The objective of EASY Demonstration Project is to develop a demonstrator of “one-stop-shop” services for the high-value leisure yachting market mainly for the Mediterranean Sea, integrating various space assets (Satellite Communications and Satellite Navigation). The integrated system will provide enhanced services to make yachting more reliable, safe and “easy”, thereby attracting a wider spectrum of potential users.
A demo utilization stage will be carried out to validate the development and to offer a precious opportunity to deepen the knowledge of end-users real behaviour and expectations, and generally to improve the whole system in its operational aspects.
Together with traditional chartering, new business lines like yacht brokering, manufacturing assistance, luxury cruising are emerging asking for the availability of innovative services on board. These new businesses require a higher grade of liability towards their customers, hence forcing the providers to put more emphasis on systems and services in order to increase the safety and availability of information during the cruise.
Therefore, there is a high interest in providing enhanced services to the leisure charter market and it is expected that the improvement of such services increase the demand for charter and cruising business.
Starting from the EASY prototype developed during the Feasibility Study, the demonstration is intended as a sort of “hot spot analysis” of EASY services, i.e. a complete validation case of the whole EASY integrated services in a well-defined and bounded geographic area, so allowing users to have a seamless and complete experience.
The above mentioned approach is also intended to facilitate institutional commitments (e.g. local authorities and bodies) and favour stakeholders focusing on the benefits of EASY in changing their existing ways of working, allowing the EASY project team to reach the objective to define a ‘best practise’ to be extended into a wider market.
Users and their needs
The EASY project can identify local reference EASY users within the Gulf of Gaeta’s economic environment (users, customers and stakeholders), thanks to the direct participation in the project team of Consormare del Golfo, an Italian consortium made of 56 firms involved in vessel building, chartering and nautical services based in Latina province. It represents a strong link with end users and local stakeholders (institutions and yachting market actors) and a way to bring into the project service contents, mainly for tourism and technical assistance.
The EASY services satisfy the needs of end- users and the direct support of different stakeholders. They shall improve and make safer the navigation experience of crew and passengers providing access to a broad spectrum of online information and safety services anywhere and anytime.
Charter and broker companies will be able to broaden the scope of their market by allowing less experienced users to enjoy leisure sailing while improving the safety and protection of their assets. Insurance companies will be able to provide customized services based on the tracking of insured vessels.
Marinas, port authorities and local tourist offices will be able to provide and benefit from the provision of relevant information.
Manufacturers will be able to get access to new markets by incorporating the EASY related systems into their new vessels and refitting it on existing vessels.
Service/ system concept
EASY objective is to carry out an analysis of the technical feasibility and commercial viability of “one-stop-shop” services to the high value leisure yachting market mainly but not limited to the Mediterranean Sea, integrating various space assets (Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation). The integrated system and associated services shall provide enhanced services in order to render yachting more reliable, safe and “easy”, thereby attracting a wider spectrum of potential users. Three groups of services shall be provided via a service center: Tourist services (service booking, maps and guides, sea tourism, etc.), on-line assistance services (alarm management related to boat malfunctions, intrusion, etc.) and navigation support services (route planning, port access, sea conditions, meteorology, bathymetry, route control, nautical cartography, warning about perils and dangerous areas, tracking and tracing, etc.).
Space Added Value
EASY architecture is composed of a Service Centre and Onboard Terminal, communicating via Terrestrial and Satellite networks. Onboard Terminal is also able to interface the GNSS system available on board.
Satellite communications integration is needed to extend the service coverage area beyond wireless terrestrial networks allowing service provisioning anywhere and anytime.
Furthermore, Satellite Navigation integration is required to provide a geo-reference for Tourist Services as well as for Navigation Support Services.
EASY Onboard Terminal enables always-on and ubiquitous connectivity handling various types of terrestrial and satellite communication standards, from narrowband (e.g. Inmarsat, Iridium, GPRS) to broadband (e.g. mini-VSAT, wireless terrestrial, 3G).
The main benefit is the provision of high performance “one-stop-shop” services to the high value leisure nautical market targeting as users a variety of entities and persons.
Currently a number of platforms providing different kind of complementary services to the maritime market and a plethora of software products providing solutions targeting diverse needs of the yacht market are available. Each of them, taken individually, partially covers the areas of interest of the services offered by EASY; however, none of them is able to cover all the target services, as a whole. This is the reason why the EASY platform strongly differentiates its offering form the one from competitors.
