The objective of the EASY feasibility study has been 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, Earth Observation). 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.
Together with traditional chartering, new business lines like yacht brokering, yacht management, manufacturing assistance, luxury and business cruising are emerging asking for the availability of new or innovative services packages on board. These new businesses require a higher grade of liability towards their customers (the passengers), hence forcing the providers to put more emphasis on system and services in order to increase the safety and availability of information during the cruise.
Therefore, on one hand there is an high interest in providing enhanced services to the leisure charter market, and on the other hand, it is expected that the improvement of such services increase the demand for charter and cruising business.
Users and their needs
Three groups of services shall be provided via a service centre:
Tourist-Related Services: including the provision of regular tourist information, berth availability and booking, hotel booking, maps and guides, sea tourism.
On-line Assistance and Management Services: to improve the integrity of the boat by providing alarms to a service centre.
Navigation Support Services: including information on route planning, port access, direction on maneuvers, sea conditions, meteorology, etc.
The EASY services shall satisfy the needs of different stakeholders and users. They shall improve and make safer the sailing 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 like CHARTIS EUROPE S.A. will be able to provide customized services based on the tracking of insured vessels.
Marinas like MARINA DI PESCARA, port authorities and local tourist offices will be able to provide and benefit from the provision of relevant information.
Manufacturers such as the members of Consormare del Golfo will be able to get access to new markets by incorporating the EASY related systems into their new vessels and retrofitting it on existing vessels.
Service/ system concept
EASY's 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 centre:
e-Tourism services (berth availability and booking, hotel booking, maps and guides, sea tourism, etc.),
on-line assistance services (alarm management related to boat malfunctions, intrusion, fire, bilge water, tracking during distress situations, etc.)
and navigation support services (route planning, port access, maneuvering, sea conditions, meteorology, bathymetry, route control, nautical cartography, warning about perils and dangerous areas, tracking and tracing, etc.).
Space Added Value
The EASY architecture is composed of a Service Centre and Onboard Units, communicating via terrestrial and satellite networks. Onboard units are also able to interface with 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 e-Tourism Services as well as for Navigation Support Services.
EASY Onboard Units enable 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, UMTS/HSPA, Wi-Max).
One of the main benefits is the generation of high performance, low cost "one-stop-shop" services to the high value leisure charter market targeting as users a variety of entities and persons.
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.
There exists currently a number of platforms providing different kind of complementary services to the maritime market. There is also a plethora of software products providing solutions targeting diverse needs of the yacht market. 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 characterize itself from competitors.
This positioning is attractive for the end user community, mainly 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 following matrix summarises the benefit each type of end users and stakeholders receive from the EASY services:
The following schematic overview represents the EASY architectural scenario and give evidence of the involvement of space-based positioning and communication services within the EASY context.
The EASY system is composed by a Service Centre and a set of User Terminals, which are connected through satcom or other WAN communication means (the communication mean will automatically switch 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 adapt services content dynamically to the user's context (i.e. location, profile, channel availability, etc).
In particular the Service Centre will be designed and implemented 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:
Lack of convergence between satellite communication channels and W-Lan ones in order to guarantee a seamless coverage.
Channel autoswitching using a convenient choice based on the cost, type of service requested, channel reliability.
GPS augmentation for navigation support in ports and in danger areas.
Worldwide service coverage to overcome negative consequences in terms of overall usability and customer satisfactions, but also in terms of security, since users could rely on services not available in the target area.
The feasibility study has confirmed that EASY is a technically feasible and viable service. Management, business and technical recommendations serve the objective of creating a sustainable market share.
More in depth, the following main achievements have 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;
Further 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; one of these is the adoption of SOA as a solution that enables rapid construction of business processes and facilitates application integration both within the enterprise and with external business partners, as the EASY business scenario requires;
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, not disregarding for instance, to carefully follow the results of the European Commission observatory "Maritime facts and figures" in function of a very desirable and most probable marketing of the "EASY" system to the European market;
Implementation roadmap: a roadmap characterisation in terms of scheduling, tasks to be performed, involved stakeholders and marketing activities has been defined.