Sir Peter Maire has a passionate interest in electronics and has become highly talented at developing products and companies.
Kinghted by the Queen of England for his services to business and technology, Sir Peter Maire has reinvented the marine entertainment industry and has set a course for FUSION as the worlds leading innovator of new entertainment technologies, purpose built for the marine environment.
We sat down with Sir Peter Maire to uncover the history, which led to us all being here today.
At the start, how did Navman marine become successful?
We knew digital navigation instruments were a winner, but were always concerned about cost, especially the platform. Whilst trying to decide on a cost-effective microprocessor we could use, we had had a look at the opposition products and they were all pretty conventional system components.
I happened to look at multi-function telephones that came out in the mid to late 80’s, with LCD displays and ‘millions’ of functions, really clever technology. So I said to Barry Gillard who was our one and only hardware and software engineer when we first started: ‘Barry what do you think of this funny telephone, it’s got a keypad LCD display, and does a lot more than any navigation instrument would do. I wonder if we should have a look.’ So we tore the bottom off and sure enough, there was one microprocessor which was built by a company called AKM or AsahiKASEI, still a major supplier of semiconductors.
Over about five years we developed in the region of 60 different digital navigation instruments for speed, depth, wind, repeaters, fuel computer and the like. No-one could figure out how we made this huge price- break ahead of the rest of the industry, until they started taking our instruments apart and looking inside. Then it took them all a few years to catch up.
When did Navman start?
Originally the company was called Talon technology. Up until the mid ‘90s everything we built was for the US market and not using our own brand. We started looking at Europe and a big distributor had registered this wonderful brand name NAVMAN. We ended up doing a deal - we bought the brand for a dollar and gave them the distribution rights. It turned out to be a great brand and as the market slowly developed, we entered consumer navigation.
Did you sell Navman electronics before starting FUSION Electronics?
FUSION came later on. We sold Navman to Brunswick then I took a small share- holding in FUSION and I bought twenty percent of Raycon New Zealand, publicly-listed it and Raycon is now a very large global company.
FUSION started in about 2000. The first time I saw the FUSION brand was at the annual CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas and had never heard of the company before.
In 2005 I bought twenty percent shareholding. The guys had done a great job building the brand plus distribution, but areas like financial management were weak. I have now taken over the company and building it into the most innovative marine and car entertainment brand worldwide.
The future for FUSION?
Navigation has done really well in boats. At Navman we developed everything from a $50 digital sounder all the way up to a Radar. Probably 10 years ago we said ‘the world needs a great marine entertainment system - something that’s really designed for boats and not just modified car products. Not just a car radio painted white!’ Many brands modify their car products for marine, so the idea of buying into FUSION was to also use it as a platform for marine.
We started with the 500 series head units and now the 600, however our new 200 series technology will be the platform for the future. It boasts a very powerful processor core - an ARM9 or ARM11 (we are currently using the ARM9 version), a new ST micro platform thats used being developed for the automotive industry.
What we plan to do is give the boat-owner the entertainment system he's always been looking for, instead of the hodge-podge of things that you see on large boats today. The 200 has the capabilities and is very iPod-centric, with USB functionality plus the fact that our products are truly marine with all diecast cases, marine environment-resistant and injection moulded parts, built similar to a navigation instrument