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2023 IBEX Innovation Award Interview with VoltSafe

VoltSafe Makes Shore Power Safer, Simpler, and Smarter

Electricity and water are quarrelsome bedfellows. It’s one of those physical properties that modern life imparts on a subconscious level. That’s why, at first glance, a shore power pedestal sitting on a dock may elicit the same twinge as a hairdryer perched on the rim of a bathtub. Enter VoltSafe Marine – a company that looked at the pain points imposed by pedestals and said “That just won’t do.”

VoltSafe Marine System

Quite the Connection

The VoltSafe system has three main components: the plug, the pedestal, and the app. The plug is perhaps the most outwardly innovative feature of the product. VoltSafe Marine calls it “the world’s first high power prongless (magnetic) connector.” The VoltSafe plug is fitted with permanent magnets that, once locked into place, latch on to corresponding magnets in the outlet mounted on the pedestal – similar to the charging ports on newer laptops. This offers three major benefits to boaters over a conventional three-prong plug. First, it means that the plug breaks away cleanly if someone backs out of the slip without disconnecting from shore power. When in the locked position, it takes 35 pounds of inline force to pull apart the magnets – enough that one of the judges almost pulled down the display while testing it, but not enough to rend the pedestal from a pier. Second, the magnets repel each other when the plug is rotated into the unlocked position. For many, that’s not much of a selling point; however, for those with arthritis or other mobility impairments, it’s a massive improvement over conventional outlets. And third, the prongless design promises to do away with corrosion issues. While the plug will require regular maintenance, there are no places for corrosion to build up unseen. The only metal surfaces susceptible to corrosion are exposed where they can be easily cleaned. For some, the thought of introducing yet another proprietary connection into their lives is a deal breaker; however, VoltSafe Marine sells an adapter for traditional power chords.

Don’t Put Me on a Pedestal… unless it’s a VoltSafe

Underneath the elegant exterior of the VoltSafe’s pedestal is an arsenal of innovative features, many of which are targeted towards improving safety. The device offers protection from overheating, reversed polarity, overvoltage, and power surges. Additionally, the pedestal will not output power until the plug is secured in place – making arcing a thing of the past. And the pedestal isn’t just safe, it’s smart too. Pedestals can be connected to a central system using a wireless broadband connection. Additionally, to extend the range of the network across an entire marina, each pedestal can function as a network extender. This allows users to monitor charging, reset breakers, and govern power remotely through the app.

VoltSafe Marine Network Monitoring

Hold the App-lause

One of VoltSafe’s real party pieces comes by virtue of it being a connected system. For marinas, the ability to govern and monitor power consumption is invaluable. Gone are the days of trotting from pedestal to pedestal with a clipboard reading the meters. Now, all of that information is consolidated in a single UI and can be passed on to the integrated billing software. Additionally, if a boater harbors at a VoltSafe-equipped marina for a night, they’ll be able to handle all the utility rigamarole from their phone without stepping foot on dry land.

VoltSafe Marine App

Conclusion

The VoltSafe system takes an innovative approach to making shore power smarter, simpler, and safer for boaters. As such, IBEX’s 2023 Innovation panel recognized it with an award in the Boatyard and Marina Hardware and Software category. With boats becoming ever more electrified, VoltSafe is paving the way towards safer shore power and more sustainable boating.

VoltSafe wins IBEX Innovation Award

Q & A with VoltSafe Marine

What problem was VoltSafe designed to solve?

VoltSafe makes connecting to high-voltage electricity safer, simpler, and smarter than ever before. For years, we have struggled with antiquated ways to connect to electricity using prongs and recessed contacts. Particularly around water, this is a dangerous combination. Corrosion can go undetected inside shore power outlets, leading to arcing and devastating marina and boat fires. Live cords around water are especially dangerous. VoltSafe’s marine solution solves these problems and more, making power usage around water safer than ever. By making it an IoT-enabled product, we’ve enhanced its safety by pairing it with dashboard tools that help conserve energy, detect leakage, and gain operational efficiencies. In addition to the extensive feature-set that our VoltSafe Marine shore power pedestal, marina dashboard, and companion app provide; future iterations will even be able to offer real-time views of each slip for both the boater and the marina manager via a pedestal camera to the dashboard or companion app, further enhancing your ability to protect your investment. Overall, VoltSafe Marine ultimately saves time and money for marina managers, giving peace of mind to boaters and marina operators alike.

Who is the target market for VoltSafe?

Marina owners and operators are the core target for our IBEX Innovation award-winning marine solution. Our shore power pedestal and software management platform are future-proofing marinas. We’re providing the safest, most dependable shore power pedestal and dashboard ever imagined. Our initial product was aimed at the boat side, however, by adapting to support the marina first, we can still support the boater via adapters and the companion app making it a win-win, and more lucrative for the business.