The possibility to use a single system for the provision of a variety of services is expected to lower the average cost for the single services making their use attractive to service providers as well as to the vessel crew and passengers.
This positioning is attractive for the end user community, but also for company providing brokering services, luxury a/o business cruising, yacht management, manufacturing assistance (sometimes the shipyards themselves) to renew their image and enlarge their visibility within Italian and also International market.
The EASY system consists of a Service Centre and a set of User Terminals, which are connected through SATCOM or other WAN communication means (the best communication channel will be automatically switched on with a cost/effectiveness based algorithm) to offer to marine customers an integrated multiservice platform, conceived as a context-based content adaptation platform, able to dynamically adapt contents to the user's context (i.e. location, profile, channel availability, etc.).
In particular the Service Centre has been designed in compliance with the Service Oriented Architecture paradigm, capable to federate, assemble and deploy new services with already available specialized services to offer a bundle of specialized services created specifically for the leisure marine market. The innovative services will be accessible through the User Terminals installed on vessels and enabled by the positioning service offered by a GNSS system.
Some key issues addressed in the EASY project are:
- convergence between satellite communication channels and wireless terrestrial ones in order to guarantee a seamless coverage;
- channel auto-switching using a convenient choice based on the cost, requested type of service, channel reliability;
- GPS augmentation for navigation support in ports and in danger areas;
- geographic service coverage to allow subscribers to navigate with the confidence that services are always available;
- increase the touristic nautical market by leveraging the touristic opportunity offered by surrounding areas of ports.
The pilot stage has been conducted from April up to end July 2015, using the two boats "Vintage" and "Regina del Sud", made available by Consormare del Golfo.
The pilot offered the opportunity to deepen the knowledge of the actual behaviour and expectations of the users. Feedback collected from users during the demonstration stage helped the project team to identify features that would require to be enhanced in view of a potential industrialization of the EASY system.
Taking into account the business plan drawn during the validation process, the EASY concept appears sustainable, scalable and profitable.
As already highlighted in the validation stage, EASY requires further investment to adapt the product to the present market and keep it competitive within the present market.
EASY needs a phase of re-adaptation to transform the initial concept to a “product" adapted to the market, that requires a time span from 6 to 12 months with a consistent investment.
Such further work would be tackle taking into account the following points:
• adaptation to the new market conditions and simplification to address small boats and inflatables segments (strategic pivot)
• definition, re-engineering, and manufacturers’ involvement for hardware to be used on board in the various EASY versions
• definition of an operational marketing plan
To do this work, a new team should be rebuilt around a core of current members who wish to undertake a possible new project development opening to financial investors. The EASY consortium is actively seeking opportunities to move along the lines above described.
Most significant achievements of the study
The EASY feasibility study has confirmed that EASY is a technically feasible and commercially viable. Management, business and technical recommendations serve the objective of creating a sustainable market share.
More in depth, the following main achievements has been reached:
- Users and stakeholders involvement in collecting needs and service requirements, including some architectural aspects: in particular, some important feedbacks has been retrieved with regard to on-board terminal features taking into account shipyard needs, distinctiveness of nautical services to yachtsmen and chartering companies for navigation and port management;
- Project dissemination in different workshops and expositions: besides project presentations, further feedbacks have been collected during such activities in terms of requirement suitability, advisability and priority;
- Analysis of current services offered by the market and their limits: different providers have been analyzed with regard to their offers in terms of coverage, degree of automation, used technologies, accessibility and all the other aspects included in the EASY concept with a value added integration as the distinguishing feature;
- Telecommunication technologies state of the art analysis: carried out in order to identify the most suitable solution in terms of performance, coverage, availability, cost and compliance with the on board installation requirements;
- State of the art analysis about other involved technologies and services, such as GNSS, terminal for navigation support, maritime services, etc.
- Gap analysis: the above mentioned technologies have been compared with the EASY concept requirements in order to identify topics susceptible of improvement and open to significant developments; Prototype implementation: starting from a service and architecture definition task, a comprehensive HW/SW prototype has been developed integrating different open and proprietary software frameworks to realize the terminal and the service centre architecture; user feedbacks from prototype validation has been collected and acknowledged for a requirement review;
- Viability analysis: an overall assessment of the economic viability of the proposed EASY system and its associated services has been conducted; moreover the non-economic viability meaningful inputs has been took into account and included in the final assessment report; Implementation roadmap: a roadmap characterization in terms of scheduling, tasks to be performed, involved stakeholders and marketing activities has been defined.