November/December 2015 Marine Electronics Journal 29
about how things should be fitted into boats. What we saw in the
past—in 2001 or so—was a lot of equipment that was badly fitted and
coming back destroyed. We see a lot less of that now because NMEA
and BMEEA (British Marine Electrical and Electronics Association)
make those programs more and more advanced and produce some
specialist courses that focus on particular issues we see in installations.
That would help some the bigger guys save money in providing technical support because the equipment would be installed properly to
Teich: A great question and I agree that NMEA has gone a great job
on this front to date. I’ll talk about three things here, and you’ve
already mentioned one of them—training. Along with training comes
certification. If you become certified as an installer or service outlet, it
adds to your credibility and helps you generate revenue. Training and
certification support overall credibility in the eyes of the customer and
justify the fees that you charge for installation and service work.
The second thing the NMEA has done a good job with—but more
work is still needed—is facilitating a strong relationship between
manufacturers, distributors, dealers, retailers, and customers. We’re
all here for the same reason. There are different business models when
it comes to driving growth in the various types of businesses but the
NMEA can help facilitate the relationship between these parties so that
we’re all improving the customer’s experience and growing the market.
Lastly, the NMEA is well known for developing standards for integration, but it is a job that’s never done. There’s a constant stream of
new technologies, such as digital switching, engine control and vessel
automation. The NMEA needs to lead the charge to develop standards
that will allow us all to produce, install and support equipment so that
they will function harmoniously with each other.
Jourlait: Everything from education to certification and training
are important. The overriding need is awareness. Over 80% of boats
out there have no marine electronics on board whatsoever, so there’s
a huge opportunity and it’s not about divvying up the pie—it’s
expanding the pie and educating consumers around the world about
what they can get from marine electronics. We need to add more boats
and add more electronics on them through awareness, education and
training with all of the supporting industry programs like certification
and standards, which allow these vessels to perform like the connected boats they should be.
Teich: We’ve seen a trend where technologies that appear in the
home or in cars will ultimately migrate to the boating industry. Con-
nected homes, smart vehicles and IOT devices are good examples of
technologies that will make their way to the boating industry. We need
to keep in mind that the marine environment is a different and diffi-
cult environment—a corrosive environment, a moving environment,
and one that can be difficult to get to from a service perspective. We
should be tuning our businesses to best deliver the installation and
support capabilities to best meet the unique aspects of this market.
Customers today expect to be able to access information and serv-
ice immediately and this is a challenging environment to do that. We
need to find ways to best deliver that capability.
Whitehurst: I don’t have a lot to add to what’s been said, but
there are things we can learn from some of the standards that consumer electronics are using—particularly web-based standards used
to interconnect devices in the home with devices in the car. We can
save a lot of time by adopting some of the standards that are available,
although they’ll need some analysis as to which is best because those
industries are having challenges involving interconnecting home solutions—there are four or five competing standards.
In terms of connecting boats to the Internet, some things we can
learn, particularly from the auto industry such as security issues. You
have to be careful about what people can see when connecting boats
to the Internet because it’s a very valuable asset.
Jourlait: An interesting parallel we talked about earlier is consumer electronics. The audience here cares about how their specific
channel thrives in this environment. Best Buy and Amazon have
found their places. But in high-end consumer electronics where you
have home automation and home theater solutions there’s a nice profitable space for high-end technical dealers, and I see a parallel with
marine electronics. Yes, we’ll have online and large retail, but there’s a
nice space in high-end technical installations, one with a lot of customer loyalty and advocacy and good margin. The key is staying true
to your channel’s value proposition. You can’t play someone else’s
game. You can’t play the online game or the price game or the retail
game if you’re investing in capabilities that make you a high-end
That’s the key to not only surviving but thriving in marine electronics, at least in my experience. I’ve seen it happen in consumer
electronics. Add value beyond anything that retail or online can offer.
That’s when you can differentiate yourself from other channels. What
we’ve learned from consumer electronics is to be true to your value
proposition and model as a channel and people will pay for that.
QUESTION 3: What can a marine electronics dealer or manu-
facturer learn from their counterparts in other industries such as
automobiles or consumer electronics to strengthen our business
models or relationships?
Jourlait: We’re seeing two major trends that will help adoption of
marine electronics by those people who have no electronics on their
boats. One of these is ease of use. People are very comfortable with
consumer electronics—iPads and iPhones and touch interfaces. We
need to continue to push ease of use and how these devices can work
together, which leads to integration. That’s the other key area of
investment for us here. We need to make sure everything on the boat
talks to every other thing but also goes up to the “cloud,” to the Internet. These are the key areas of innovation that all of the vendors will
continue to push—ease of use and user interface and integration of
the total smart boat.
Teich: I echo those comments. Connectivity will be critical. The
connected home is a trend that’s growing very rapidly and the connected boat will be next. In the home environment for example, we’re
QUESTION 4: What kinds of new products and technologies
do you think we’ll see in the months and years ahead?
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