Net-Logic Marine’s VesselWatch has announced two additions to its digital radio system that promise to improve crew efficiency on board, something that, despite the industry's technological advances, has been lacking.

"We need better technology," Jack Robsinon, director of commercial development at Net-Logic Marine, told as he described the new additions to the VesselWatch system.

The first addition is the Steward Call app. Owners can call the crew via the app on his or her smart phone. The call will then be picked up by the crewmembers' digital radios. VesselWatch also offers this via an iPod Touch, a cheaper alternative.

“We’re trying to come up with new things all the time to help the crew,” said Robinson. “When we talked to crew, one of the problems was where the call information goes. If it goes to a buzzer in the pantry, a crewmember has to be in the pantry all the time. It’s not very convenient.  So we said, what is something that’s always with the crew? The radios.”

To avoid confusion when multiple stewards and stewardesses receive the alert, the system allows crewmembers to ‘accept’ the call. “If you had a pager system, six stews would get the message, six stews would be in different parts of the yacht and six stews would all turn up to the same room,” Robinson continued. “You’re wasting time and it doesn’t look very professional. With this, one stew will accept the job and the others will be instantly notified that that particular stew has accepted the job and they don’t need to attend.”

Further integration of the VesselWatch system with the yacht’s AV and IT systems can take this further, to the point where owners can send food requests, questions or tender calls to crewmemebrs. “You receive the information directly from the owner,” explained Robinson. “It’s actually less intrusive for the owner and frees up your time because you don’t have to stand in the corner looking at the room.”

The second new software from VesselWatch is the safety-oriented SMS app. “Alarms are very crucial on board,” added Robinson. “Most yachts, even during a refit period, will leave the engine room and fire alarms on. The problem is, if no one’s on board, no one’s going to hear the alarm when it goes off.” The SMS app tackles this by sending an automatic message to crewmembers’ smart phones when an alarm goes off, with information about the specific alarm going off. Following this, the software, which requires the VesselWatch system, gives the crewmember receiving the alert the option, via his or her smart phone, of messaging other crewmembers directly to their digital radio to check the situation. “You message the crew as you would do via something like Whatsapp, but it goes straight to their digital radio.‘Bob, can you check the generators? I’ve just had an alarm through. Send the message. Bob’s your uncle.”

Net-Logic Marine’s focus on the opportunities offered by digital radio systems lies in the context of mandates for the move to digital high-compression radios - something that has already taking place in the United States. “America was trying to regulate and as the biggest comms regulator in the world, usually everyone else will follow."

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