Actually there’s an argument that Raymarine’s leading multifunction systems are also getting Internet-connected, though that company is taking a far different approach (www.raymarine.com). A new feature of its existing E-Widescreen and G Series — no software update required — is called Plotter Sync. You do have to equip your boat with a local Wi-Fi network, but then any Navionics Mobile charting app — which now includes iPhone, iPad, Android and PC versions — can wirelessly communicate with your Raymarine system (www.navionics.com). What you’ll see initially is automatic route and track synchronization, as in plan-a-trip-at-home, and, bada-bing, it’s on the plotter when you step aboard, and later the actual track of your adventure syncs to the phone when you’re ready to show off at the bar. As with the Standard Horizon’s MFD-to-Internet relationship, this MFD-to-mobile-to-Internet twist opens the gate to further integrations, be it receiving boat-sensor data on the tablet or bringing chart updates to the boat on your phone. And it’s worth adding that Navionics wants its charting apps to play nicely with all electronics that support its charts, and that C-Map has just introduced its own charting apps.
There’s a third, and truly radical, way that the Internet and consumer electronics may converge on yachts. Some believe that MFDs will rapidly slip away as fixed marine electronics evolve into a series of smart sensors, like NMEA 2000 depth transducers and Ethernet radar scanners all streaming data to whatever familiar assemblage of phones, tablets and conventional computers a boater wants to use. There’s some sense to the vision, but count me skeptical about rapid adoption because rugged, bright-screen consumer electronics and a willingness by marine manufacturers to free up their big sensor data have to come fi rst, and neither is a sure thing. However, this sort of architecture lends itself to several auxiliary systems that are available right now.
Digital Yacht’s new BoatraNet (www.digitalyacht.co.uk) is a dedicated server designed to feed rudimentary Navionics charting, a library of documents, streaming audio/video and more to any combination of onboard Wi-Fi devices, using just their browsers, not even an app. I logged my iPad onto a demo in moments and was immediately impressed with how it might improve life aboard not only for new crew and guests but also for troubleshooting skippers and technicians, and Digital Yacht has just gotten started. While the system already offers linking between all onboard mobile devices and a yacht’s high-power Wi-Fi-to-Internet hardware, integration with offshore communications as well as more built-in resources like weather feeds, plus data support for third-party apps, are all in the works.