One of the best things about owning a boat is the opportunity it offers for escape. We’ve all enjoyed the experience of stealing away on our own, for a solitary cruise on the water. But what happens when the get-away has nothing to do with you? Few things are quite as unsettling as the thought of walking down to the pier, tackle box in hand, only to find your lines floating in the empty space where your boat used to be. Or walking out to the carport to hitch up the trailer, only to find someone else has beaten you to it.
On average, Club Marine alone processes 110 stolen boat claims a year in Australia. It’s a disturbing number and is only part of the whole picture, with statistics suggesting boat thefts nationally run into the thousands, with many never being recovered.
One difficulty with ensuring your pride and joy remains yours is the limitations of most anti-theft devices for boats. Many boats are stored in remote places, so an alarm, if fitted, could go off for hours without anybody around to hear it. Engine immobilisers are worthless when a boat is stolen with a trailer, of course. And hair-trigger motion detectors do more to ruin everybody’s day at the beach than they do to protect a vessel when moored.
But a recent Australian invention, which incorporates a GPS security tracking system, may offer the best way to safeguard your vessel. Vision Trak’s KJ-8800 is a marine security terminal that tracks the movement of your boat and alerts police when it moves out of a designated area. The terminal, which is small and easily concealed, is specifically built for watercraft. Through the use of the KJ-8800 and the mobile phone network, Victorian company, Vision Trak can monitor the movement of the stolen boat and aid the authorities in its recovery.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Telematics, an emerging branch of computer science based on the combined uses of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Information Communication Technology (ICT). Even though this sounds like something out of Star Wars, chances are you’re already familiar with it. Basically, it’s a combination of mobile phone networks, the Internet and global positioning systems. Telematics is already in use in a variety of gadgets; it’s what makes satellite navigation possible, as well as mobile internet. By merging GPS and ICT technologies, Vision Trak, and companies like it, are changing the way we think about security.
“Although Vision Trak technicians have been working on their marine anti-theft product since 2003, the idea has been around for quite a while,” says Craig Chamberlin, business development manager for Vision Trak. “Many of the larger car rental agencies use devices similar to Vision Trak to monitor their fleets of cars. And the owners of rare high-performance vehicles often hire private Telematic security firms to monitor their investments. Vision Trak’s major innovation is to make the hardware and tracking service affordable for the general boat owner.”
Vision Trak’s KJ-8800 security terminal is specially designed for watercraft. Moisture-resistant and easily concealable, the KJ-8800 is a little grey box, about the size of a paper-back book. Once the boat owner installs and activates it, a geographical border (or ‘fence’) is established around the boat. If the boat is moved out of its ‘geo-fence,’ the KJ-8800 sends an alert to its control centre, which, in turn, alerts the owner and the police. After that, Vision Trak’s computers continually monitor the movement of the boat until it is recovered.
The Vision Trak monitoring centre is located in the Melbourne CBD. (The exact location of the centre can’t be divulged for security reasons). From here, a staff of computer operators monitors the activity of armed vessels around the clock. If one of the vessels is moved out of its designated ‘geo-fence’, the computer operators are able to respond immediately, and to begin tracking the movement of the stolen craft.
Because Vision Trak uses GPS to track the stolen vessel, it doesn’t matter whether the boat is out to sea or on land. After the system is on-line, real time signals can be received up to every three seconds, allowing the owner to see the location, travelling speed and heading of the vehicle until it is recovered. When the stolen boat isn’t moving, the terminal continues to send situation reports. Even if the boat power supply is cut, the terminals, equipped with a back-up battery, can continue to send information.
An additional benefit of the Vision Trak system is that it can work as a beacon when a vessel is in distress. Each terminal is fitted with a “panic button”. When it’s pressed and held for three seconds, an SOS signal appears on the?monitors at the control centre. The staff can?then contact family and friends on a specially-designated list, or, in extreme cases, the?exact bearing of the vehicle can be relayed to?the Coast Guard or search and rescue agencies.
When asked whether owning a Vision Trak security system will mean that the honest owner of a boat will never be able to ‘steal away’ on his own again, Craig is quick to point out that the monitoring service only works when the owner activates it. “Your wife doesn’t need to know you’re out fishing when she thinks you’re at the office,” he says with a smile.
At $12.49/per week, it’s a safe bet that boat owners using the Vision Trak system will be doing a lot of smiling, as well. It’s an impressive and innovative system, and it has gained the attention of many in the boating industry. Club Marine has acknowledged Vision Trak’s potential for theft prevention and its ability to improve the rate of recovery of stolen boats.
Because Club Marine recognises Vision Trak as an effective anti-theft device, the theft excess fee is waived on any claim for a vessel that is fitted with a Vision Trak system. Often, the theft excess payable can be as high as $2000 for a PWC or $1000 for a trailerable boat, so this concession represents a considerable saving for the insured boat owner.
For more information about Club Marine’s Pleasurecraft Insurance Policy, please contact the Customer Service Centre (toll-free) on 1300 000 CLUB (2582), or refer to your local Club Marine representative. For more information about Vision Trak, check out the website at www.visiontrak.com.au.