Luxury yachts are evolving into ocean-going smart buildings

In the luxury yacht business, attention to detail is everything

Buyers want the thrill of creating an extraordinary yacht that meets their exacting requirements and high standards without compromise. And their demands are increasingly sophisticated.

It’s no longer just a question of styling and craftsmanship. Owners expect the technology on board to be every bit as advanced as the most cutting-edge smart buildings.

ABB is one of a few automation specialists with the breadth of expertise to make that happen. As the innovation leader in both home automation and smart marine power systems, we work closely with naval architects and marine consultants to ensure their automation is sea-ready.

Customers appreciate the industrial reliability of our innovations: quality and uptime mean profits in a factory setting, but can mean even more at sea.


Seaworthy automation tech

ABB has a long working relationship with an Italian Panel Builder mainly working for Marine applications. The process automation specialist started out in chemical engineering and has since found its expertise is in demand in the marine sector as well. Its activities have grown from installing conventional lighting systems on luxury yachts to giving owners the comfort and benefits of their home automation systems while out on the water.
At the heart of most automation is KNX, an open industry standard used in all types of smart buildings – industrial, commercial and residential. But while most buildings normally operate at around 220 – 230 V, on board vessels the operating voltage is 24 V. Some kind of interface module is essential.
Familiar with the quality and performance of ABB’s industrial automation, the Italian Panel Builder proposed a research project to develop an interface for marine applications inside ABB i-bus® KNX modules. The finished module is fast becoming the automation solution of choice in luxury yachts.


Simpler and more flexible

They realized that ABB’s KNX system has several advantages for yachts. It needs fewer wires, is faster to install and takes up less valuable real estate on board.

It is also more flexible. The obsessive attention to detail and the extraordinary levels of personalization that are expected in yacht construction projects mean flexibility is vital. Even after all the furnishings have been built in, simply by reprogramming the components new lighting arrangements can be made. No rewiring necessary.
And because the system relies on the distributed intelligence of each device instead of a single control unit, the entire system is far more robust. And, in the unlikely event of a fault, spare parts are available without problem anywhere in the world.


Future proof

For them, ABB’s technical support is pretty useful in keeping customers satisfied. When a customer decided, three years into the construction a 60-meter superyacht, they wanted to control the full lighting system in a seven-module plate, without having to double its size, ABB got to work on a new feature for the standard version of the KNX Mylos rocker switch series.
And so, while the standard component offers four ON/OFF controls or two dimmable circuits, the customized version allows four dimmable circuits within the same footprint. It’s a unique innovation that enables the customer to adjust the yacht’s temperature, LED lighting and curtains from a single seven-module plate, from the Busch-ComfortTouch® Panel or even from their tablet when they’re on shore.

The possibilities are almost endless. ABB i-bus® KNX is already enabling everything from the lights and climate control to the shutters to be automated – and integrated with the audio-visual and navigation supervision systems.

Next steps of our collaboration could be to enable the remote monitoring of other operating parameters, like drinking water and fuel levels. It’s entirely possible that many future smart building innovations will start life at sea on luxury yachts with ABB bringing them ashore.


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About the author

Bertrand Berges

After completing my bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering at the University of Hertfordshire, I joined ABB in 1999 as technical support for the AF contactor range. From 2009 until 2016 I was manager of Surge and Lightning Product Marketing. The opportunity to deal with natural phenomena adds a special spark to my engineering job. I am now Segment Marketing Manager for Rail, Marine and Food and Beverage segments. Always looking for new solutions to benefits our end customer’s needs.
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