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Developing a modern yacht helmstation design

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Once your wildest helmstation design has taken shape, it needs to be engineered and build: these are the steps in the process of getting a modern yacht helmstation design into reality.

Design the user experience both off- and onboard

This is the most overlooked step by many: a helmstation design generally starts with nice drawings and renderings of the helmstation fitting the overal design of the yacht; a GOOD helmstation design however starts by assessing the desirable user experience. How does the owner use the yacht? Does he cruise by himself or will there be a captain? Is the helmstation area used just for navigation or is it partly living space? And what about the requirements when the owner is not aboard: will others be able to use the yacht and will there be monitoring of the systems when no one is aboard?

"a good helmstation design starts by assessing the desirable user experience"

Comfort and the feeling of safety play a key role in the overall user experience. Lots of experience in this area can be drawn from the automotive industry where ergonomic elements have been applied for decades. This starts by organising the dashboard and the shapes and dimensions of displays, knobs and push buttons. Also seating position play a key role.

Software engineering practices are introduced in this stage: All situations are described in user journeys, which in turn result in user interface designs (UI designs).

Develop the architecture and choose the hardware

Once the user UI designs are defined, the next step is to choose the right hardware for the job. A good hardware architecture is slightly overperforming to get the task done, is redundant enough to keep control in emergency situations and is connected to all the systems aboard. The perfect architecture is a balance between costs and performance.

  • some owners have a strong preference of brands like garmin, raymarine or simrad

  • many of these multifunctional displays accept the html5 language to show custom content

  • odd screen sizes (eg rectangular or bend) require custom screens

  • required computing power depends heavily on the graphics applied

  • communication between systems aboard is done over CAN-bus or TCP-IP

  • communication between ship and shore is used for remote monitoring and control

  • harsh environments like humid salty air takes a tol on electronics

  • perfect redundancy is achieved with the right combination of digital and analog switching

Create custom software with standard building blocks

A custom user interface doesn't mean a full newly developed software stack. The user only sees the so called front-end of an application, this front-end controls the back-end of the application. This front-end can be fully custom made while it uses standard building blocks of the back-end. Only completely new features within the software need new backend building blocks.

When done properly, front-end software is developed once for several types and sizes of screens. In this way it can be applied on onboard screens, pc's and mobile phones. Allowing the user to have control on various screens, in different situations with the same look and feel.

Examples of back-end building blocks include:

Get in touch with us to discuss your specific helmstation design project!


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