The Versilia Yachting Rendezvous, from 9 to 12 May in Viareggio, is also an unmissable opportunity to observe new technologies applied to pleasure boating.
What is the state of integration between boats and what the latest technologies can provide? We asked four companies involved in the evolution of yachts and present along the quays of the Italy and Europe docks during the four-day event.
We started with a concept: these large yachts have never been simple - indeed, complexity is one of their characteristics - but those who are called upon to introduce innovations are also committed to making it easy for users to access advanced functions that were unthinkable until recently.
Sea & Symphony, for example, is a company whose job it is to make TVs and entertainment devices appear only when they are needed, and then make them disappear again when they no longer want to watch them. A pop-up TV can now be found on a 9-metre.
Nino Biagini, founder and managing director and deeply in love with his work, explains:
"We were the first to provide this kind of tool 25 years ago, then other competitors came along, but we continue to be unrivalled in our ability to innovate, to follow customers on specific requests, which are increasingly numerous and bizarre. For us, some things are taken for granted, such as the lifts used to hide televisions: 20 years ago they were 40 inches, today we put 80 inches in.
On large yachts, the requirements are proportionate to the size and Sea & Symphony is able to cater for owners from the simplest requests, "to walls that appear to separate rooms - a recurring theme on larger ships. In this period of the return of true luxury cruising, furnishings and suites that have nothing less than what you might expect in a castle are back," and the comparison is not accidental, given the Turin-based company's experience in home furnishings and hotellerie.
But isn't this a biased comment, like asking the innkeeper if the wine is good?
"It may seem like it,' says Biagini with a smile, 'but I only know of companies like ours.
In what way?
"Problems are dealt with in real time because we contribute to the fun part of people's lives so for those two or three days that I'm on the boat there's no way that something won't work, because everything has to be impeccable, to say: we still have spare parts for things fitted 20 years ago even though the law would require 10 years.
What are you presenting at VYR 2019 with?
"A pass-through that allows access on three sides instead of two and is very popular. For example, there are yachts with the galley below deck with the load of the front pass-through then maybe it has on the main deck the dining area to the left, I guess, towards the bow, and then on the fly bridge you have the table to starboard of the riser, because it's aft. Then even more subtle systems for moving the TVs. And we've even developed a system for making a TV or display unit appear and disappear from inside a piano.
What do owners, skippers and project managers ask you to do?
"To make the 10 fit into the 9, obviously: to make a 72 cm high TV fit into a piece of furniture exactly 72 cm high. But our speciality is that we never say no, we find a solution: we have three engineers working full-time. We're pragmatic, practical and very, very much oriented towards listening, towards meeting customers' demands, in Viareggio as elsewhere in the world".
How much external support do you have?
"Everything we do has been researched, analysed, designed and created by us, that's our connotation. This company was born as a consequence of a commercial relationship that was then interrupted, so we had to start from scratch. We have grown by increasing our know-how, which today boasts an archive of 30,000 projects. It is often difficult to find economic compromises because a single piece of ours obviously costs more than if we made hundreds in series, but then you hear people say that one of your mechanisms "after you put it in you forget you have it"".
So what do people generally not expect to be able to do on board?
"On the contrary, they expect everything! Sometimes we're asked questions and you feel that it's taken for granted that we'll find the answer, which however is something that gives us a lot of satisfaction. And anyway, let's remember that we're talking about the superfluous cubed, so if you've committed to saying yes minister, it will be done then it's not like you can't find the solution. I had an American lady in a five-star hotel complain that the hot water wasn't coming because it took a few seconds to reach the tap...
Sometimes it's hard to believe that these things really happen in the real world, but let's remember that we're not in the real world here... we're in a fairy tale, and knowing that my products are in the fairy tale makes me happy to work. If our products improve and don't break the spell of the fairytale world, my company sells itself.
And after talking to those who give muscle to the entertainment system, let's hear from those who are responsible for the integration of audio/video, home automation (lighting, curtains, AC, CCTV, security and automation) and IT and telecommunications: Videoworks. Sara Stimilli Communication and Marketing Director of the company:
"We are now a point of reference when it comes to technology and systems integration and are able to create high-level systems for yachts from 30 to over 100 metres with business units and resources dedicated ad hoc to each type of project."
