28 Marine Electronics Journal November/December 2015
Jourlait: I tend to be a glass half-full kind of person, so you mentioned challenges. I think there are opportunities that become challenges if we don’t address them.
The first one for me is the maturity of the marine industry. My
background is primarily consumer electronics, which has gone
through quite a lot of transformation over the past few decades. I’m
starting to see that beginning to happen in marine electronics. It’s an
opportunity to seize but there are also plenty of pitfalls we could fall
Second for me is the disruption we’re about to see—smart phones,
smart cars, smart watches and next—smart boats. As an industry we
need to adapt to that disruption.
The last one is a big difference from what I experienced in consumer electronics and that’s what makes the marine industry unique.
And that’s the passion people have for boating, fishing, yachting, sailing, cruising and racing—people aren’t passionate about their flat
screen TVs. Boaters are passionate about spending time on their boats
with family and friends. There’s an opportunity for us to capitalize on
Whitehurst: I think NMEA is doing a very good job at that, particularly with the training that you are producing now and working
with manufacturers—you’re already reaching out. NMEA has training
programs that involved talking to the Rays, Garmins and Simrads
For the second consecutive year at the NMEA Conference & Expo, leaders of three
companies that help make the marine electronics industry tick gave their take on the
future of the market, new technology, challenges we face and a host of other topics. On
the panel were Andrew Teich, President & CEO of FLIR; Marc Jourlait, Deputy CEO of Navico Holding AS; and Phil
Whitehurst, Managing Director of Active Research Ltd. (Actisense).
The panel responded to questions prepared by NMEA and to queries from the audience. Below are the panelists’
responses to four questions. We’ll publish the rest of the Q&A in the next issue of MEJ.
Teich: This is a unique industry that, as Marc mentioned, is experiencing an evolution similar to the consumer electronics industry.
The environment our products operate in is unique and challenging
and I’m constantly thinking about what we can be doing to make our
products work better in that environment.
At the end of the day people buy our products to solve problems
and obtain critical information while operating their boats. The products have to work well all the time. As a result, I spend a lot of time
thinking about maximizing our testing and validation protocols.
Another issue I think about relates to the competitive space we
operate in. As manufacturers, we need to focus on creating new product categories so that we can grow the overall market pie rather than
on competitive actions between players to simply slice up the pie differently. We need to be focused on how do we expand the overall
marine electronics market—how can we add new technologies that
help solve boaters problems that haven’t been solved yet.
Whitehurst: I don’t really see any challenges that keep me up at
night. I see a lot of opportunities in the marine electronics market at
the moment. It used to be that marine electronics were 15-20 years
behind consumer electronics, but that has changed. We’re seeing
some of the big manufacturers coming out with products that aren’t
far behind the curve.
The biggest challenge will be from the consumer electronics industry producing products that will cross over into the marine electronics market. We’re already seeing people using iPads on boats. That
will always be a bit of a threat. One thing we can do is produce better quality products that stand up to the rigors of the marine electronics industry. We’re seeing things moving more to software problems
than hardware problems as products get cheaper to produce thanks
to the consumer electronics industry. We’ll see some excellent software coming from some of the bigger players.
TRENDS, OPPORTUNITIES, LESSONS—
AND WHAT TO AVOID
QUESTION 1: Are there challenges in the marine electronics
market or marine industry overall that keep you up at night—and
what can we do to solve them?
QUESTION 2: What beneficial programs can NMEA add to
enhance the success of manufacturers and dealers—small compa-
nies as well as multinational corporations?
At the microphone is Marc Jourlait, Deputy CEO of Navico Holding AS. In
the center is FLIR President & CEO Andrew Teich. On his left is Phil
Whitehurst, Managing Director of Active Research Ltd./Actisense.