Maintenance of IT infrastructure is a herculean task. Keeping it on track brings to the department a new set of challenges. Both commercial companies and charities are supported by technologies in adverse conditions. IT plays a vital role in ensuring that the company continues its operations in any kind of environmental situation. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the UK lifeboat operator has to face extreme climatic conditions for the 235 lifeboat stations it operates upon UK and Ireland. The nature of the work often compels the lifeboats to go out in stormy weather conditions. They are subjected to massive vibrations. This means that the technology being used on board needs to be robust and endure severe physical torture.
Staff officer for operations, communications and information at RNLI, Peter Bradley says that it is routine for the lifeboats to crash down off the top of waves which are about 30 feet high and this generates forces up to 7G. Not many of the electronic equipment can withstand this violent motion. According to Bradley, the main focus of RNLI is to keep up with the maritime regulations and simultaneously manage the costs incurred. This calls for the use of smart technology. He said that since they cannot compromise on crew safety, they require first class service but at the same time they want to keep the costs down. Traditionally, the separate technology components were spread around the boat. In the latest generations of lifeboats new layouts have been produced to provide for higher safety and meet the changing international regulations and specifications. All the systems have now been connected using the Windows embedded technology. Crew members can view any of the systems on a single screen using this new technology.
On their individual screens the crew members can select which system they wish to access. Another technological addition to the Tamar craft made to minimize the movement of the crew members around the boat is, fly-by-wire throttle and steering system. This system is controlled by a joystick which is provided on the helmsman’s seat. In the wheelhouse a traditional steering system is also provided which can be used in case the fly-by-wire system fails. Another very crucial aspect of technology at the lifeboats is communication. The main technology used is the very high frequency (VHF) and medium frequency (MF) radio. The RNLI has been analyzing the potential that satellite broadband holds to help in sending and receiving data. Most likely, satellite broadband will become more important as new regulations come into play in few years.