Customer Service / Warranty Desk for Boat Building Industry

Recreational Boat Building Industry

Customer Service Desk

Remote Boat Monitoring and Other Technologies
Polson Enterprises Research Services

Remote monitoring vessel conditions

The November 18, 1996 Wall Street Journal had a nice article about Freightliner, titled, "Getting in Gear" , and their expanding use of computers. Several of the applications are in the customer service area. They have a "killer app" (killer application) of connecting an "ECM (engine control module) like" diagnostics module to a cell phone to forward previously collected and real time data to diagnosticians when the driver begins to think something might be wrong. The voice link allows them to question the driver and offer suggestions. Could this reduce the sunday afternoon dead boat motor blues???

At IMTEC 99 we saw Volvo apply this technique. A brief write-up of their Platinum Performance System is in our coverage of the show. Congratulations to them!!

Since then we have seen several groups trying to bring some form of internet connections to boats and marina's. As Polson Entrerprises Research Services we have participated in some of the developments below.

A December 2000 Motorola press release touts their "New boat security and remote monitoring system" based on the Creatalink 2XT Two-Way Wireless data transceiver. The system was developed by 3-Tek, Inc. and communicates data to a pager, cell phone or computer. It monitors mechanical and electrical functions (bilge pump operation, battery voltage, high water, unauthorized ignition, fire, smoke, shock, vibration, unauthorized entry, vibration and vessel location).

The SmartBoats from Telemonitor, Inc. performs remote DockChecks from the SmartBoats web site. You monitor for high water, bilge pump operation and shore power connectivity while your boat is in the marina. In addition to monitoring, you can actually control your boat from the net. You can send and receive email from dockside as well as check the boating weather. The system can also be used at sea via a satellite phone link. Their demo even shows a nice webcam photo of the vessel at the dock.

Sensaphone is one of several firms adapting basic remote monitoring technologies to a wide range of niche applications (vacation homes, hatcheries, greenhouses, etc.) They also have a basic boat monitor.

LaserPlot has a dial up monitor (you call it) for 10 functions, plus you can actually hear boat noise via a microphone pickup.

In Oct. 2001, Sea Trac announced their new vessel tracking, monitoring and messaging system (see page 30 of Soundings Trade Only Oct. 2001 edition). Owners, commercial operators or charter fleet managers can monitor a vessels position,and the status of onboard systems remotely through the internet. Conditions are sent at predetermined intervals as well as special reports on mechanical problems, emergency conditions or text messages on the Sea Trac Palm Pilot OS based software. Small high performance RF transceiver supports wide are wireless networks or a mobile satellite terminal. The terminal interfaces with on-board local sensors to monitor bilge levels, AC and DC voltage, tank levels, alarms. Their sensors can also monitor SeaTracís sensors can monitor engine hours, oil pressure, temperature and rpmís. Encrypted reports are sent via satellite wireless data network to a land based monitoring center. They claim benefits of lower insurance premiums from an around the clock security system. Costs are billed as an annual subscription fee. Vessel position can be viewed on a nautical chart and conditions monitored via a password protected web site.

New Mobile Phones Could Enhance Security
Wall Street Journal
24 Sep. 2001
by Almar Latour
This article discusses the new 3G phones beginning to appear in Japan, expected to arrive here next year at the earliest. These phones have the ability to send still or video picturers, perform data processing and provide location data down to a few yards. NTT DoCoMo is expect to start offering 3G services next month and major operators in Europe are expected to offer them next year. They offer higher resolution than previous mobile devices and they offer them Live!.

While the article focuses on security applications, we anticipate this technology could be rapidly applied to many boating, boat building applications (technical service, customer service, blip a video message to shore of your catch, mark your favorite fishing hole with high accuracy, shoot production line photos to the boardroom in real time, etc). Might not be too hard to wire them to engine ECM's? The industry showed a very slow adoption rate of the internet. It remains to be seen if they will do better this time?. We suspect the automotive industry is already moving to take advantage of these new phones.

Discussion of Other Areas of the Site

8 April, 1998 Wall Street Journal article speaks of GM using Center for Disease Techniques to reduce warranty costs. The rapid identification of a problem and tracking it down procedure of CDC is now find application at GM and others. Sounds like its time the boating industry looked into it, why are we always last??

Discussion of Links

We suggest you browse the "Other Useful Links" Page and especially the Corrosion, Recalls (Product Safety Recalls), Service (Be sure to check out the online magazine, "Managing Service Quality Journal"), Tech Writing, and Travel & Food sections. The Boating Links Page can familiarize you with the various Boat Builders and competitive products.

Several on-line bulletin board type newsgroups discuss boating activities, problems, questions, etc. We have captured a few of the conversations and posted them in our FOLDER. We have a discussion at the Engineering Desk about the need to establish a procedure to respond to field problems and other situations in the newsgroups.

The Net Folder will be investigating ways of expanding the use of internet tools in the boating industry. We will be looking into the use of webcams by dealers and mechanics to provide live 2-way video to telephone customer service reps which will both help the reps gain a rapport with the people involved, but will allow them to actually see the situation first hand. Portable PC's make it possible to capture Quick Cam video (including sound) while conducting on water testing for transmission later. Cellular modems allow those "on water" videos to be broadcast live. Your best service people can handle more calls by getting to the problems quicker and reduce the need for travel.

The Tech Writing Links on the Other Useful Links Page may be able to put you in touch with the software vendors you use for converting your manuals between various electronic formats and publishing them.

Miscellaneous Thoughts and Ideas

Here we plan to discuss putting service and parts manuals on the net, allowing end users to e-mail your customer service reps with problems and have them respond. Providing more information for basic problems on the net will reduce the number of service calls. We will be following other industries and looking at how their customer service people use the net. For starters, you can read the Fork Lift Story in the Net Folder.

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