Furuno is a long-established marine electronics company that specializes in manufacturing fish finders, radar systems, navigation instruments, and integrated bridge systems. Founded and headquartered in Japan, it has subsidiaries in Panama, Europe, China, and the US servicing its large and loyal international clientele.
Furuno Smart Bridge (FSB) is a complete bridge control and video presentation system designed by Furuno, together with experienced skippers. It is intended for fishing vessels, work boats, and other ships to enable people onboard to see pertinent data and video from their sources – such as radars, ECDIS, chart plotters, echo sounders, sonars, CCTV camera systems, and alarm- and control systems.
Data and video provided by the system needs to be viewed in high quality from multiple locations on-ship and remotely, with no latency. In addition, it is essential that there are flexible viewing options and control when installed on a large ship like the Carmona, a Swedish fishing vessel that was inaugurated in 2022. And ease of use is required to ensure smooth operations.
To make all that happen, Furuno needed an AV partner that would be able to go the distance in technological performance, innovation, and collaboration.
Furuno developed the Smart Bridge with support and guidance from Kramer Nordic, choosing Kramer Control and the KDS AVoIP streaming solution as the basis for the systems. “Our Smart Bridge system is based on Kramer KDS encoders and decoders,” Steen Bødker, Manager at Furuno Sweden, elaborates. “We tried different systems before we went to the Kramer solution, and we also had worked with Kramer matrixes before, but we found that the new KDS system was a more modern and more flexible system. So, we chose that.”
With customization required to meet the system and ship’s exacting needs, the partnership was also a strong element in the choice. And Kramer had proven willing and able to provide support, with a strong commitment to ongoing collaboration across the entire development and installation process.
Through continual cooperation with the Kramer team, Furuno was able to develop its advanced platform, according to the specifications, with the modifications required, to accommodate the massive scale and advanced nature of the Smart Bridge project. Working together, Kramer and Furuno overcame challenges like getting the brains and the control to be able to work together with different ways of writing the programming.
While Kramer Control is typically more strongly associated with conference room use, with the dedication of the Kramer Development and Tech teams, adjustments were made to meet the exacting demands of the Smart Bridge concept. For example, to allow multiple users to work on the same system from different screens. This allowed everyone on board to have the clear visibility needed for their jobs, and as many as five users can work separately from different stations, using the same system.
Video is distributed in excellent 4K quality throughout the internal TV network onboard, with no latency, so the crew can follow pertinent data from monitors throughout the ship. And flexible pre-defined layouts on the video wall prep the crew for specific activities such as fishing, navigation, or docking.
Highly versatile, Furuno Smart Bridge allows for viewing and control via touchscreen panels, one or more monitors on the videowall, or remotely via a tablet or smartphone. Steen notes that the remote monitoring system has had huge added value, “enabling the owner of the ship to hook onto the system online through the satellite communication and view all the videos on board the vessel.” Additionally, it can be used for the service technician to analyze possible problems onboard.
Importantly, the communications quality is both excellent and reliable. “Because we are now converting the signals to a LAN format,” Steen details, “it means that we can use longer cable links, and do not have any disturbance from other equipment.”
Feedback from the Carmona crew, who use the Furuno Smart Bridge every day, has been positive as well. “In the beginning, me and my crew were a bit afraid that it would take a long time to learn,” says Fredrik Gustafsson, Captain of Carmona. “But it’s a good and easy system. After just one fishing trip, everyone could handle it and we felt safe handling it.” One benefit he highlights is that “the Smart Bridge system makes it very fast and easy to change the ship’s screens from fishing to navigation,” which makes a world of difference for operations.
In summarizing the project, Steen particularly notes the impressive level of collaboration across the board. “We had a very good experience working with Kramer, both on the sales side and on the technical side. It’s important of course to get support from the sales side when configuring the system, but it’s equally important that our technician was able to get in touch with the Kramer technician to develop the system together.” This combination of the high level of support and out-of-the-box thinking is what he credits for the project’s ultimate success, making the Smart Bridge system fit for sea.
As he concludes: “The Smart Bridge system with Kramer is smarter than other systems, which is actually why we call it Smart Bridge.”