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January 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Taste of New Products at DEMA 2017

from the January, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Every year the diving industry gathers at a convention center to meet and greet and launch new initiatives and products. This past November, it was Orlando's turn to host the event. A newcomer to the event was amazed to see icons of the diving industry, such as Bruce Wienke, the man who wrote the algorithm for many popular dive computers, Richard Pyle, the deep diving ichthyologist, National Geographic Explorer in Residence Sylvia Earle, and others like them strolling the aisles. That's typical, but it's also an indication of how small and personable the diving industry is.

EON Core computer by SuuntoEvolution in Diving Computers

As usual, there were few revolutionary products on display in the main hall (these days it's "gentle evolution"). For example, Suunto displayed its EON Core computer, a recreational version of the original EON steel (with the same intuitive 3-button menu logic) suitable for less deep diving (to only 262 feet (80m) deep), housed in a reinforced composite case but with a similarly sized TFL color display.

Its rechargeable battery is good for 20 to 40 hours and wirelessly connects to a smartphone. With the addition of a suitable Suunto tank POD to a regulator's first-stage, it can monitor up to 10 different gases with the right number of PODs. One can alter the display to suit personal taste by connecting with the Movescount app. Available in 17 different languages, it is expected to sell for $999 plus $440 for a POD. www.suunto.com

Garmin Descent Mk1, Dive ComputerMore notable is that navigation giant Garmin has entered the diving computer arena with the Garmin Descent Mk1, a good-looking oversized- watch platform for a multi-sport diver who wants one instrument to guide him through life. Besides the diving computer functions for recreational, technical (multi-gas) and free diving, it employs a 3-axis compass, a surface GPS, a heart rate monitor, and full-color map displays. It offers sports/training, fitness, and outdoor navigation tools for swimming, running, biking, hiking, skiing, rowing, paddle boarding and more.

Users can save, review and share their dives and other activities via Garmin apps, and even receive texts. The stainless steel model should retail for $999. https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/descent

New to the show, the manufacturer of the COSMIQ+ dive computer, Deep Blu, has created an affordable instrument that wirelessly connects to your smartphone after the dive so that you can effortlessly create digital dive logs and connect with a wider online dive community. It costs $299. https://shop.deepblu.com/products/cosmiq-plus

The annual DEMA show is where optimistic smaller manufacturers display prototypes to gauge their acceptability. The Thalatoo MAOI is such a product, a computer prototype that a diver straps directly over her mask so that at depth she can read dive duration remaining, no-deco time, ascent-rate and safety stop time on a head-up display. We'll have to wait to see if it comes to market. www.thalatoo.com

The Ratio Color-Coded Wireless Transmitter has an LED that indicates tank pressure by changing from green to yellow and red on the unit when fitted to a regulator first-stage high-pressure port. It might prove useful to diving instructors who could see at a glance the status of their trainees' air supplies. It is also available as a head-up display and has the option of an occluding cover for the tank unit for those divers who wish to be discreet about their remaining air supply. It works with the iDive and iX3M computers and adds $618 to their price. www.ratio-computers.com

A Plethora of Must-Have Accessories

As usual, scores of must-have accessories were on display. Several companies offered personal oxygen analyzers for nitrox divers. Maxtec offered a version for use with the BC's direct-feed hose. They displayed the iMax Dive Buddy, a discreet wireless data logger that works unattended while you dive and interfaces directly with a smartphone app, and you can even download your dive profile direct to your Facebook page. www.maxtecscuba.com

OpenRV Trident Underwater DroneThe plethora of underwater drones makes one wonder if the market is trying to persuade people to visit the underwater world without getting wet! Typical was the OpenRV Trident Underwater Drone that enables 1080p HD video down to a depth of 330 feet (100m). Pre-order for $1500. www.openrov.com

Underwater photography is ruling the diving world, and endless booths exhibited light sources and camera housings.

