Niche is nice in marine electronics at METS by Nick Heyes (MES Ltd)
5 December 2010
As METS closed on 18th November, the numbers looked good. This year the show boasted more exhibitors than previous years with 1,320 companies exhibiting, of which 190 were METS virgins. There was also a record number of visitors streaming through the doors with 18,861 people from around the globe coming to check out what’s new for next year, during this three day event. So, what was on offer from the marine electronics sector?
Entering Hall 1, you were greeted with huge Garmin & Raymarine stands, competing head on for the first looks from visitors. But, digging below the surface there wasn’t really a new range of game changing products from either of these giants. Garmin showed some interesting new fishfinders and Raymarine are promising more innovation for later in 2011, but clearly, economic conditions have slowed R&D efforts. Navico, with brands including B&G, Simrad and Lowrance were just down the aisle and now had a much better, differentiated strategy for all their brands. They launched their innovative broadband radar at METS 2009 and continued an inventive theme with additions to the Lowrance range such as SonicHub for audio playback and StructureScan for photo like images of the seabed. The new B&G plotter range with software orientated for sailboats looks great for boosting sales in 2011. Furuno didn’t have a stand, but chatting behind the scenes they intimated they’ll have some new communication and plotter products for 2011 and are clearly positioning themselves as the top end solution for larger boats and super yachts.
With the big four offering little in the way of ground breaking new technology, it was off to sniff out some of the smaller niche players. There was lots on offer here and without a doubt, this is where growth in 2011 sales is going to come from. It seems the smaller niche players in AIS, EPIRBS and safety, on board networks, weather monitoring, NMEA 2000 and underwater sonar will be the drivers for 2011 – and interesting, as lots of these companies were from the UK. Digital Yacht, Comar and SRT showed lots of new AIS devices and McMurdo/Kannad showed a brilliant AIS EPIRB, which will really generate interest in the MOB (man over board) market. On the sonar front, EchoPilot showed their new 3D system and upgraded older 2D systems.
We have to remember boating is a fun and leisure pursuit, so it’s no surprise that we should be concentrating on, on board entertainment. Intellian and KVH showed a huge selection of satellite TV systems and Fusion from New Zealand had some tempting, value priced offerings in on board audio.
Perhaps, most interestingly, was the DAME award winner for the marine electronics category. The prize went to Spinlock for their RopeSense load cell device which perhaps shows how the marine electronics’ market will be changing for the future. It’s certainly no longer dominated by the big four and perhaps the UK dealer network should be doing all they can to provide a channel for the smaller manufacturer and innovative providers. 2011 will be an interesting year.
It was also a similar story at the NMEA 2010 Conference and Expo in Seattle, which was held just a few weeks earlier in the USA. While it was much smaller in scale, just one hall of exhibitors, the show was steady and there were lots of new faces on the scene, perhaps because it was held on the west coast this year. The NMEA Conference and Expo is a show for dealers, distributors and manufacturers, but unfortunately this year it coincided with another one, so wasn’t as busy as previous years. With the attention of some of the big players diverted to other areas of their business, the smaller and somewhat up and coming companies were able to steal some of the limelight. Digital Yacht America reported an impressive first day with a flurry of potential new dealers keen to stop by and find out more about the brand and their latest product, the iAIS wireless receiver. Geonav attended for the first time and had their new chart plotters on show. Standard Horizon showed their new GX2100 combined AIS/VHF, which won the coveted NMEA Technology Award this year. And Vesper Marine had their new Watchmate with Built-in Class B AIS Transponder on display.
With so many more shows on the horizon it will be interesting to see how everyone intends to capture the minds and money of boat owners in 2011.
Article Supplied by Nick Heyes of Marine Electronic Services Ltd.
MES will be exhibiting at the London Boat Show Stand No. B20 in the North Hall. Further information is available from www.mesltd.co.uk or by calling +44 (0) 117 911 4111.
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