Maretron is using a similar technique to expand its N2KView monitoring and control system to mobile devices on and off the boat (www.maretron.com). A live demo that let me view an engine room camera and switch on lights from my iPad thousands of miles away gave me a powerful sense of where this technology is going, even for midsize yachts. Meanwhile, this general convergence of apps and specialized electronics has taken an interesting turn when it comes to inexpensive low-bandwidth satellite communications.
Many boaters have already found Globalstar’s little orange SPOT Messenger (www.findmespot.com) useful for sending ashore canned messages and tracking info, and comforting as a backup distress tool. SPOT Connect offers all those functions in a tiny black-box form with a Bluetooth connection to a phone app that makes managing them much simpler and even lets you type in short custom messages. And an entirely new product, BriarTek’s Cerberus, combines the same ingenious app control idea with fast, reliable Iridium satellite messaging that is not only truly global, but also two-way. You could be anywhere on the planet using a familiar mobile device to text with family, business associates or even a search-and-rescue organization. BriarTek is also using Cerberus’ two-way abilities to provide a variety of services like position-aware weather alerts and custom news flashes.
So far I’ve discussed convergence largely in terms of melding the Internet and/or apps with formerly discrete marine electronics, but the latter are coming together too. There’s probably no better example than all the extra functions Simrad (www.simrad-yachting.com) has incorporated into its NSE multifunction display series, much of which I’ve gotten to test on Gizmo. Upgrading to Simrad’s latest autopilot processor let me dispense with the flying bridge control head and instead run the autopilot using small or large portions of the NSE 12’s bright color screen along with its versatile button and knob layout. Similarly, the SonicHub black-box A/V system that Fusion Audio builds for Simrad freed up more helm space while letting me use that big screen to peruse and manage a docked iPod Touch’s playlists of tunes and videos. C-Zone monitoring and systems-control technology can also join an NSE network, and in each case there are interesting integration pluses. For instance, when I build or select a route on the NSE 12’s plotter screen now, a pop-up asks politely if I’d like the AP to steer it.
There are many more examples — like the way Raymarine and Furuno/MaxSea (www.furunousa.com) are building complete camera management into their navigation suites — and most all these fixed-gear integrations could get even more interesting when they further converge with mobile apps and/or Internet. But I trust you’re getting the idea, though perhaps rolling your eyes vigorously. Indeed, convergence can be confusing, and can even seem outlandish at times, but there’s no holding it back. Please search my blog at www.yachtingmagazine.com/blogs for more details on all the products mentioned here and ongoing entries on the general subject, possibly filed from a chart plotter on my flying bridge.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.