Boat Fuel Management - Part 1

Being a tech guy I have always loved using technology to my advantage. I am passionate about finding ways for tools and technology to help me, to make my life easier, better and to enhance my experiences. A few years ago I got my start with home automation when reading about how the "Internet of Things" or IoT could be applied to make home devices smarter. I purchased my first IoT device - a Nest thermostat and I love it. It has since paid for itself by controlling my home heating and cooling more efficiently, by making me aware of my home energy use and by "learning" how my family live and adjusting the climate in our home "automagically"

I was so impressed with the Nest that I really started paying attention to IoT and what other common devices could be made "smart". Of course at their hearts they are still simple machines, but by connecting them together and to the internet unparalleled improvements can be made to make them do things for us as opposed to the old paradigm of us having to spend time managing them.

As I progressed through my IoT introduction I started playing with home built devices based on simple Arduino circuit boards and sensors and soon had learned just enough to be dangerous. I studied what companies out there were doing and watched as literally billions (yes, with a B) of dollars were being directed in home automation and automation to cars and vehicles. As a life-long boater i wondered what Marine applications were being developed and found there were very few. It seems with Boating that the technology world seems to pass us by sometimes, only "descending" into boating products once everyone else seems to have it. To this day i do not know why this is. While on one hand I love the way boating for me with my 2 sons is very, very similar to the way it was 35 years ago with me and my Dad, I can't help but want to bring some of what I have seen improve other parts of my life into my boating life.

Enter Interactio. I was at a time in my life where I was tired of working for others, tired of taking direction from people who knew less than me and I had learned the skills and amassed the knowledge to do something for myself. While out on my boat cruising one day I had the idea to bring common, readily available (read inexpensive) IoT technology to my boating life. The first place I thought I should start is with the most costly daily spend - fuel. If I could find a way to use inexpensive IoT technology to bring my live engine fuel flow to my smartphone I could then optimize it and stop guessing about what cruising speed I should be running at - I could actually know with precision what the best speed was. A breakthrough!

Let’s back up a bit - in my experience, most power boaters do know know precisely how much fuel their engine(s) are burning unless they have expensive engine management systems. There are some great tools out there - many available with new engine packages, some available aftermarket. These systems are complete, accurate and… expensive. They cost a lot to purchase initially, many of them require complex installation and unless I am re-powering my boat I can’t get them.

The typically rule of thumb for recreational powerboats with planing hulls is throttle up until the boat is planing then for best fuel use back the throttle off until you are just maintaining the plane. This works and is simple, but it is still only ball park accurate. depending on hull type, engine type, manufacturer, boat loading, weather, tides, currents, etc. This is only an approximation - there had to be a better way…

The speed at which a boat achieves optimal speed and range is essentially the intersection of two curves - fuel consumption (flow) and boat speed. It looks like this:

Note the intersection of the two curves at about 6000 rpm - this is what I was looking for. This is the point at which the boat’s speed is the highest for the given fuel burn. Any faster and I begin burning more fuel than necessary and the speed gains are not worth the additional cost (assuming I am cruising and speed is not my main concern…)

Using simple, affordable IoT technology developed for home and auto automation I could make a device that could do this, and more. Optio Fuel was born.

Next instalment - Optio fuel: What it is, how it works and when you can get it.

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