Technology

Big Brother Watches Boat Washers... by Trevor

To supplement the Bay Harbor Lake Marina webcam, it looks like the Yacht Club is catching up. These webcams are a great way to keep an eye on your boat, particularly in regards to the weather. You can decide if it is a good day to take the boat out, or be able to tell how hard the boat is bouncing in a storm (not in protected Bay Harbor, mind you!).

Yet another great use of these cameras? Watching us clean your boat. WOW.

The camera pans around to cover the entire bay, and zooms in to check on BHLM in the distance. If only you could control it to zoom in on individual boats!

 

Live from #PBIBS - Active Interest Media Relaunches BoatQuest.com by admin

boatquest, show management

From L to R: Skip Zimbalist, Mike Dickman This morning we heard from Mike Dickman (GM of BoatQuest.com) and Skip Zimbalist (CEO of Show Management) about the just relaunched www.BoatQuest.com.  In January of this year Active Interest Media purchased BoatQuest to complement their other marine services like Show Management and Yachts International Magazine.

Founded in 1999, BoatQuest.com already attracts close to 400,000 monthly visitors.  The site has been redesigned to make it easier for visitors to search and find the boats they are looking for and will debut at the Palm Beach International Boat Show on March 24.

"By combining online media with major boat shows and a traditional yachting magazine, our goal is to provide a new level of cross-promotion, previously unavailable in the industry, for boat sellers and buyers to connect with one another," said Mike Dickman, general manager of BoatQuest.com. "The strategic relationship among BoatQuest.com, Yachts Magazine and Show Management leverages the reach of three leading boating industry marketing companies in reaching boat buyers."

In addition to standard classified listings, BoatQuest.com offers yacht brokers and dealers a variety of featured ads, as well as banner advertising. Special pricing is available on some services for Show Management boat show exhibitors and Yachts Magazine advertisers. For sale by owner listings are limited to boats under 35 feet.

The purpose of the 35' cut off for FSBO listings according to Mr. Dickman is to limit the competition to brokers in larger boat categories and draw in more brokers to the site who are willing to pay for services.

The very interesting part of this move is it addresses several of our complaints that we level here, and here.  This should in theory at least make any particular boat show website a seamless experience for the end user who is planning on coming to a boat show to get as much information as possible, provided a dealer/broker uses BoatQuest.

The big question mark in all of this is how quickly adoption of a new platform can or will take place.  There are many brokers in the industry who still are not fully using the web, or who are set in their ways with YachtWorld.  Providing the makeover addresses many of these issues, a switch from Yacht World, or duplicate listing, could make a lot of sense.

Strength is the key to victory in this game.  With a small pool of listings YachtWorld offers a better selection when searching, but considering how much money and time brokers/dealers put into boat shows, it seems like an easy sell to fully integrate all of their services into one easy to use resource.

The real winner in all of this is the end consumer AND brokers.  Both will get better tools and more fully integrated solutions.  We are looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out for the Fort Lauderdale show next year!

Editorial: Brokers - Open the Floodgates by admin

First Mate spends a lot of time at all the major boat shows.  As a precursor to the shows, I do a lot of research online going into the show.  Who will be there?  What boats will be there?  What is the brokers email who is selling boat "x"?  Which of the three 50' Sea Rays listed is brokerage "y" going to have at the show?  Sure, I am looking for potential clients, but every time I hit an information dead end I find myself asking, "What if I were a customer?".  It is frustrating not to be able to find a brokers email, easily search all available listings, and well thought out photo albums.

I am barely old enough to remember a time before computers and the internet.  This was the Age of Agents.  Stacks of paper, brochures, photo copies, files, secretaries, and a Rolodex.  The Agent was the gatekeeper to this highly centralized and authoritative source of information.  The advent of the computer and internet changed this.  Now almost anyone has access to more information then they know what to do with.  I can look up the specifications for almost any boat produced in the last 10 years in under 10 seconds!  The information has flooded out of the agent's office, and has repurposed the role of the agent in the sale.

There is good news and bad news in all if you are an agent and you love your job of selling boats..  The  bad news is this, if you are a lazy broker, or want to try to be the gatekeeper of information, your clients will eventually figure it out (if they have not already).  The good news is brokers can still be the definitive source of information. There is still a human element to it.  Do customers get to talk to everyone on the docks or guys building the boats?  Do customers always have time to read all the boating forums?  The key for brokers going forward is to not be an information gatekeeper, but an information aggregater and filter.  There is so much information available today, the hard task is to filter it and present it in the best possible way to meet a clients needs.  The solution to remaining important to the sale is not to damn up the information, but to let a customer experience the flood of information and want someone to make sense of it all.

Tips to opening all the floodgates:

  • Put your cell phone and email address on every listing possible! (info@FirstMateYachtCare.com).  If you want the ability to disconnect be sure to look into a Google Voice phone number.
  • Media.  Media.  Media.  You are still one step below paid entertainment.  Make looking at a listing online enjoyable instead of a chore.
  • Engage and be active.  It will not do you much good if you have a Twitter account and after a year have less than 100 followers and rarely tweet.  If you want to be a trusted source of information, you have to be engaging with quality content.

Editorial: Technology and Boat Washing by admin

Trevor recently attended YachtWorks Brokerage University (you can see his write up here), and they obviously were trying to convey how important technology is important in todays marketplace.  It is important to sellers and potential buyers, there is no doubt about that.  At the end of the day it comes down to how easy information quality information can be accessed.  We can debate all day about how important being on Facebook is, if Twitter is here to stay, or who first came up with the idea of "social media" integration into their website.  There is a much larger force at work here behind the scenes, and it is called signalling.

