In Focus: Garmin’s ‘relentless innovation’ feeds positive market

In 2007, Garmin released the first touchscreen chart plotter in the marine market. “It was a revolution at the time but now is widespread as others have followed,” says Nick Meadow. But he’s confident that the company of which he’s UK and Ireland marine product manager will continue to innovate, especially as it’s got a growing market in which to do so.

“I’m confident that the number of people now boating around the world has grown and it remains a very exciting time for the marine market. With new boat innovations, new technologies and lots of fantastic development of product, the marine market remains extremely positive,” says Meadow.

“As boat sales increased [in lockdown] so did the requirement for electronics. This coincided with the well publicised worldwide component shortages which put a challenge on the supply chain. Thankfully Garmin, with a vertically integrated business model (meaning we design, test, manufacture, distribute and support our own products around the world), allowed us to be resilient to the shortages and as a result were able to meet the high demand.”

According to Meadow (pictured), Garmin is ‘relentless’ in pursuing innovation to create new products and markets that lead to growth opportunities.

“We are continuously exploring new areas of the markets we serve. For example, we offer dive computers that use Garmin patented SONAR technology, developed from our SONAR product range that allows the dive computer to communicate with air tank sensors over longer distances.

“We have developed the Quatix smartwatch that allows you to control your boat’s autopilot or your plotter from your wrist, we have voice control in our plotters for control without have to touch them, we can control lighting and other onboard systems from our multifunctional displays resulting in them becoming a more integrated part of the overall vessel.

Ultimately it comes back to innovation as often new opportunities arise from these developments.”

An opportunity that Garmin’s found more important of late is integrating third-party products and functions – beyond usual navigation.

“We partnered with Volvo Penta back in early 2010s and this enabled customers to remove a plethora of engine gauges from the dash and switch to the glass cockpit, minimal look,” explains Meadow. “Further on from that, as with the automotive industry, boat builders are looking to innovate and customise their look with the likes of integrated digital switching control and custom graphics. We can provide such via our digital switching products Empirbus, a product that is not solely used in the marine market but is similarly popular in RV, campers and motorhomes.”

Probably the biggest ‘game changer’ in recent years, Meadow says, has been in the fishing market with the launch of a product called Livescope (main image above). This is a SONAR device that allows the user to see objects underwater live, in real time such as fish swimming under the boat in incredible clarity. It is even possible that those with a trained eye can identify the species of fish.

Earlier this year, Garmin unveiled its GPSMap 9000 chartplotter series with improved specifications. That’s an example of what Meadow describes as one of many products which have been innovative or a first to market. The series provides up to 4k resolution in up to 27” display. And another first, he says, was the 360 Surround View Camera System that allows the skipper to view all-round the boat in real time, easing the stress of mooring especially where visibility is restricted.

Keep up to date with all Garmin’s latest product releases in MIN’s archive.

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