At the next edition of the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous they will present an engineered audio/video, domotics and IT integration system specifically for serial boats. All the integration will be in a small and simple box. The ITWmode app, which is fully compatible with iOS and Android systems, allows easy and intuitive system management. The company's system engineer Giovanni Varone explains:
"In the age of smart technology, which is within everyone's reach, it is no longer necessary to be an engineer or expert to take advantage of technological innovations. Both IT and electronics play a major role and it is unthinkable not to use smart devices (smartphones, smartwatches, tablets) for our daily activities. Therefore, even for our systems, the integration of "smart" devices, and the simplicity of use, is increasingly required within systems that represent the state of the art of Audio Video and IT technology".
At what point in the design/construction chain are you called upon to intervene?
"For new constructions, the Videoworks design activities start as early as the phase of defining the compartmentalisation in order to establish with the manufacturer the dimensions of the technical spaces (AV-IT Room) necessary for housing the rack cabinets. In refits, on the other hand, our activities are very variable and much depends on the degree of refit, and it is always essential to work in close collaboration with the team of interior designers to be able to integrate the new technologies into the technical spaces, which are very often already defined and cannot be modified when the vessel is refitted".
Talking about data security, a very sensitive issue: how secure is the personal information of the crew and guests on board?
"Videoworks has always been very attentive to the privacy of the data of the users of its systems and in fact it was the first, and probably, to date, also the only company in Italy to obtain from Lloyd Register the "Cyber enabled System" certification for the protection of its systems from computer attacks".
How easy is it for customers to integrate personal devices with on-board systems? "Videoworks provides customers with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) solution. Through this software package, which can be added to our systems on request, the user can use their smartphone or tablet to control audio, video, lights and air conditioning. How far is it foreseeable that we will move towards an on-board Alexa/Google Home? "We are already testing both Alexa and Google Home integration in the R&D department with excellent results, with a view to proposing the integration of voice control in the near future".
TEAM Italia's focus is on integration, including the management of the yacht as a navigational object, with engines, services, routes to follow and obstacles to avoid. Skippers increasingly want safety, ergonomics and ease of use, while owners usually require a great deal of flexibility in terms of customising the dashboard, both in terms of design and materials.
Massimo Minnella, CEO and Sales Manager of the company, which has its headquarters in Viareggio, explains: "TEAM Italia, thanks to its team of qualified designers and in-house designers, is constantly able to propose innovative, technologically advanced and tailor-made solutions that make it possible to integrate all the Nav-Com instruments necessary for navigation into I-Bridge solutions with a clean and elegant look.
An I-Bridge is a system that is condensed into an intuitive and easy-to-use screen that allows you to control and manage everything related to steering a boat. It therefore combines cutting-edge design with safety at sea, "which remains the top priority for all those involved in the various projects," say the Tuscan company.
Obviously, in order to achieve the best results, it is necessary to intervene right from the design and planning phase of the wheelhouse: "with over 500 projects already delivered and thanks also to the feedback and cooperation of skippers, we have acquired considerable know-how, which allows us to recommend the most suitable Nav-Com solutions on the market for each project. Once the instrumentation to be integrated has been defined, we can then propose various options for the realisation of the dashboard and the entire wheelhouse, which are as consistent as possible with the navigation requirements. The modularity and architecture of the system, as well as the exclusive multicontrol solution, make it possible, both when building a new boat and when refitting it, to upgrade the equipment without impacting the structure of the bridge console, thus avoiding any unwanted refit work.
Your bridge consoles also stand out for their aesthetic specificity, how much can you work on customisation and the owner's tastes? TEAM Italia makes full custom systems, both software and hardware: the level of customisation is therefore extremely high. It's not uncommon for us to work alongside owners throughout the various stages of a project.
Anything that is entertainment on a yacht such as those moored in Viareggio cannot be separated from a high quality sensory experience. Especially when it comes to sound. And this is where K Array comes in, specialising in the production of diffusion systems, what is banally referred to as loudspeakers.