How do you signal that you "get it" to potential customers?  How can they easily obtain quality information about the type of people they are about to conduct significant transactions with?  Word of mouth is great, and is going no where, but sometimes it is not enough to set you apart.  Being an early adopter of new technologies and communications mediums is not always easy.  It requires work, effort, learning, and paying a premium for some cutting edge products.  However, it is precisely these qualities customers are looking for.  How do your potential clients know you are up to date on all the current trends or willing to go the extra mile?  All the current electronic packages in boats?  You can signal this by using Twitter, posting YouTube videos, writing blog posts, and communicating with customers in their medium of choice (email, texting, cell phone, voicemail, video chat, twitter, facebook, etc).  Even if you adopt technologies which fade away and are fads, it signals you are unlikely to leave any stone unturned for your clients.  Using these tools you can set yourself apart from desk jockeys and any yacht broker who paid $30 for a box of business cards, you have invested yourself in being up to date with the business world.

What does technology have to do with boat washing?  Very little.  When we write about Navionics for the iPhone or Android, not only are we interested in the technology, but we are hoping to communicate to our customers that we "get it".   If we can talk with you about the bleeding edge of the marine industry, there is a good chance we know a lot about our primary job, washing boats.  How else will our customers know we have a passion for what we do?

Active Captain for the iPad/iPhone by admin

The goal is not to bring every app for the iPad/iPhone into the spot light, but Jeff Seigel does a great job of showing off a few features of Active Captain through a series of screen shots. If you are curious as to what value such a device could have, this is worth a look.

Here are some screen shots of the iPad application to be released in a few days that fully supports all of ActiveCaptain's data offline. No internet connection is needed to view all of the marinas, anchorages, bridges, locks, boat ramps, etc., along with all of the reviews. It works incredibly well and even rotates the chart as your boat is turning.

On a related note, the tablet game is starting to heat up (HP with WebOS, and Android tablets are popping up!). With a wide variety of price points, features, and operating systems, it will be interesting to see if another tablet will be better suited for marine use. How long before there is a weatherproof iPad case?

Sunseeker iPhone/iPad App by admin

If the Lake Michigan Fuel Price app did not fill your appetite for boating information on your favorite Apple device, perhaps the Sunseeker app will help out.  If this is any signal, it is only a matter of time before business specific apps become widespread and commonplace, akin to getting a website was 10 years ago.

  • View the entire range of New Sunseeker Motor Yachts in the palm of your hand.
  • Search our Brokerage Listings from anywhere in the world.
  • Save your favourite boats to your phone to create a shortlist to view anytime.
  • Request more information on any of our boats directly from within the application.
  • Email details of any of our colleagues from anywhere, anytime.
  • Contact your nearest Sunseeker Brokerage Dealer by using our locations page.

Lake Michigan Fuel Price App for iPhone/iPad by admin

Seafaring Solutions has just released a fuel price app in the iTunes store.  While this app will certainly pay for itself, it is only compatible with iOS4 or later.  So if you do plan on using this app, make sure you update your software first.  Also, be aware early adopters, the original iPhone will not be able to upgrade to iOS4, and the iPad upgrade will not be out until this fall!

Want to save money on fuel for your boat this season? With Seafaring Solution's "Lake Michigan Fuel Marine Fuel Prices", you can do just that.

iPad and iPhone - Put to the Test! by admin

Along from watching marine industry news and events, we also keep an eye on the mobile and tech landscape. For example, we have mentioned a few times, here and here, about the importance cross over products are already having in the marine industry. Mad Mariner (a great news source if you don't already follow them), has a quick review of using the iPad while out on the water.

Having said that, the iPad is not “must have” technology, and it will invariably raise questions about how many devices you need (and what each of them will do). Like all marine equipment, the value of the iPad will depend on its user, governed by factors such where you take your boat, the type of equipment you own already and how much you depend on a computer to run your life.

The BBC is reporting a lost vessel was able to be found the other day thanks to an iPhone app as well.

With no flares, flash lights or VHF radio onboard, the Wee Rascal was unable to signal its position to rescuers.

It was then that the Belfast Coastguard resorted to mobile phone technology a locator iPhone app was able to give rescuers the vital latitude and longitude they needed.

What does all of this mean?  In the short term, the iPad will probably not be replacing typical electronics en masse (and we are still rooting for Android devices!).  What the application of smartphones and tablets being used in this manner does suggest is how powerful gadgets can become when they are not bound to doing one specific action (only GPS, or only being a radio).  These multi use devices also signal simplicity and function often go hand in hand.  Akin to Volvo's IPS technology, anything which makes boating easier is an easy sell.

To push even further, imagine yacht designers and builders having to dedicate less and less room to dedicated controls and displays.  Perhaps a sleek display/control panel which is easily concealed, a remote control for the entire boat which can be run from the crew quarters.  Maybe some bluetooth devices which mimic phyical controls, essential allowing you to have a mobile helm station!  Far off?  Perhaps, but these ideas are less far fetched than ever.

Q: How many people does it take to launch a buoy? by admin

A: A lot! From researchers to funding from multiple businesses, a lot of time, money, and effort went into the Little Traverse Weather Buoy.

At the end of July last year, the University of Michigan Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory launched a weather buoy (made by Tiara) in Little Traverse Bay. It was taken out of the water for the winter, and should be back online soon (hopefully!).

While having more information about the weather is great, there is still a lot of interesting ideas floating around (ha!) from Dr. Guy Meadows in this video. From the use of cell phone technology to relay the information, to the idea that maybe someday this buoys can act as mobile hot spots out on the water!

It is great to see the private sector stepping up to the plate and providing a "public" good!

(HT: Walstrom Marine Docklines.)