SuperYacht Report: The future of IT

Owner Column

with Mike Blake 05/2018

 

Mike Blake, president of Palladium Technologies, shares his thoughts on the future for our yachts’ IT systems …

 

I do believe that those with a vision of the technology future can design, build and implement IT core systems that can prepare for future growth.

 

Eighteen years ago, IT on a yacht was not even a topic of conversation. Today, things are obviously much different. As our world continues on its rapid technology revolution and evolution, IT is at the core of these advancements. Technological progress doubles every year, with the accelerated demand for bandwidth for our connected devices, all of which is growing faster than existing IT systems can support.

 

Our yachts are a prime example of these challenges and how our IT network and systems are at the core. We can think of the IT systems as the master traffic manager, handling thousands of messages and transactions each second, routing them to the correct destination with a guaranteed delivery. In addition, the speed of this delivery is essential to the productivity of the users, whether it is owners, guests, crew or other electronic devices.

 

Imagine a captain being told by his owner that he would like to double of the size of his yacht each year and would need a fully trained experienced staff to handle this growth? If we assume that in the first year he has a 50m yacht, in subsequent years it will grow as follows:

 

  • First year – 50m
  • Second year – 100m
  • Third year – 200m
  • Fourth year – 400m
  • Fifth year – 800m
  • Sixth year – 1,600m
  • Seventh year – 3,200m

 

As you can see, by year four the yacht size becomes quite ridiculous, but this is the exact issue faced by forward-thinking IT designers.

 

Yacht systems technology is directly dependent upon this IT core system and as more and more systems are connected to it, the reliability of these systems becomes tenuous and critical.

 

We can complicate these IT demands even further by looking at the predictions for data,  which is referred to as big data. This data explosion that will burden these IT networks is also on a wild exponential growth. In 2015, we had about 12 ZettaBytes (ZB) (12,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Bytes) of information data created worldwide.

 

The predictions for 2020 is 47 ZB and in 2025, 163 ZB!

 

We must also consider the number of growing IT-connected devices as the IOT (Internet of Things) explodes. This volume of new devices must be anticipated within the subset of the IT systems, called our WiFi portals. Maybe I am not the average user, but I alone have four iPads, one smartphone, two laptops, five desk computers, four stick computers, four microcomputers, one smartwatch, two Alexas, smart door locks, smart fire detection, augmented reality glasses, smart thermostats, irrigation smart controllers, pool-pump smart controllers, lots of cameras, smart TVs, Apple TVs, AV system, etc. Future-proofing is a term used to imply that the designed system will support the future, but to my mind that’s impossible. I do not believe we can design systems that will handle anything that the future will bring us, but I do believe that those with a vision of the technology future can design, build and implement IT core systems that can prepare for such a growth. This can be done by designing greater levels of flexibility and expandability, so these IT systems can be one step ahead of the technology wave.

 

I cannot think of one system on our yachts that is more important and more vulnerable than these IT networks. The data and IT connections are growing on an exponential curve, which means the protection of the IT systems and data needs to grow at the same exponential rate. Cybersecurity is not a buzzword but a real technology that must protect our systems and data. In my opinion, well over 95 percent of our yachts are unprotected and a high percentage of the implemented cyber-security solutions have weaknesses that expose the yacht to liabilities. If I could recommend one area in which to invest correctly and wisely it would be in IT core networks and cyber security.

 

There are many companies that design and build good IT systems for today, but how many of them build for the future with design systems that have the flexibility to grow with these wild technology advances and requirements? It is important to ask the hard questions regarding the designs of IT systems so that obsolescence does not occur during, or shortly after, the commissioning of these systems.

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