Boating is a hobby full of history and tradition – as is the industry and those who support it. With worldwide connectivity, electric boats and other technological changes that are pulling the sector out of old habits, Orca aims to replace the outdated interfaces that people navigate through with a hardware-software combination that is as nifty as any other modern consumer technology.
If you’re a boater, and I know at least some of you are, you probably know two different ways to draw maps or keep track of your location and route: the one attached to your boat and the one in your pocket.
The one on your boat is clunky and old-fashioned, like the GPS interface on a year-long budget sedan. That in your pocket is better and faster – but the phone isn’t exactly seaworthy and the app drains your battery quickly.
Orca is a Norwegian startup of boat and chart plotter veterans that skips existing products with a modern interface designed from the ground up.
“The industry hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. You have three players who own 80 percent of the business,” said Co-Founder and CEO Jorge Sevillano. “It’s very hard for them to imagine how software creates value. All of these devices are based on a user interface that is 10 to 15 years old. Think of a Tomtom, lots of menus, lots of clicks. This company hasn’t had an iPhone moment to rethink its entire design. So we thought: let’s start with a blank board and build a new experience. “
CTO and co-founder Kristian Fallro started working on something like this years ago and his company has been taken over by Navico, one of the big players Sevillano is referring to. But they didn’t seem to want to move on with the ideas, so he and the others formed orcas to pursue them. Your first complete product open for pre-orders this week.
“The challenge so far has been that you need a combination of hardware and software so the barrier to entry was very, very high,” explained Fallro. “It’s a very protected industry – and it’s too small for Apple, Google and the big boys.”
But now, with a combination of the right hardware and a completely redesigned software stack, they believe they could steal a march on the dominant companies and be ready for the inevitable new breed of boaters who can’t stand the old one To use technology. Transporting an SD card to and from the boot system and your computer to update maps? Enter destinations using the directional pad? Do you use a separate mobile app to check the weather and tides that could affect your route? Not exactly cutting edge.
The Orca system consists of a robust industrial tablet from Samsung, a commercially available marine-grade mounting arm, a specially developed interface for quick attachment and charging, and a computer base unit that is connected to the boat’s own sensors such as sonar and GPS via the NMEA 2000 protocol. It’s all as good or better than anything you can find on a boat today.
So far, much like many other solutions. But Orca rebuilt it all from the ground up as a modern mobile app with all the conveniences and connections you would expect. Routing is instant and accurate on maps that are clear and legible like those on Google and Apple Maps, but clearly still nautical. Weather and tide reports are integrated, as is maritime traffic. Everything runs on Android or iOS, so you can also use your phone, send routes or points of interest to the main device and vice versa.
“We can build new services that chart plotters can’t even dream of,” said Sevillano. “With the latest tide report and wind, or if a merchant ship is in your way, we can update your range and route. We update every week with new features and bug fixes. We can iterate faster than anyone and adapt to user feedback. “
These improvements to the boat’s most central system mean the company has ambitions for years to come of going beyond simply replacing the aging equipment at the top.
The information gathered by the boat itself is also used to update the charts in near real time. Depending on what your vehicle is monitoring, they can be used to alert others or authorities, e.g. B. When you encounter large waves, dangerous amounts of chemicals, or spot an obstacle that has not been recorded. “The waze of the seas,” they suggested. “Our goal is to become the ship data company. The opportunities for boaters, ocean-related industries, and society are immense. “
With the flexibility in terms of placement and features, they hope to be able to integrate directly into boats and become the integrated operating system for new models. This is especially important for the emerging category of electric boats, which by definition contradict ancient traditions and tend to attract tech-savvy early adopters.
“We see how people bring what works on land to sea. They all face the same challenge, the biggest problem is range anxiety – and it’s worse on the water, ”said Fallro. “We spoke to many of these manufacturers and found that building a boat is difficult, but building this navigational experience is even more difficult.”
Whether this is entirely true will likely depend on your boat building experience, but it certainly is that figuring out the effective range of an electric boat is a devilishly difficult problem. Even after building a new boat from launch principles and advanced physics simulations to be efficient and predictable, as Zin Boats did, the laws of physics and how watercraft work, even the best guess, needs to be completely revised every few seconds.
“Finding the range at sea is very difficult and we think we are one of the best out there. That is why we would like to provide boat builders with a software stack with integrated navigation that they can use to solve the problem of range anxiety among their users, ”said Fallro.
In fact, it seems likely that potential buyers of such a vehicle would be more tempted to close the deal if they knew there was a modern and responsive operating system that not only accurately tracks range but also provides easy real-time access to potential charging points and others provides resources. Sure, you could use your phone – and many do these days because the old chartplotters attached to their boats are so limited. But the point is, you won’t be tempted with Orca.
The complete device combination of computer core, holder and tablet costs 1,449 euros, with the core being sold for 449 euros alone, with a significant discount for early bird pre-orders. (For people buying new boats, these numbers can also be rounding errors.)
Orca is working with funding (unspecified) from Atomico and Nordic VC firm Skyfall Ventures, as well as angel investors, including Kahoot co-founder Johan Brand, according to Fallro. The company has made it a point of simply fulfilling the orders it has collected (they make a brisk trade, as Fallro has suggested) before adding features as promised and regularly updating them.