iKommunicate from Digital Yacht, Signal K gets kickstarted

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 26, 2015

iKommunicate Signal K proof of concept aPanbo.jpgSorry for the fuzzy photo, but it makes sense as the iKommunicate Signal K Gateway isn't a real product yet, and the real product may look quite different from the "Proof of Concept" prototype above if it actually materializes early next year. Why so vague? What's happening here is a techy chicken and egg thing. Digital Yacht was understandably hesitant about developing a gateway for Signal K apps and services that hardly exist yet, but the Signal K universal boat data concept -- open source, entirely free, and created by unfunded volunteers -- needs a commercial level NMEA gateway so that third party developers can easily show us what the potential apps and services can do. That's my understanding of why DY launched the iKommunicate Kickstarter campaign and also why I'm hoping that fellow boat geeks and related companies will join me in backing the project and thus helping Signal K become real...

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TBF: NV Cuba, YB3 free, Furuno GP1x70F steals, BT VHF, and Sailing A

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 23, 2015

TBF_logo_Panbo.jpgApologies in advance to Panbo readers who've complained about too many acronyms, because I'm adding a new one. The idea of Tidbit Friday (TBF) is to create an entry type where I can share some of the juicy morsels I often come across as I indulge my endless appetite for marine electronics and the wider world of boating. You won't see one every Friday, but when I started listing possible recent subjects, it sure got long in a hurry. There's lots I can do with one image and a paragraph...

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NMEA 2015: FLIR, Shakespeare, Humminbird, Lumishore, Intellian, Nobeltec & more

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 20, 2015

NMEA_2015_Signal_K_cPanbo.jpgWhile the big manufacturers showed off some great stuff at the NMEA 2015 Conference, there was also a lot to get excited about in the seminars and expo hall. Discussion of the open source Signal K marine data protocol, for instance, was not just a NMEA first but drew a standing-room-only crowd, twice. Soon I hope to list some of the interesting small and medium-size developers who are adopting SK and also share some good news about how interested boaters can get involved in the first public gateway project. In the meantime, here are some of my Conference highlights...

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Veethree Engine Gateway/Monitor is powerful, coming EGM 800 is wow

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 12, 2015

VeeThree_EGM_kit_cPanbo.jpgVeethree is a serious instrumentation company with significant engineering and manufacturing facilities in Florida and India (impressive corporate video here). The vast majority of their business is OEM, so while the ruggedly-built Engine Gateway Monitor (EGM) above is packaged as a retail product, you're not apt to see one at a marine store and it's even hard to find at Veethree (go to the bottom of this marine page). But my testing suggests that it could be useful on many boats, especially with a few of the firmware features coming to its big brother, the 800 EGM...

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NMEA Conference 2015, back-to-back good times with the Big Four

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 6, 2015

NMEA Conference Schedule 9-27-15 cPanbo.jpgThose early morning Google Calender notifications above indicate my awesome Wednesday schedule during last week's 2015 NMEA Conference. It's tempting to presume that the back-to-back demo trips around Baltimore Harbor with the Big Four manufacturers mark peak intensity for my career as a marine electronics pundit, but actually the whole industry seems to be in good shape with the pace of innovation quickening...

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Raymarine LightHouse 14 sailing features, as good as they look?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 24, 2015

Raymarine_LH14_sailing_features_cPanbo_.jpgWhen pretending to sail, I go for high performance. That's why the screen above seems to show Gizmo exceeding true wind speed while extremely close hauled. But pretending is also why I can't truly review the new sailing features that came to all current Raymarine multifunction displays last May, thanks to a free LightHouse 14 operating system update. Additionally, most of the features described in the press release are about racing, which I did little of even when I was sailing a lot. But let's walk through the new Raymarine MFD capabilities anyway, and hopefully we'll hear from sailors who've actually used these tools or the similar ones offered by B&G and Garmin...

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MFD engine alarming improves, but still needs more Maretron-ization

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 17, 2015

Garmin_741_engine_alarm.jpgOn Oct. 4th I'll present a seminar titled "Electronic Engine Monitoring Comes of Age" at TrawlerFest Bay Bridge in Stevensville, Maryland. This Garmin 741 photo will be useful as it shows three new and different ways Gizmo's old diesel engine can now indicate a low oil pressure problem. Thanks to the Actisense EMU-1 I installed in 2013, the simple low pressure alarm switch on the Volvo Penta can trigger an informative pop-up (and audio alarm) on all the networked Garmin screens regardless of what function(s) they're showing. And if the engine gauge page is up, the familiar low oil pressure icon lights up and, better yet, the customizable digital psi dial can go red based not on the alarm switch, but rather on a minimum pressure I've set. That's all good, but modern marine electronics can do even better...

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One LED flare replaces U.S. required pyros, Sirius Signal but not Ocean Signal

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 14, 2015

Sirius Signal LED flare aPanbo.jpg

The pitch is compelling. The $100 Sirius Signal SOS C-1001 LED "flare" isn't just a floating SOS flasher visible at night "up to 10+ nautical miles...for at least 6 hours." It is also the only such device that meets the U.S. Coast Guard requirements for an electric distress light and can thus permanently replace the three pyrotechnic flares otherwise required on all U.S. recreational vessels over 16 feet operating in coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and many major rivers (and on even smaller boats at night). Given that the cheapest flare set costs about $33 and expires 42 months after manufacturing (and you might not want the cheapest because pyros are inherently dangerous to you and the environment), the Sirius substitute may be a "no brainer"...

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On The Water ICW ChartGuides, more great work from Mark & Diana Doyle

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 7, 2015

OTW_ChartGuide_ICW_vol1_ed1_aPanbo.JPGMy expectations for the recently announced On The Water ChartGuides were high, but darn if checking out a whole 120 page review copy didn't blow me away (and I'm already familiar with most of the Intracoastal Waterway that Volume 1 covers). The two new ChartGuides are also remarkably inexpensive in print or electronic formats, just like OTW's other ICW guides. My only complaint? The Doyles are such skilled and prolific communicators that I feel like a piker!

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Calypso Cups Bluetooth LE wind sensor, TDWLB pressure too

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 27, 2015

Calypso_CUPS4_Bluetooth_wind_sensor_boxed_cPanbo_.jpgCalypso Marine Instruments is a new company located in Spain and their first product is the CUPS 4 wireless and solar-powered wind sensor seen above before assembly. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy -- also known as BLE or Smart Bluetooth -- to send wind data to BLE compatible mobile devices. I've used both iOS and Android versions of Calypso's own AnemoTracker app to view the data, but other apps can access it and a NMEA bridge/display will porportedly be introduced at METS...

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