Vessel Vanguard, world's largest boat systems database?
When I first met Don Hyde, founder of Vessel Vanguard, and his business development guy Gordon Ramseier at IBEX, I may have been a little hard on them. That's because a similar plan to put all of a boat's system information into the cloud had gotten me excited last summer, but then seemed to stall. I'd realized that doing this right meant arduously creating a huge yet flexible database of specs, manuals, parts lists, bulletins, maintenance recommendations etc. for thousands of different bilge pumps, AC units, marine toilets, etc. etc. So I came at Don and Gordon with something like "Show me your database!" and, by golly, they did...
It turned out that Hyde and his team had been working on the Vessel Vanguard database for more than year before the company launch, and that he'd already done some similar distributed databasing in another complex, multi-manufacturer niche. So he proudly logged into the company server and showed me through megabytes of tightly organized information on specific systems, the same stuff most of us keep crammed into loose leaf binders or plastic boxes in a locker (me) and hope we don't need to use, because it's hard to find what you want. Nor can we query our Tupperware database from home or elsewhere, let alone give a boatyard access to our boat's systems library integrated with specifics like maintenance records and spare parts inventories, and also updated with general info like product bulletins from elsewhere on the Web.
Of course a well designed and maintained database in the cloud can do all that and more, like emailed inspection reminders or this neatly organized systems page. Hyde says knowingly that "The modern boat is really a system of systems" -- he owns one too -- and I'll add that they can get ahead of you all too easily. But amassing all those records and documents into digital forms that can be easily searched, shared, copied to your hard drive, etc. is a daunting task, even for a production boat builder, unless a lot of the equipment is already in the master database just awaiting selection.
I've heard from Hyde since IBEX and he was pleased to report that several major builders have signed up for his service. (It does seem like a great tool for building good long term relationships with customers and helping a boat hold its value.) But Hyde also realizes that owner/operator input is critical to keeping a boat's database current, and that some owners want to set up one themselves. In fact, you can join Vessel Vanguard now, though the set-up fee is close to $1,000. I think that's largely because VV does the grunt work of entering your systems info from your inventory sheet or a builder list, and I'm hoping that eventually it will be possible to do the data entry yourself in exchange for a reduced fee. In the meantime, what do think of what you see at Vessel Vanguard?
PS, 7/24: It was just announced that Vessel Vanguard will be included with all new Beneteau power and sail boats, and it also looks like they've got an iPad app: