The Superyacht Technology News Winter Blueprint’s focus is on Innovators and Disruptors within the superyacht industry. Those people who really think outside the box, who try to bring the superyacht industry technologically up to date and those whose passion is technology within our industry. We couldn’t write this blueprint without including Edwin Edelenbos, previously of VBH and Oceanco and now the managing director of FWD Innovations. As you read through this article you will see the impact he has made and continues to make within the industry, as a familiar name with over a decade of experience at the highest level of technology integration as well as a passion for innovation.
Where it all started: Beginnings of a superyacht career
Edwin studied Industrial Design Engineering in The Netherlands and once qualified, he started looking for a job in that field, yet didn’t find anything suitable as all the vacancies he saw wanted 5 years’ experience. Caught in a catch 22 situation, he decided to broaden his employment scope and look for roles in areas he was interested in. He applied and was employed as a project manager at VBH in 2007 as they needed someone with technology and CAD expertise.
On his first day on the job, he was well and truly thrown in at the deep end and flown to Germany to talk about a project at Luerssen. Here began his career in yachting as a project manager with VBH. Later taking on the role of technical portfolio manager, in which he investigated all the technical systems and created uniformity, standardisation and more optimised solutions. He provided great input into R&D and direction within the business before moving onto a shared CTO role.
If you don’t ask you don’t get
In April 2014 he was ready for his next challenge, it was time to move on, but what was his next step to be?
Edwin identified that he wanted to work for a shipyard and switch sides to help address some of the issues that he had seen as a subcontractor. At VBH, one of his main accounts was Oceanco, he approached them with his ideas, skills, and knowledge. Identifying his enthusiasm and potential, the role of Innovations Manager was created for him.
This new role helped to ensure that Oceanco was up to date with everything AV/IT related. Edwin was the first point of contact for putting specifications together and raising the bar for technology. His focus was on enabling and enhancing the onboard experience envisaged by the owner making sure that AV, IT and lighting technologies were selected, developed, implemented and optimised.
With one foot in the production side and one foot in the fleet support (after-sales) team, every day was different, which was perfect, for three years.
There is so much more superyacht technology and innovation to provide
In 2017, the concept of FWD Innovations was born. This concept would allow Edwin to become much more hands-on, to develop and innovate new ideas within the wider superyacht world and to complete more development work. FWD Innovations was founded together with Oceanco, who believe in and embrace the concept, yet Oceanco firmly underlines the importance of FWD Innovations’ independence and of having a separation of concerns. This allows FWD Innovations to offer new products and services to yachts as an independent expert.
In July 2017, Edwin officially moved over to MD position at FWD Innovations and created the separation from Oceanco. Since then the growth has been organic and a lot of time has been spent relationship building, highlighting the ways in which clients could use FWD Innovation for consultancy and innovation development. Leads and contacts are organic from Edwin’s 12-year career in the industry.
Designing a superyacht is a specialist task, what the designers do is take the vision of the owner and translate it into something tangible. There are so many specialist skills that go into the complex design of a superyacht, and of course, interior design and exterior design are essential, but so is technology design. And it is this third design aspect where FWD Innovations comes in, ensuring that the original vision is enhanced by incredible technology, aesthetics, and ambience.
FWD Innovations know how to select, adapt and apply technologies to optimise experiences. With a great understanding of the yacht building process, FWD Innovations can reach into its network of talented engineers, hardware and software developers, industrial designers to develop solutions for a wide range of technological applications. Edwin is careful to respect the ethical line between selling products and specifying them. “FWD Innovations was set up as a company that could provide innovative services and solutions, which includes product development. We want to be innovating actively, and product development is part of that. If we are hired for consultancy, we set out to specify the best solution for the client and we do not seek financial compensation from any vendors that we may include in our specification. If part of the client’s desired system is something that we have developed a solution for, then we will always advise the client to seek outside advice with regard to that specific element of the solution, as we are not able to provide an unbiased opinion on that front. If on the other hand we are hired to develop and provide a unique solution for a client, that is a different business case. If those two models end up overlapping, it is with explicit knowledge and consent of the client only.
As with most things in this industry it is difficult to provide concrete examples of work due to NDA’s which have been signed. What is out in the open is a uniquely customisable voice control solution developed for the high-end custom install market by FWD Innovations together with a Dutch partner (Nautical-Q). A prototype of this solution was integrated with the Oculus YachtEye system on display at the Oculus Technologies booth at METS 2018, allowing the entire system to be controlled by voice. Another example is a unique bespoke thermal imaging and night vision solution that FWD innovations worked with Vector Vision on for a 90m newbuild project last year. Currently, FWD Innovations is involved in 2 85m+ refits as well. Follow FWD Innovations on their website and social media channels to stay up to date with their news.
The future of the AV sector
When Edwin started in the industry everything AV related was analogue, an IT was a separate discipline, but now the AV world has moved over to the digital domain and everything is increasingly transferring to IP, with makes the distinction between AV and IT equipment much smaller, although they still require different specialist skills to implement optimally.
Edwin feels that this is a trend that will continue in our industry and in the entertainment and ‘smart’ technology sectors as a whole. Innovations and improvements will be aimed at providing the user with ease of implementation, usability, and maintainability, and there will be a heightened focus on data as a tool or personalisation and continuous improvement. Edwin is particularly interested in applying technology design aspects to AV, IT and lighting on board. His design approach takes a more holistic view and does not focus on the technology as the end, but rather as a means to achieve the client’s vision. Sometimes a lack of technology is a better way to achieve the desired result, and we should steer clear of specifying yet another black box that will ‘take care of that’. Also, the design approach looks to achieve a more organic and integrated experience for the people on board, rather than just offering them a pretty UI when operating system x,y or z. Of course, UI’s are a very important part of life on board, but there are ways to control things that don’t necessarily involve picking up an iPad and swiping and tapping. It’s what the owners and yacht guests see, hear and feel that is important – they don’t normally care how it works, just that it works brilliantly, easily and seamlessly, and that it doesn’t bog them down with steep learning curves. With Edwin’s superyacht knowledge, shipyard and integrator experience, and industrial design engineering background, he is both creative and scientific and perfectly placed to understand the requirements from both sides.
Superyacht design needs to be an intelligent amalgamation of design, vision, and technology and this is exactly what Edwin and FWD Innovations aims to offer. Ensuring that the selection, application, and integration of AV, IT and lighting technologies align with the vision.
FWD Innovations will be present at all the major trade and yacht shows and will look to speak at industry event forums.
Edwin is joining us at Superyacht Technology News Conference in Barcelona in 2020 as an ambassador. Edwin said “This is the first conference of its kind and there is nothing else like it in the industry. It will be really good to get everyone together.”
Meet FWD Innovations at Superyacht Technology News Conference, find out more here: https://www.superyachttechnologyconference.com/