Smarter boats will provide you with a safer, more convenient and more environmentally friendly experience on the water Image Credit: Shutterstock

We have all heard about smart water, smart cars, smart health supplements and smartphones. But what about smart boats? Are boats getting smarter just as everything else around us in?

Boats did in fact get a lot smarter about seven years ago with the introduction of the digital switching system. This is a technology that uses a central Controller Area Network (CAN) Bus system to operate and monitor all on-board electrical components from a single touchscreen such as your phone, tablet or multifunction display.

Earlier, we had to individually switch on the lights, start bilge pumps or control air conditioning systems in a boat. Currently, CAN Bus system is the norm on high-end boats and this technology is making its way on to midrange ones as well. CZONE from New Zealand is the global market leader in digital switching.

Battery technology

Closely related to digital switching are batteries and solar power. Modern lithium-ion technology has been developing fast, with storage capacities of up to 5kW available off the shelf lasting a lifetime, which far exceeds the capacities of traditional marine batteries.

Imagine a boat without a generator to power your air conditioning. As battery technology develops and this become a reality, smaller boats will increasingly replace generators with battery-powered air conditioning units on board.

And in the future this will apply to larger air conditioning systems as well.

Solar charging

Charging your batteries by using solar panels has also become easy by using marine grade, flexible, 2mm-thick special panels whose efficiency and output have been increasing drastically.

With ten hours of sunshine a day and ten square metres of deck space, you could easily generate up to 18Kw of power.

- John W.R. Paul, General Manager, Exalto Emirates

With ten hours of sunshine a day and ten square metres of deck space, you could easily generate up to 18Kw of power.

Zero-emission tech

As battery technology advances so does the applicability of electric propulsion. Imagine a world where you can run your boat or yacht fully on electric power, quietly and with zero emissions. Torqeedo from Germany is at the forefront of this development. It is the only company manufacturing out-of-the-box electric propulsions solutions for kayaks, day boats and even ferries. Using BMW technology for larger lithium-ion batteries, it is available in a range from 1hp to 200hp.

Autonomous boats

Now, let’s take a look at self-driving boats. Like its automotive counterpart, the marine industry is moving towards autonomous boats.

These are called Unmanned Surface Vessels. Local manufacturer Al Marakeb produces the MAP Pro technology with which you can convert any boat into a self-driving boat. The future has definitely arrived. Smarter boats will provide you with a safer, more convenient and more environmentally friendly experience on the water.

The writer is General Manager of Exalto Emirates, the Middle East’s premier marine equipment distributors