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TECHNOLOGY AND PASSION ARE BEHIND A DIGITAL COMPASS FOR GETTING YOUR BEARINGS AT SEA
A satellite compass that can be used on any means of transport or on a boat as a navigation tool that will either replace or supplement traditional magnetic or gyroscopic alternatives. Space Compass is a fully Italian-made product designed to exploit the innovative features of new satellite technology and in particular the European systems introduced to supplement the already widely used American GPS. A challenge that rears its head in moments of crisis and that the crisis wants to defeat, bearing the Blue Thread trade mark, a company created with the intent of using satellite technology to improve maritime safety and protect the marine environment. “It’s an idea that came about by combining technology and passion,” explains Mr Cantore, the MD of Blue Thread “bearing in mind that the latter of these is essential to starting up any business.”
The satellite Space Compass provides an accurate point of reference for other instruments such as automatic steering and manoeuvring systems or even those used for aiming other antennae for telecommunications or TV. Compared to other traditional technologies the advantages are manifold: as well as being more compact and cost-effective, the satellite compass permits monitoring of a complete range of parameters that are essential when sailing, such as speed, position, drifting, roll and pitch. It also allows the readings taken to be archived or transmitted in real time. But how did this idea come about? As Mr Cantore explains: “Egnos, the European system (operational since 2011 and consisting of geostationary satellites that send corrections to the GPS signal), allows more accurate positioning to be achieved, enabling new applications for use on land and at sea, automatic piloting in restricted waters, the optimising of courses and in any case improving the performance of all so-called Location Based Services. Improved accuracy in the processing of satellite signals has also lead to the creation of innovative products such as the Space Compass that detects the position of a moving object, with respect to geographical north, without errors such as those of deviation and declination that are typical of magnetic sensors.” And that’s not all. “In future, the Galileo program will permit us to take even greater steps forward,” explains Mr Cantore. “One need only think about how the introduction of the integrity signal will make it possible to validate the instantaneous position data with the utmost reliability, allowing aircraft to land automatically – something that is still not possible today because of the randomness of the GPS signal.”
Blue Thread was created with a specific focus on maritime applications. All the segments of this market, from the owners of large vessels to the institutions responsible for controlling navigation, right down to the smallest craft have common needs - to use technology if it helps to solve concrete problems and guarantee improved safety. Mr Cantore goes on to explain: “It is an exacting niche market that calls for specific know-how, concrete solutions, allows for good margins and is not overcrowded by the big, mass-market players, where we see ruthless competitiveness in order to place huge volumes of often redundant products that have a very limited useful life and lower margins.” The company also manufactures Telepass Marino (an electronic pass system), a device that can be likened to the Telepass motorway system, designed to monitor the entry of vessels into waters with navigation restrictions. The system is being experimentally tested-out by the Maddalena National Park, introducing benefits for: the Park's management company that can improve environmental protection; for the yachters who can use the additional value services based on position and finally for ship owners and charter companies that can track the movement of their own fleets. Blue Thread also produces applications for smartphones and tablets, exploiting the satellite reception and transmission systems built into these devices. For example, Blue Race is an applet for monitoring the parameters of regattas and displaying the Layline. Blue Compass emits an alarm where there is an ‘off course’, or drifting caused by ineffective anchorage.
In short, it is advanced Italian technology that can be applied in increasingly interesting areas and is also waiting to take off abroad. The company was launched in 2010, right in the midst of the crisis, with a streamline, flexible setup, with structural costs reduced to a minimum and a very specific focus on its own targets. This allowed it to navigate its way through calm waters even under the most difficult market conditions, maintaining a clear line in terms of strategy and positioning - an essential aspect for competing, attracting resources and gradually penetrating a well-established market. “Our goal this year is to break even,” concludes Mr Cantone “…and in 2013 we will begin distributing products on a much larger scale, thanks also to a number of agreements that are now in place with European Service Provider Operators.”