When starting out some seven years ago to improve the security on his own Monterey 270CR power boat, inventor Kevin Hennessey could not have imagined that his solution would be responsible for the protection, security and wellbeing of over £35 million worth of boats
Kevin wanted to secure his boat with an alarm. But as he wasn't always nearby, he wanted his alarm to text him. To somehow connect his boat to his mobile phone, so that he could be notified of an intrusion, that way he would always be 'in-touch' as long as he had his phone
Back in those days, there was an emerging market, yet to be named: "The Internet Of Things". This uses the Satellite network and internet infrastructure as the tech giants push us towards a 'connected world' and now powers gadgets like the central heating controllers Hive and Nest
But before any of this came about, Kevin simply wanted his boat to "Phone Home". The idea was simple, but as ever, the execution was more challenging
Taking his start from home and office burglar systems, which were now able to send their alarm calls to mobiles, but unlike home security, the marine environment was much harsher to these components and so had to be protected and insulated from the corrosive effects of saltwater and sea air - so a waterproof housing was needed, IP67
As the project progressed and his understanding of how the message was relayed, Kevin looked at the other notices he could get from the boat - smoke, fire and flood
Now, houses may flood, but they don't sink! Getting the boat to send an alarm call when it was taking on water was as important as knowing some thief was prying the doors
There was no template or off-the-shelf box-of-tricks he could reverse engineer. He had to start sourcing and testing components, circuitry and SIMs - the chips which power all our mobile phones
It was a communications thing - a sensor would send an electrical pulse, the pulse would go to the Central Processing Unit, the CPU would convert that electrical pulse to a digital message, which could then be sent via the SIM to the satellites and onto his phone. Eureka
So messages can be sent from hatch sensors fitted to doors and windows, PIR detectors in the cabin, gas detectors, smoke detectors. All working just great.
But wait, why not reverse the process? So the phone could send a message back to the boat. Genius!
So now instead of just fitting a bilge detector, he had one manufactured to his own specification which would combine the sensor with a pump and now he could switch it on from his phone. So he can start the pump running while he's at the chandlers getting the much needed replacement seals!
No longer a security system he had created a warden that never tires or rests and is always watching out for his boat - BoatWarden
Added to this was a shore power sensor, which would alert him when the supply had tripped and so the boat was draining the battery. Then, with clever programming, the system could be made to report on battery life - both the boat and the charge left on the BoatWarden
Mapping is part of the satellite service he discovered you could set a 'Geofence' - an area on the map which the boat is not allowed to cross and if it does an alarm will be sent. perfect for swinging moorings as the power used to run this is minimal
Installing is easy too
All the sensors are wired directly to the waterproof 'Hub' where the connections logical and clearly marked - as many marine electricians and DIY installers have complemented him on.
At the other end, on the phone is a dedicated Android or Apple App, that can be shared with family and friends. An important safety consideration which is often overlooked - those on board may not be able to respond to a smoke alarm due to fumes, but BoatWarden will have sent out the cry and so help will be on the way
Even as he installed the first BoatWarden on his prized Monterey, requests came in from other boat owners who wanted one. And now here we are in 2017 with several hundred systems installed on power boats, luxury yachts, speedboats, canalboats, narrowboats and houseboats, all around the world.
Trusted by top boat brands such as: Aquador, Bavaria, Broom, Fairline, Fernwood, Jeanneau, Princess, Sealine, Sunseeker, Targa and Yellowfin.
But that's not the end of the story!
The patent is pending for OutboardWarden - a unique combination of digital lock and tracker
And early tests of JetSkiWarden - a tracker with a unique mobile-remote-immobiliser - have been tremendous!
Does Kevin has one more trick up his sleeve?
"I've done the boat, the outboards and even the jetskis... but what about the people onboard?"
Watch this space as HouseBoat Magazine will be among the first to hear.