity of your moored boat

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LAWRENCE SCHÄFFLER

Boat Se­cu­rity & the In­ter­net of Things. You don’t have to be a geek to ben­e­fit from digital tech­nol­ogy.

F or the ben­e­fit of any­one not fa­mil­iar with the IOT, the idea is that just about ev­ery de­vice in the modern digital world will even­tu­ally have its own, unique identity on the World Wide Web, al­low­ing them all to be in­ter­con­nected and to com­mu­ni­cate with one an­other. Of course, we’ve had con­nected de­vices for many years. Man­u­fac­tur­ers and util­i­ties have been us­ing re­mote mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol for decades and, more re­cently, ‘things’ are be­ing in­ter­con­nected via broad­band. And now, in the new, much-vaunted IOT era,

ev­ery­thing be­comes a piece of this con­nected world – your car, your fridge at home, the con­troller that ad­justs your home light­ing. And yes, even your boat, moored safely in its usual spot. BOAT­SE­CURE In New Zealand, IOT and boat safety/se­cu­rity have come to­gether in the just-re­leased Boat­se­cure – a mo­bile, cost­ef­fec­tive way to mon­i­tor your ves­sel – 24 hours a day, any­where in the world.

It’s a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Matt Hec­tor-tay­lor, co­founder and di­rec­tor of lo­cal com­pany IOT Ven­tures, and John Mcder­mott, the owner of Boat­se­cure. “There are 600,000 wa­ter craft in New Zealand,” says Hec­tor-tay­lor, “in­clud­ing 10,000 in Auck­land alone – moored in mari­nas and es­tu­ar­ies. That’s a lot of po­ten­tially wor­ried boat own­ers, har­bour masters and in­sur­ers.”

Boat­se­cure al­lows own­ers to check – via an app on their smart­phones – on things like the boat’s bilge pump op­er­a­tion, bat­tery lev­els (is there even enough juice to power the bilge pump?) and, of course, her lo­ca­tion. Is she still on her moor­ing, where you left her last week? Has she come adrift, or per­haps been stolen? Any hic­cup and an alert is im­me­di­ately sent to your phone, help­ing to pre­vent any calami­ties. HOW IT WORKS A Boat­se­cure de­vice is a small, sealed water­proof box (about the size of a mar­garine tub) that’s in­stalled on board. It runs off the ves­sel’s bat­tery (or from shore power for boats liv­ing in a ma­rina) and is con­nected to com­po­nents like the bilge pump. The box has mul­ti­ple ports, so ad­di­tional fea­tures such as con­tact break­ers on hatches, for ex­am­ple, can be in­cluded in the mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.

Un­like a mo­bile phone/tablet/ipad, the de­vice doesn’t use a SIM card, but it does re­ceive GPS sig­nals. It com­mu­ni­cates its mes­sages to users via a ‘long-range ra­dio’ fre­quency. Typ­i­cal cur­rent draw is very low – 20ma or less – and a small, built-in, back-up bat­tery will power the de­vice for about a week if other elec­tri­cal sup­plies fail.

A small so­lar panel eas­ily copes with the de­vice’s elec­tri­cal load.

To un­der­stand the func­tion­ing of the sys­tem, you need to un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of the long-range ra­dio sig­nal. Boat­se­cure uses LO­RAWAN (long-range-wide-area-net­work) – a global ra­dio stan­dard. Rel­a­tively new in New Zealand, it’s be­ing rolled out by Spark – at a fairly rapid pace. LO­RAWAN Most of New Zealand’s cel­lu­lar (mo­bile phone) net­works op­er­ate on fre­quen­cies in the 2, 3 or 4G spec­trum – and they han­dle any­thing from text mes­sages to phone calls to stream­ing video. Th­ese can be data-in­ten­sive – and if you’re wed­ded to your phone you’re prob­a­bly pay­ing hand­somely for the ser­vice.

LO­RAWAN is very dif­fer­ent. It uses the 923MHZ fre­quency which is in the ‘free’ spec­trum, so op­er­at­ing costs are neg­li­gi­ble. It’s ideal for car­ry­ing small, low-data (text) mes­sages.

What’s more, sig­nals us­ing the fre­quency ‘travel’ eas­ily. Mes­sages can be sent over long dis­tances and the fre­quency’s also bet­ter at main­tain­ing ‘sig­nal in­tegrity’ – the mes­sages are less likely to be cor­rupted or blocked by the maze of masts and rig­ging found in most mari­nas or an­chor­ages.

Spark’s rolling out its LO­RAWAN sys­tem to cater for a great va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions in the in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural sec­tors – the recre­ational ma­rine fra­ter­nity is just an­other ap­pli­ca­tion us­ing the same tech­nol­ogy. Tow­ers car­ry­ing the LO­RAWAN tech­nol­ogy have al­ready been es­tab­lished in many of the main cen­tres – and Spark hopes to have 80 per­cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion cov­ered by 2020.

Con­ve­niently for Auck­land boat own­ers, one of Spark’s first LO­RAWAN sites is mounted on the Sky Tower. This eas­ily cov­ers most of the city’s wa­ter ar­eas and trans­mis­sions of over 20km across the Hauraki Gulf have been recorded.

So when the on-board sen­sors mon­i­tored by your

It uses the 923MHZ fre­quency which is in the ‘free’ spec­trum, so op­er­at­ing costs are neg­li­gi­ble.

boat’s Boat­se­cure de­vice de­tect a prob­lem, a mes­sage can now be trans­mit­ted over large dis­tances via the Lo­rawan net­work. The owner au­to­mat­i­cally – and im­me­di­ately – re­ceives an alert via the Boat­se­cure app on his smart­phone.

Mcder­mott says while the sys­tem is avail­able to in­di­vid­ual sub­scribers, Boat­se­cure is in dis­cus­sion with sev­eral mari­nas around the coun­try to ex­plore ‘fleet’ ap­pli­ca­tions, where boat elec­tri­cians or ma­rina op­er­a­tors can use a web dash­board to mon­i­tor and man­age many boats si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

“We en­cour­age boat own­ers to sign up to a fleet man­ager ser­vice with either their ma­rina or lo­cal ma­rine elec­tri­cian. With the owner’s per­mis­sion the boat sta­tus and alerts are shared so when any is­sues arise some­one is on-hand to re­spond and check that the boat is OK or to ad­dress any prob­lems.”


Boat­se­cure is a sub­scriber ser­vice. De­pend­ing on how a sys­tem is con­fig­ured for a boat owner, says Mcder­mott, a typ­i­cal sys­tem will be less than $1,000 (ex­clud­ing the in­stal­la­tion costs), with an an­nual sub­scrip­tion of less than $200. He rec­om­mends a pro­fes­sional rather than a DIY in­stal­la­tion to en­sure sys­tem re­li­a­bil­ity.

Boat­se­cure will be launch­ing over­seas over the next few months.

RIGHT Own­ers can mon­i­tor the sta­tus of their boats and re­ceive alerts with an in­tu­itive app on their smart­phones

Cameron Har­ris (left) of Bea­con Ma­rine Elec­tron­ics and John Mcder­mott of Boat­se­cure, a new ven­ture us­ing Spark’s LO­RAWAN net­work tech­nol­ogy to let boat own­ers mon­i­tor their ves­sels in real-time.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit the web­site at www.boat­se­ or con­tact John Mcder­mott at 0274 100 079, email info@ boat­se­ or Matt Hec­tor-tay­lor at matt.hec­tor-tay­lor@iotven­

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