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electronics

Taking Care of Business

Catching up with Robin Martel of Northport Systems. BY TOM THOM PSON

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Robin Martel, owner of Northport Systems, is dedicated to focusing company efforts on making improvements in the marine industry. 14 LAKELANDBOATING.COM A U G U S T 2 011

e’ve all had those days at work, wishing we could buy our employers company. We know just what we’d do, right? Recently, I talked with someone who didn’t just wonder about it; he actually bought the company. Robin Martel purchased Northport Systems, the Canadian firm known for the Fugawi line of navigation software. He told me how he plans to bring more high tech to the helm of everyone’s boat. The 39-year-old Martel holds a degree in geotechnical engineering from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. After graduation, a job took him half way around the world to New Zealand, where he worked at a company whose products were used to design buildings and bridges. “I spent a lot of time working with Trimble, a company that makes GPS sensors and software for civil and geotechnical engineering solutions,” Martel explained. “That’s where I got into GPS.” He later started an internet-based company that sold GPS correction data to surveyors and engineers. During this time he also brought the Fugawi product line to New Zealand and the Pacific islands. “In 2002, my wife and I decided to return to Canada,” Robin said. “Fugawi was in my Rolodex.” He applied for a position with Northport Systems in Toronto and was hired to do business development. He was able to translate his understanding of engineering and design software to marine technology and navigation software for boating. A good deal of what makes Fugawi software products popular with boaters today is the result of his effort. Earlier this year, when the opportunity arose to buy the company, Martel jumped at the chance. The Fugawi Marine ENC software package is Northport Systems’ core product. Martel has been closely involved with the integration of Navionics cartography into the program, as well as the X-Traverse service for crossplatform chart and data portability and updates. He’s also behind the development of Fugawi products for

smartphones such as the iPhone. Partnerships with marine electronics firms including GeoNav and Navionics to develop software programs for use in planning trips on a home computer are ongoing, too. Until now, Northport Systems split its focus on several vertical markets. Marine was just one of them. Now that he’s at the helm of Northport Systems, Martel plans to concentrate the company’s efforts on the marine industry. “We’re focused on leveraging the things we’re good at,” he said. “I believe that by adding value to our customers, we add value to our company.” Martel sees a day in the very near future where even a 20-foot boat will be built with an NMEA 2000 network backbone. This will allow every piece of electronic gear to talk with everything else on board, including the engines. “When you couple that with the trend in increasing capability of mobile devices and their decreasing cost, it comes together nicely,” he pointed out. A major upgrade of Fugawi ENC is being released for the fall boat shows. “There will be a very high level of NMEA 2000 awareness in our product,” he explained. “With the newest release of Fugawi Marine ENC, we’re trying to eliminate the need for the user to be a technician,” Martel continued. “This is what Apple has done to make it easier to use their products, and in the marine electronics world, software should just work, with simple, straightforward interfaces, without clutter, without confusion and with plug-and-play compatibility.” Version 5 of Fugawi Marine ENC will support a plug-and-play data interface device called the ActiSense NGT-1 to connect a computer with a NMEA 2000 network. Boaters won’t have to figure out where to connect all the wires, according to Martel, or how to configure the software to “talk” with the network. The software does all this silently in the background. Taking connectivity a step further, Fugawi Marine ENC will easily send and receive data, such as chart updates, over the internet. Fugawi also redesigned the user interface, making it more intuitive. The company likewise improved graphics capability. “We put a lot of effort to improve the user experience,” Martel said. “It’s a message that I repeat to employees and suppliers every day. I would be so happy to hear from customers that they were able to work with the software without having to read the manual every time.” FUGAWI.COM 

Lakeland Boating August 2011  

The Voice of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior

Lakeland Boating August 2011  

The Voice of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior