Electronics for watermakers. HP is the first firm to have developed software for monitoring and directly controlling the device from the plotter on the dashboard
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
ELECTRONICS ARE LIKE A PHILOSOPHICAL PROBE FOR A WATERMAKER. Just as Plato meant when he said that to find the truth you had to give birth to it, meaning you had to drag it out. That is what HP has done by developing its management and control software for the watermakers, the Part-NET interface.
The software has succeeded in the tough task of bringing watermakers out of the engine room. The controls are no longer hidden from view but are instead visible on any plotter installed on the dashboard. Sometimes, the icon is pre-installed, like the Netflix one or that used by electronic maps or many other kinds of software, which is compatible with electronic instruments made by the main brands. If you press the HP icon you can see all of the watermaker data, from the volume produced to the pressure being used, even water quality, and how long the device has been working. So, it is as if the machine had been transferred from the engine room to the dashboard.
The software is compatible with all of the main brands, such as Raymarine, Garmin, Furuno, and Navico.
HP is the first and only watermaker producer to have developed management and control software all over the world, and before that, you couldn’t access all that information in a plotter. What is more, the only way to get the available information was by going down to the engine room and checking the instruments on the watermaker. This is a problem that HP had already faced and solved in the early 2000s with the introduction of the RP TRONIC system, capable of managing automatic pressure regulation in complete autonomy. The automatic pressure regulation system is essential for the possibility of developing and using a plotter interface.
With this integration, from the plotter, you can find out how much freshwater has been stored, how much is being produced at that very moment, what the operating pressure is, and a lot of other information that is useful for ensuring the watermaker works well.
Even today, for example, to monitor the operating pressure of some machines it is necessary to check the bars directly from the analog instrument and manually adjust the pressure. So, it would not make sense to report only data for their own sake on the dashboard, if it is still necessary to go down to the engine room to operate the watermaker. The difficulty in getting the information and monitoring how the device is functioning creates a lack of feeling of responsibility in the captain or owner. Is it working? That is the only thing that they wanted to know, but nobody asked themselves how it was working, if there were things that could be improved, or even whether things were malfunctioning so that complications could be avoided. We can now answer all of these questions, not least because of the integrated software.
And then there are the advanced functions, which are protected by a password that enables system parametrisation. You can modify settings to adapt as well as possible to the situation you find yourself in. When the salinity in the seawater changes, for example, the machine has to adapt so that it continues to produce freshwater efficiently. Part-NET is equipped with a dedicated manual for each machine model in 5 languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish) accessible directly from the plotter and equipped with video tutorials to guide the user in all phases of use of the watermaker. Furthermore, when an alarm occurs, this is also displayed on the plotter from whose window it can be reset or, by pressing a button, go to open the manual page dedicated to that alarm with the video. In this way, the user is helped in real-time in understanding and solving the problem, effectively eliminating telephone and on-board interventions.
Using the new touch screen control panel, you can also connect the watermaker to the internet, so you can even carry out monitoring and maintenance remotely.
And then there is the Internet connection. In 2021 HP introduced a new remote touch screen panel, with two output cables. One connects to the plotter and provides all of the functions that we mentioned earlier to the instruments on the dashboard, and the other is for the internet connection. Owners can opt for both functions, or just one of the two or they can decide that they are going to control the watermaker via the internet only later. What is the advantage of that? All of the monitoring and control functions can be relayed onto any device. Gianni Zucco, the head of HP, explained to us: «We went for the html5 protocol to be able to create an interface with any computer, smartphone, or tablet. These are internet protocols, so the most widespread and compatible in existence, better than NMEA2000 which is for instrumentation used exclusively in yachting».
The internet is useful not just to use tablets as if they were the dashboard plotter, but also because it means you can carry out monitoring and make adjustments remotely. «Clients who want to can get assistance directly from our offices. We keep checking systems and can take action to ensure that things work as efficiently as possible. That’s already happened a lot. For example, there is a restaurant in Croatia, that has one of our desalination units. The amount of salt in the water has changed, and so we were able to change the operating pressure without the client even having to inform us. The watermaker continued to function efficiently since we anticipated any possible problem». Electronics, integration, proprietary software, and internet connection – all of these allow the service to be optimised. It is an intelligent use of technology since nowadays even freshwater has become smart.
(HP Pressure, smart water – Barchemagazine.com – November 2021)