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January February 2019 Marina World

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The magazine for the marina industry


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INTELLIGENT MARINA SYSTEMS networks of marinas; still others work globally. Premier Marinas’ app, for example, covers its marina network and offers seven-day weather predictions, tide tables, navigational overviews on getting to each marina, click to contact by phone and email and, for drystack users, there’s an option to order the launch of your boat ‘at the touch of a button’. Premier also uses a single centralised system to manage all its marinas, so that when a customer wants to visit another Premier marina, the marina knows who they are, which cuts down on paperwork. Apps and marina management software run the gamut from the simple to the complex. Many offer berth availability, pedestal information and readings, arrivals and departures, customer/boat information, boatyard repair progress, storage and billing, drystack launch scheduling, reservations, boat sales, quick payment or fuel management. The more complex management systems are fully flexible, scaleable and customisable – and many work across all devices. The future What’s next for the industry? While boaters are embracing – and slowly coming to expect – the latest technology in marinas, the industry still has some way to go. Morgan says: “I see the marina industry following general macro trends. Conversion to mobile enabled, voice and potentially even AI will be with us in the next ten years. Technology like this is already in the hands of boat owners and marina operators will come under growing pressure to support this increasing demand. I actually think this shift will happen more quickly than ten years.” And Archibald stresses the importance of data. “Although technology like automated drystack operations and sensors are cool, like most industries, technology advances in the marina industry are going to be focused on data.” Collecting and studying data means marinas can be more efficient and improve the customer experience. “Leveraging data is about using machine learning and AI tools to find value and opportunities beyond the scope of traditional marinas into the wider recreational boating industry,” he adds. Developments and implementation are likely to vary across regions. Morgan explains: “We have found that, whilst the core of our application is used in a similar way, the US market has different needs in areas such as documentation and client’s interactions. For example, US marinas tend to operate at capacity and therefore they have a need for waiting list management and correspondence. The requirements for this type of functionality are limited in the UK, in our experience. With regards to the documentation requirements, we have found that this differs by geography also. Things like state documentation are different by location, whereas we tend to have more general requirements across the UK.” Glidden says Scribble believes the technologies used in the marina industry over the next ten years will include advanced cloud-based systems consisting of ‘distributed services’ and AI. Distributed services are solutions comprising many parts that may exist in different geographical locations, working together to act as a whole solution. Unlike today where software solutions are typically located on a local area network (LAN) or a centralised web server, distributed systems operate on different cloud servers based on their features or functions. “We really believe this concept is the way of the future,” he says. “These devices may consist of many different types of hardware ranging from phones/ tablets to credit card machines, fuel dispensers and self-serving kiosks. The key is having many different parts and pieces function together to create a complete and comprehensive solution.” Thomas adds: “A ten-year view of technology is a real ‘crystal ball view’ when we think smartphone technology is just over ten years old. The key technology trends we see impacting the marina and boatyard businesses are towards mobile and smart systems (AI) and large film displays for the office and customer information services. ‘Mobile’, allowing any function to be performed anywhere and not tied to an office; ‘smarter’, to enable staff to complete complex processes simply and provide personal service. Large displays being used in the office to provide for visual operation of the marina and allowing customers to interact with large displays and self-service to information or facilities.” He sounds a warning to marinas about using thirdparty providers. For example, some marinas allow third-party companies to provide WiFi but, “in doing this, they lose ownership of their customers and if not careful will have margins squeezed, such as the airline industry found when ‘global booking systems’ became too strong. The use of technology will be an opportunity for marinas to not only meet customer expectations but assist with differentiating them from their competition.” - January/February 2019 37

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