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January February 2019 Marina World

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INTELLIGENT MARINA SYSTEMS An analogue industry in a digital world? by Charlotte Niemiec Over the last few years, the concept of ‘digitalisation’ or ‘smart’ systems has come increasingly to the fore. As technology develops, more processes are being automated or electronic, from the virtual assistants in our homes to the self-service tills in supermarkets, or the myriad of apps available on mobile phones to complete routine tasks. One indication of how important information and communications technology has become came in 2016, when the United Nations declared that Internet access was a ‘human right’. One of the drivers behind this is mobile phone usage, according to the GSM Association, which represents mobile network operators worldwide. It projects that around three-quarters of the world’s population – 5.7 billion people – will be using mobile services by 2020. We are living in the age of the fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, say experts. Sectors across the board are investigating how they can use digital systems, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve efficiency and maintain competitiveness. The marina industry is no exception. While some claim it is lagging behind in terms of technology development, more and more marinas are embracing new technology and installing ‘smart’ systems in marinas, from metering/pedestals to marina management apps. Iaian Archibald, co-founder and CEO of Canadian marina software company Swell Advantage, says: “The industry is very behind other customer service-based industries because the 2008 recession hit the industry so hard. Whereas big companies tend to double down on customer service and innovation in downturns, small businesses tend to constrict in tough times. As a highly fragmented industry dominated by small businesses, there was little innovation in marinas for five to eight years, which is a long time in today’s hyper-innovation environment.” Kris Glidden of Scribble Software agrees. The adoption rate of new technology is slower than in other industries, such as the hotel industry, because “most of the hotel chains are owned by a small handful of corporations, whereas the marina industry is largely owned by a vast and diverse number of different entities. Large corporate chains can easily deploy technologies to large quantities of owned hotels, but individual marina owners take a little bit of convincing,” he says. But not everyone agrees that the industry is slow to embrace technology. Kevin Morgan, managing director of marina management software Havenstar, says: “It is interesting to me that all sectors feel they are lagging behind. In reality, consumers are more technology-enabled than businesses, thanks to smartphones. Bringing consumer technology to businesses is more of a challenge.” Nevertheless, he sees huge potential for growth in the technology available to marina operators in the next ten years. And the industry has certainly made inroads over the last decade. Klemen Kralj of IRM Marina Master says: “A decade ago, when boaters arrived into the marina, they had to radio call marina staff to get help with berthing. Now they just tap ‘Help with berthing’ on their smartphones and staff will be waiting for them on the pier. Being able to extend reservations, order breakfast or track water and electricity consumption has never been easier. Considering all these improvements, it is now normal for customers to be able to manage their boats and all related activities, such as launch and lift or repairs, on one platform, and marinas that provide this for their clients definitely have a competitive advantage.” Chris Thomas of Pacsoft adds: “Boat owners have become far more demanding on their requirements in terms of quality and range of services, flexible options and are more familiar - January/February 2019 33

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