The company was founded in the Florence area, but now literally spreads its products all over the globe: in the reconstructed World Trade Center in New York, the Royal Opera House in London, and the new Besiktas stadium in Istanbul, as well as in the Salone dei 500 and the Gucci Museum in Florence, where sound design requires perfect but almost invisible reproduction systems. In fact, the company's prerogative lies in its ability to combine technical sound perfection and aesthetics by using a special technology, which makes it possible to obtain unusually light and compact products capable of restoring extremely high sound quality in any location. Andrea Torelli, Marketing and Communications Manager, explains:
"In a nautical market where the professional audio industry has yet to make much of an appearance, we are preparing for the first time at VYR to present all our most innovative technologies, capable of resolving the expectations of designers, builders and owners. In environments where space is undoubtedly a value to be respected, ultra-miniaturised solutions Lyzard, a loudspeaker that fits in the palm of your hand and weighs only 23 grams, Rail a linear module that integrates light and audio in the wall, recessed and semi-recessed versions, Anakonda which is the first articulated box in history, a 2 metre long loudspeaker, with a section of 5×3 cm, so modular as to allow entire lines of sound up to 64 metres long. Moreover, K-array will introduce its two main collections on this occasion: Installed Sound and Portable System".
More and more often, designers on behalf of owners are asking for less clumsy and invasive solutions. The K-array product, compact and design-oriented, perfectly meets their expectations, without compromising the acoustic comfort experience, which is the added value that, together with the designer, we hope to guarantee to the end user.
The manager goes into more detail:
"The most requested interventions equally involve the living area (mainly interior) and the sleeping area (owner's bedroom). With a certified IP rating and resistance to salt corrosion thanks to the use of durable materials such as stainless steel and aluminium, our products guarantee significant performance even in outdoor applications. We generally work hand in hand with interior design, as the integration of our systems into the furniture is the strong point of our offering. Our speakers are so thin that they are easy to install, both built-in and exposed.
When we are working on a new boat, we are able to support the designer in the design phase of the carpentry, as well as guaranteeing maximum acoustic optimisation through the use of predictive software." But does it make sense to talk about high fidelity on a craft that moves, that bangs, that rolls...?
"We are increasingly convinced that the right acoustic experience really makes a difference in any situation where experiential experience is the real expected value. All the more so, in a context where noise is already critical to begin with, any other sound signal introduced must necessarily be managed with the most suitable tools. Hardly anyone expects to have such a high quality listening experience through such small devices. Just as they don't expect our products to be 100% made in Italy, built with premium materials and dedicated to customisation".
Stefano Zaccaria, VP Sales & Marketing at K-array, adds:
"Audio technology, furniture and architecture can contaminate each other, today more than ever before, offering unprecedented visions of contemporary design and space. Therefore, audio speaker technologies and design are also meeting the new market needs and the rapidly changing reception, work and home spaces. VYR is an excellent showcase for demonstrating the quality and innovation of our solutions, a first small step that brings us closer to an audience of designers, builders and owners".
Andrea Torelli points out that the company's orientation is increasingly focused on the quality of life and well-being of people:
"Highlighting the innate and violent capacity that sound has, in all its applications, to penetrate deeply into the most intimate and emotional sphere of living beings is what has always fascinated all of us at K-array. If in the world from which our roots originate - that is, the world of live events, where music necessarily has a central and important position - this theme may be taken for granted, on the other hand, in everyday life we spend most of our time in environments where audio is an aspect that is almost completely neglected or at least dealt with in a hasty and unconsciously harmful manner. The result is the restaurant where it is not possible to speak, the classroom where the teacher's message is lost in excessive reverberation, shared workspaces that are often chaotic and therefore not very productive, places of psychophysical recovery where people have longer stays, spaces used for commercial activities that do not provide the comfort of a purchase, etc.
With our presence at the VYR, as we did at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, we would like to present the technologies that best avoid this type of design error, even in a living space on board a yacht, reassuring the designer and owner that they will not have to make any aesthetic compromises".