Loretta Kish of Melbourne, FL, stayed on land while her husband and son would go deep-sea fishing during family vacations. She thought of joining them, but has been held back by an intense fear of traveling far from land with the possibility of being stranded at sea. Missing out on her family’s fun while worrying about their safety led Kish to think that there had to be a way to equip vessels with high-tech communication devices, with the ability to monitor the boat’s location and prevent any breakdowns.

Because Kish worked in transportation electronics, she was familiar with different types of communications and decided to launch Sea-Watch Technologies, which developed a patented dual band technology to track, monitor and control marine vessels anywhere in the world.

“I did my research and realized that there is nothing like this in the maritime industry. My goal is to make Sea-Watch to the marine industry as OnStar is to the automobile industry,” said Kish. “I want users to be able to receive customized, real-time alerts via their cell phone or PC for commonplace issues such as GPS position, security breaches, severe weather, and low fuel levels.”

The dual band Sea-Watch system uses cellular signals (GSM) and a satellite communication platform to track vessels in port or on the open seas. “Our system always defaults to the most economical band of communications, which is cellular,” explains Kish. “Sea-Watch only switches to satellite when it can’t pick up cellular.”

To make Sea-Watch work on existing vessels, however, Kish needed to be able to interface with the CAMBUS on-board communication system, which is standard on most boats and vessels.

“I needed help integrating the cellular/satellite components with the components on-board the boats so that the system would work together,” said Kish. After exploring several options on her own, she decided to pursue help from the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).

SATOP provides free technical assistance to small businesses with engineering challenges through the expertise of the program’s Alliance Partners, which consist of more than 30 aerospace companies, universities and national laboratories involved in the U.S. Space Program. Kish’s Request for Technical Assistance was assigned by Ryan Greenough, SATOP Florida Director and Senior Program Engineer at the Technological Research and Development Authority in Melbourne, FL, to Don Platt, an engineer with Micro Aerospace Solutions, Inc., an engineering firm also based in Melbourne.

Platt reviewed the different components, researched how to integrate them and provided recommendations to Sea-Watch on how to connect the units. The engineering solution worked and Kish is now able to produce a fully functioning product that is manufactured by Sea-Watch, rather than relying on a third party manufacturer to produce her product.

“Over the years, I have worked with many engineers and I can’t say enough good things about Don Platt,” said Kish. “Don quickly identified a cable interface solution that I can use to connect to the vessel. As a result, I am able to get this product to market much faster.”

Kish will be installing the new Sea-Watch units on boats and testing the prototypes. The next step is to raise the funds to get it to market. “SATOP is the only program that gives this valuable technical advice to start-up companies at no cost,” said Kish. “I think it’s the best thing out there. I received my first patent in 2005 and had somewhat stalled until SATOP came along and gave me the little extra push I needed to get over the top.” www.sea-watch.net