As with the world of consumer technology, AV entertainment systems on board superyachts are changing at a rapid rate. But with new build projects requiring such protracted lead times, and owners wanting the best of the best, is it possible for them to continue to accommodate the latest developments? While it is difficult to predict exactly where the technological revolution will take us, there are certain measures that can be taken to ensure that superyachts can easily be upgraded with the latest and very best audio-visual kit.

'Theatre under the stars' by Palladium Technologies 

“How we design today for the future is by placing critical consideration on the yacht’s data backbone, which all of the digital video and audio data must traverse to provide the user with the experience that they will demand,” says Michael Blake, president of palladium Technologies. “We know that the displays, amplifiers and media servers may need to be upgraded, but having an infrastructure in place that can handle these evolutionary technology steps is essential to a quality design for the future.”

In order to provide this crucial backbone for the latest technology, the main issue that integrators encounter is cabling, which can be a very labour intensive process. One of the most advanced connectivity technologies being used on board superyachts at the moment is HDBaseT, a protocol that uses cabling to transmit video, audio and control signals.

As HDBaseT is an implementation tool that can be used by the installer to combine items together, it can ride through CAT5e, CAT6, CAT7 and fibre optic cables. Should there be a new technique required to package up data other than HDBaseT, Blake advises that the implementation of fibre optic cabling would be one solution, due to its transparency to how data is packaged. Another benefit is that fibre optic technology provides the fastest data transmission available on the market, based on the simple physics that light is our fastest know transmission.

"Although yachts have the budget and desire to adopt all that is new, we are still not seeing sufficient internet connections to yachts to support this functionality as a yacht-wide solution."

A big change in the consumer world that is likely to filter its way on board superyachts is the demand for audio and video to be streamed over the internet, the success of which will be determined by the Wi-fi backbone on board and its ability to provide adequate coverage throughout the vessel. “Following the implementation of high speed (VDSL or fibre) connectivity in the home, most people can now benefit from online streaming services such as iTunes or Netflix,” says Glyn Hutchinson, sales manager at Icon Connect.

“Unfortunately, although yachts have the budget and desire to adopt all that is new, we are still not seeing sufficient internet connections to yachts to support this functionality as a yacht-wide solution. In the interim, we need to design high-bandwidth-capable systems that will support both legacy Sat TV and media server distribution, but also the inevitable arrival of online media.”

The landscape painted thus far may lead to the conclusion that future-proofing superyachts is all about cabling and bandwidth, but Hutchinson points out that there are other variables that also need to be taken into consideration. “It is a common misconception that the solution is simply a question of running fibre optic cable,” he said. “Providing a high bandwidth, capable infrastructure is important, but you also need to consider equipment location. ‘Future-proofing’ is as much about strategic design and ensuring that we have equipment racks (space) allocated in sensible areas to provide the maximum flexibility for future system evolutions.”

User-friendly solutions

Foeke Jan Komans, sales and marketing manager of Lantic Entertainment Systems, observes that more owners want to manage their own, top end sound experiences. “Previously the necessary solutions were not available to non-professional end-users, but new user-friendly solutions are now making this possible, thereby enabling owners and guests to create their own bespoke audio-visual experiences. These can be integrated into AV systems and we expect this technology to be widely adopted over the coming years.”

While cabling quality and redundancy seem to be the most pertinent issues for yachts wanting to accommodate the latest entertainment technology, making sure that the system design is based ?on a substantial hardware infrastructure for the data backbone is also key. Accepting that technology will continue to evolve at a rapid rate, and installing the equipment that will facilitate its operation will ensure the flexibility and longevity of the AV entertainment systems on board.

For more detailed information regarding implementing the latest AV and IT technology on board, please read issue 164 of The Superyacht Report, out now.