The GoPro's little HD cameras have taken the dive community by storm, and every year the company produces an improved model. This year it was the GoPro Hero 6 Black, which automatically sends footage to a smartphone three-times faster than before. With 4k 60 fps and 1080p 240 fps video, it delivers twice the performance when compared with the previous model, the Hero 5 Black. Of course, there's a price hike. It costs around $500. In the past, GoPro has had the biggest and most impressive booth, but, a sign of cutbacks, it was left to the company Backscatter to tell the story. www.backscatter.com

Though divers are obsessed with attaching these little cameras to themselves, they often come back with nothing but recordings of their exhaled bubbles. A novel device that might solve the problem is a camera mount that fits on the front of a diver's regulator, thus avoiding the bubbles while allowing the user to monitor the LCD screen and see what she's recording. The Reg-Mount costs $35 from www.regmount.com.

Indigo industries demonstrated its new and novel BZ-Delta wing-style BCD, which has buckles that are activated magnetically but held shut mechanically. A built-in lighting system that features 2000 lumens of hands-free illumination at the front and colored lights at the back not only indicates a diver's position in the water, but the rear lights change color according to the status of his air-supply. Is this a technological advance that we can really do without? www.indigo-industries.com

hand-held ScubajetBig diver propulsion vehicles (DPV) were less obviously on display than before, which might reflect the problems of transporting big lithium batteries by air. Much smaller, the novel hand-held Scubajet uses jetpower instead of a propeller. Weighing just 6.6 pounds ((3kg), the Austrian-made device generates 44 pounds (20kg) of thrust up to an hour, yet measures only 16 x 3 inches (42 x 8 cm) with its 200 w/hr 'travel' battery pack attached. A bigger 400w/hr battery gives a twohour run-time. It's roughly $1600, much less expensive than conventional DPVs, yet powerful enough to push a small surface craft, too. It might be the perfect accessory for divers daunted by dive sites with strong currents, and its price and weight make it a viable accessory choice. www.scubajet.com

The unique SWES Technology D-1001 dive light from Canada generates its power from seawater and requires no special maintenance. It has an energy cell with an anode and cathode with electric power generated by seawater as the electrolyte. This means that forgetting to recharge or replace batteries in a diver's flashlight, or running out of charge during a dive, might be a thing of the past -- for ocean diving at least. Price to be announced. www.swestechnology.com

GripMore FinsThere will always be companies offering improved-design fins, and this year a Taiwanese company showed GripMore Fins that had a surface coated with a surface resembling fish scales for ostensibly better grip on the water. We'll have to wait to see if the claims are true or whether it's a "one DEMA product." www.reefdivers.io/gripmore-power-scale-fins/4732.

Realizing that the diving market is aging, Scubapro has come up with a mask where the user can easily change the optical lenses at home, without returning the mask to a dealer or resorting to special tools. Sensibly Scubapro has made both negative and positive lenses available, bearing in mind that we older divers suffer from ever shortening arms! The Zoom EVO basic mask costs about $68. www.scubapro.com

A small British company is leading the way in conservation with a range of beachwear made from recovered and recycled ghost fishing nets and the Fourth Element Thermocline wetsuit, now made entirely neoprene-free and machine-washable. www.fourthelement.com. The company is aiming to eliminate plastic packaging of its products entirely by 2020.

Looking for New Markets and Meeting Old Friends

The dive industry is flagging. Open water dive certifications have been declining in the U.S. during the past decade, and the industry's various marketing techniques have not reversed the trend.†That, and expanding online sales have caused hundreds of dive stores to close.† At this year's DEMA show, CEO Tom Ingram discussed DEMA's social media marketing strategy.†Recognizing that minority participation in the sport is minuscule while America's minority middle class is growing wealthier, DEMA's well-conceived marketing pieces featured plenty of people of color. It was heartening to see the joys of diving presented to the full range of ethnically diverse Americans.

DEMA show attendance is limited to by dive professionals, and as such, is less frenetic than consumer shows. It allows dive shops organizing group dive trips to compare what different dive operators worldwide have to offer. There are also well-attended seminars, and it's a great opportunity for divers to catch up with old friends from around the world.

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