Who is currently using VoltSafe? What feedback have you received?

VoltSafe is currently live in select marinas, with more marinas being on-boarded for a wide-scale beta test prior to distribution of commercialized units coming soon.

We’ve been actively engaging with marinas for several months, listening to key pain points, and adapting our software solution to manage those concerns. There is plenty of excitement at the numerous marine industry trade shows we have been at all year long, primarily driven around the magnetic connection, the safety aspect, combined with its ability to minimize costs and save time and energy slip by slip. Frequent feedback includes comments such as Finally! or It’s about time! or remarks around it offering game-changing innovation that will disrupt the industry. We’ve met with so many people and shared great conversations about how our award-winning shore power solution can put an end to countless issues and concerns over safety and efficiency for boaters and marinas. We’ve built more than just a shore power pedestal – we’re future-proofing to deliver next-level safety, and an outstanding user experience when it comes to managing power at the docks.

How does VoltSafe strike a balance between safety and convenience?

Truthfully, we have not compromised on either. Our hardware connectors are the first of their kind – able to transfer high voltage without power loss, or risks of electrocution, and scalable to any amperage (our marina pedestal is 30A, and we have 50A in the works). In-house, we have developed a state-of-the-art software management platform aimed at providing a user experience that improves the life of the marina manager, not make it more complicated. The companion app for the boater is equally as efficient and easy to use, providing important info and data to the boater while simplifying the long days of the marina operations team.

What obstacles arose during the R&D process?

Deep tech companies like VoltSafe require immense R&D efforts at or near the scientific knowledge frontier to overcome higher associated technical and regulatory hurdles. When achieved, these technologies drive incredible transformative potential across industries. Since its inception in 2015, VoltSafe faced a multitude of different but seemingly endless challenges associated with trying to create a first-of-a-kind and impossibly safe, prongless (but conductive and >60 volts) plug blueprint. One that can scale to any/all power levels (residential, commercial, industrial) and technically supplant all existing pronged plugs worldwide. If achieved the technology could have the transformative power to truly redefine what the future of connecting to electricity could look like. A future that drives a positive environmental, economic, and social impact worldwide. From the original electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering that created the technology itself, to navigating regulatory landscapes, none of these challenges were easy nor did they happen overnight.

What impact do you see VoltSafe having on the boating industry and where?

The need for a safer, clean-tech solution throughout the marine industry is evident and undisputed through discussions with major marinas. To boat manufacturers, shipping industry giants, government bodies, and climate-tech ventures, the time for change is here. At VoltSafe, we are forging a path into the marine sector with our patented, novel solutions by disrupting a way of connecting to power that’s well over a century old. Electrical infrastructure in our marinas, shipyards, and ports is in dire need of a safer, simpler, and smarter solution that meets the growing demands of electrification, and to aid in reaching net zero carbon emissions. The shipping and maritime industry needs to do more with less which is why VoltSafe’s patented hardware and software is at the core of the electrification of everything.

How does VoltSafe navigate the impediment posed by proprietary connections?

For early adoption purposes, we have built our solutions to adapt to existing infrastructure (for example our adapter locks to existing L5-30 Shore Power cord sets), versus replacing them. Also, our software dashboard is easily accessed and while it can replace multiple existing platforms, it can also integrate with other platforms through APIs.

Our long-term vision for VoltSafe is to drive positive environmental, economic, and social impact to the world and license our proprietary (patented) technology to existing incumbents to gain mass adoption throughout residential, commercial, and industrial verticals.

What do you see for the future of VoltSafe?

At VoltSafe, we’re crafting a connected marina ecosystem. Our vision extends far beyond just shore power connectors. Our goal is to deliver the safest, most dependable, and user-friendly shore power experience at marinas. With VoltSafe technology, we’re future-proofing marinas in anticipation of evolving boat technology. This advancement will streamline the lives of marina owners and managers, making their operations more efficient, secure, and cost-effective.

The IBEX Innovation Awards showcase outstanding marine product development to the recreational boating industry and beyond. The program, managed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and judged by Boating Writers International (BWI), is one of the marine industry’s most prestigious honors recognizing manufacturers and suppliers who bring new, innovative products to market.

VoltSafe Logo

About

Both boat operators and marinas alike frequently encounter issues with antiquated shore power systems. This, when coupled with the combination of salt or fresh water can lead to premature corrosion, damage and an increased risk of electrical fires. VoltSafe tech can scale to meet the needs of pleasurecraft, tugboats, industrial marine shipping or combat vessels based on the inherent safety behind our electrical connectors. VoltSafe Marine navigates a course to setting a new standard in marine electrical safety.

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