In March 2020, the world learned how to become (Microsoft) Teams players and Zoom stars. Videoconferencing might have seemed cutting-edge during the pandemic’s opening salvo, but for Videoworks SpA, work with remote meetings began in 1981. That’s when the Ancona, Italy-based audio-video and IT-systems integrator for mega-yachts began innovating land-based virtual meeting rooms that leveraged professional video and production systems.
Today, Videoworks remains ahead of the curve on other modern technologies that make life on board more colorful, comfortable, information-rich and quieter. And that’s to say nothing of Videoworks’ forays into lighting controls, intelligent glass and secure, professional-grade networking.
Many of today’s yacht owners think nothing of stepping aboard to find their favorite music playing, optimal temperatures set, and preferred lighting choices activated. And they expect access to voice calls and high-speed data via cellular- and satellite-communications systems, plus navigational information at their fingertips.
Acquiring these individual pieces of equipment is straightforward; getting them all to play nicely is complex.
While other companies focus on integrating third-party technologies aboard high-end yachts, few accomplish the goal with the same level of innovation across hardware and software as Videoworks.
“Videoworks is a pure system integrator,” says Maurizio Minossi, Videoworks’ CEO and chief technology officer, adding that the company is actively engaged in projects from about 100 to 400 feet length overall across five countries. “We pick products from the best manufacturers to build a specific marine experience, and we work on engineering and software solutions to create a specific system with off-the-shelf products.”
In some cases, Videoworks also collaborates with third-party manufacturers to innovate its own hardware. Examples include the boards for digital signal processing that the Leaff Engineering Co. developed to allow Videoworks’ acoustic installations to sound better with SSP6 Multiducer “hull speakers” from Revolution Acoustics, as well as active noise control, which Videoworks developed with the University of Ancona to use miniaturized speakers and microphones to cancel out ambient noise in staterooms.
“I’d say 60 percent of the time, the innovation is driven by listening to our clients and accepting their challenges,” Minossi says, “while 40 percent involves scouting the market.”
Videoworks also builds proprietary software that lets its technicians create vesselwide synergy among networked systems and devices. The effort often involves working with Windows, iOS, Android, Simpl+ and HTML5 operating systems and architecture.
“Videoworks aims to have full control of software development,” Minossi says. “The core software platforms that are developed by our in-house software company, ItWorks, are the base for almost all the projects. On top of these platforms, according to a project’s size and budget, we create bespoke layers.”
Hardware and software let Videoworks give owners next-level vessel control from a smartphone, tablet or smart TV, using the company’s MyInfo, MyConcierge and MyCrew apps. But the company’s hardest missions, Minossi says, often involve eyes and ears, not screwdrivers or code.
“I think the harder job is to understand the real needs of the client and real soul of the ship, and to create a solution within the project’s budget and in the time and physical spaces allowed by the builder,” he says.
Most Videoworks customers want to build secure, professional-grade networks; high-quality audio and audiovisual installations; and the best-quality onboard lighting. Smaller installations typically involve 5G cellular connections, robust wireless local area networks (think Wi-Fi), TVs, consumer-grade audiovisual libraries and services, and smart-device control over systems and equipment. Projects of medium size typically step up to a VSAT satellite-communications system, multiple 5G cellular connections, Wi-Fi, TVs, consumer- or professional-grade audiovisual libraries and services, and smart-device control. The biggest projects have these same elements, plus what the company calls “Pentagon-grade” IT structures.
“I’d say the biggest effort is on achieving high-speed connectivity, or speed-for-the-money connections,” Minossi says. “We think every implementation must be security-validated at the highest level, otherwise it will not be included in a Videoworks solution.”
For example, Videoworks regularly specs Kerio Control Wi-Fi routers, which have built-in firewalls, content filtering, virtual private networks and a service to protect against intrusion. That service monitors network traffic for threats and provides antivirus protection.
“The IT part of a superyacht project is becoming more important each year,” Minossi says, explaining that Videoworks tries to be involved with all phases of a new build or refit, from project engineering to maintenance and airtime service. Sometimes, this effort means becoming involved with a project before any contracts are signed; while at other times, Videoworks gets involved 24 to 30 months before completion, when big-picture decisions have already been made.
Project complexity, Minossi says, typically arises from one of three common scenarios when working with yachts. “On the largest, 100-meter-plus yachts with highest-level specs, there’s a lot of pressure from the owner’s team and the shipyard on top quality,” he says. Videoworks is also regularly asked to fit a lot of equipment aboard smaller yachts, or receives owner requests to make everything “10 times simpler than usual.”
Videoworks installations often use rack-mounted equipment, which the company assembles. It then craftily hides the equipment in unobtrusive onboard spots—say, inside furniture—and works with a yacht’s available space.
Minossi says this part of the job is poised to get easier. “In five years, hardware on board will be drastically reduced in terms of space and weight,” he says, adding that he also suspects all data will funnel on, off and across yachts via high-speed connections.
So, if you’re interested in creating a high level of integration among networked devices and systems with next-level amenities and technologies, consider Videoworks’ expertise. Or if you’re ready to fast-track the conversation, request a videoconference. You may still be a relatively new Teams player or a still-rising Zoom star, but Videoworks has been an expert for years.