Time and tide, so St Marher loosely said in 1225, wait for no man. Today, of course, we should update that to include ‘technology’. The pace of change is staggering, and with its doubling every couple of years it is on an exponential growth curve. In fact, points out Mike Blake of Palladium Technologies in a conversation I had with him recently, the exciting – or scary – truth is that in ten years’ time our technology will be 1,000 times more advanced than it is today. It’s an extraordinary prospect to try to get your head around.
The impact, of course, will be felt in all corners of our daily lives, from the personal devices we use to how we interact with our environment, our medicine, our jobs and even – potentially – our lifespan. It’s something that the human brain can struggle to comprehend. “I truly believe,” Blake comments, “that the flaw with most humans is that we think ‘growth’ is linear like our own growth in age. But technology growth is not linear, it’s exponential – in other words, it’s very rapid. The frightening part is we won’t really notice the results of this exponential curve until it’s already upon us, and by that stage technology will be doubling in seconds.”
So what does this mean for yachting? The ramifications are not so removed as you might think, and not just in terms of the development of advanced monitoring and bridge systems. Solar energy is evolving at a rapid pace, for example, with leaps in nano technology. Bandwidth – that critical pipe that connects our yachts, crews and owners to the outside world – will rapidly increase through next-generation satellite technologies and new constellations. “Bandwidth in turn fuels the tech revolution we are embarking on at this time,” says Blake.
The development of speech recognition and command could also quickly find its way on to yachts, and not just in the control of AV and domestic systems. Home automation-style control is already possible, but imagine a bridge where physical interfaces are replaced with augmented or mixed reality glasses and voice command. It’s nearly here.
Throw in the other aspect of tech advancement – artificial intelligence and machine learning – and suddenly we are at the gates of a fundamental shift in yacht operations. It will likely be critical in safeguarding modern systems against cyber attacks, being able to far more quickly collate pooled data and reconfigure firewalls on the fly, but more than that it will become a core part of the alarm and monitoring systems on board. With so much sensor data being produced on a second-by-second basis, engineers are already potentially being overwhelmed with what’s important and what is less so. Systems are developing the ability to highlight key information, but it won’t be long before these systems will be able to act autonomously to identify problems or predict when they are likely to occur, even to the point of taking preventative steps – it’s already happened in the industrial sector.
It leads us to a further potential development – robotics. “Coupled with a foundation in (the rapidly evolving field of) AI, I think robotics is something that we have ignored implementing in yachts today,” Blake tells me. “I’m not talking necessarily about human-looking robots, but about robotics that can assist us. Using them for the inspection of critical systems 24/7 is a very viable option, for example, or aspects of security and even cleaning can be addressed through robotics.”
It extends further, though, to the construction side of the industry – an area that is often overlooked when we consider tech. “Robotics coupled with augmented and mixed reality is going to have one of the major impacts on the way we build yachts,” Blake proffers, “both from a quality, cost and service standpoint. And the general annual growth rate right now in robotics tech is somewhere around 23 per cent…”
Even Blake says that he struggles to comprehend just how fast things are evolving. “My experience goes back 50 years in technology, and I could never conceive the rate of advances we are making today,” he admits. “Even five years ago I couldn’t couldn’t imagine how fast things are going today.”
Like time and tide, then, technology is going to wait for no man, or industry for that matter. We have to get on board with what is possible and embrace what it can offer in terms of the design, build, operation and enjoyment of our yachts or we will quickly be submerged by the rising waters of technological change.
For a deeper look at what this all might mean, look out for issue 182 of The Superyacht Report in which we will be considering both how technology has changed in the last quarter century and how the bridge in particular has evolved and will continue to evolve in the coming years.
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Technology will also be a key focus in this year’s The Superyacht Forum, taking place 13-16 November at Amsterdam RAI. Following a theme of A 10-year Blueprint for the Superyacht Market, the forum is set to be the networking highlight of the superyacht calendar, with 800 delegates and key decision makers from the technology, operations, owner and family office, project management, yard and construction sectors brought together to discuss the key factors affecting and influencing our industry. To book your place and for further information, click here.