Gauges to GUIs Page 2
Part of what Faria brings to Maestro is manufacturing expertise. Even if several of the subassemblies are contracted out—which is the nature of even dedicated marine PC and monitor building—the engineers and technicians among Faria's 300 employees know how it should be done. In tall-windowed rooms first used by those uniform seamstresses, I saw everything from metal lathes and dial printers to circuit board populators, all in action. Faria knows how to make things, and its ISO 9001 and Gold U.S. military supplier certifications suggest it knows how to make things well.
At any rate, the hardware side of Maestro looks good. A custom aluminum casing means the separate processing unit stays cool without fans, and all sorts of connectivity is built in, including a WiFi radio and a PCMCIA slot meant for a high-speed cellular data card. The $8,000 base system includes one sunlight-viewable 12-inch touch screen but will support a second touch screen as well as output via S-video to an onboard TV screen. Faria is working with both AirPax and DNA to build Maestro-style software interfaces with their digital switching networks, which of course can physically connect to the processing box, just as so many engines can.
While PC software may be new to Faria, engine software isn't. The company claims that its smart products like the MG2000 and Maestro can understand not just ECMs that speak in NMEA 2000, SmartCraft, and J1939 but also J1587, ALDL, and ISO 9141 K-Line. Frankly, I'd never heard of the latter three before, and I think that a number of marine electronics developers are just learning about them, too. Add to this all the long-term relationships Faria has built with numerous engine manufacturers and boatbuilders, and you start to see how a gauge company could become a major marine-electronics player.
And Maestro is not Faria's only significant new product. Antares is a 3.8-inch color display that will bring much of this same digital engine information to small boats, including fuel management and even remote control of Jensen marine stereos. It will first be seen as an OEM product, but Faria expects to retail it for retrofits eventually. Meanwhile, the company has also been developing a series of WatchDog communications products, and the latest 750 model is turning heads. While currently targeted at commercial fisheries, its ability to combine Iridium satellite, GSM cellular, and GPS to provide reliable yet reasonably priced global tracking, monitoring, and messaging has attracted the interest of serious cruisers. Almost needless to add is that Faria could easily make this system send sophisticated engine data back to the manufacturer or boatbuilder, a long-time but unrealized industry dream.
So, should you happen to boat up the Thames this summer, look for that old factory clinging to the western bank about ten miles north of Long Island Sound. While many of the big marine-electronics brands we all know are conglomerating (Northstar and Navman recently joined Simrad and Lowrance under the Navico umbrella, for example), a new one may be coming to life in the little Yankee town of Uncasville.
This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.