A company called Marine Robotic Vessels (MRV) International has developed the Ghost Guard. This brilliantly named vessel (an Unmanned Surface Vessel or USV) uses some technologies that will hopefully be available to all of us very soon. It will give 'push-button sailing' a whole different meaning...
"Almost any hull can be configured by MRVI as a Ghost Guard� to function as an affordable method of mounting water-borne surveillance in all weathers and by day and night. The heart of the Ghost Guard system is MRVI's new generation software, which comprises remote command and control, navigation, route planning/re-planning, event and crisis management, full onboard diagnostics and dial-up diagnostics. COTS-sourced integrated systems, including camera and vision systems, will provide surveillance that could not be mounted in any other way. Using a launch and recovery system, Ghost Guard can be deployed, operated and recovered from vessels underway." Click here to download the Ghost Guard video (62MB, .avi).
Having cheaper, faster and easier internet access at sea is what we all want. Boeing's announcement in January that they would launch their Connexion service (satellite-powered broadband connectivity for commercial airliners) for the maritime market as well was very much welcomed. Although there still aren't any further details available with regard to launch dates, pricing, etc, here you can read an article by a Boeing employee explaining why they are making this move in the first place.
"Vessels need to stay connected, no matter where they are in the world-close to shore or in the shipping lanes across the Pacific and other oceanic regions," said Connexion by Boeing President Scott Carson. The available maritime market could include as many as 35,000 ships worldwide, he added."
Since I was discussing Bluetooth-enabled devices already, here is a round-up of different Bluetooth GPS receivers currently available. Although the review is focused on the use of these devices together with PDA's with streetmap software installed, they are compliant with NMEA standards. This means they will work with your Pocket PC navigation software as well. Just beware of the fact that they are not necessarily ready for use in a (harsh) maritime environment.
There is definitely a benefit in using this type of solution over using something like Mitac's Pocket PC with integrated GPS: "The major benefit of a Bluetooth-enabled GPS receiver is that it doesn�t have to be physically connected to the Pocket PC. That eliminates a tangle of cables that dangle in your way while you are walking or driving. In addition, Bluetooth solutions let you position the GPS receiver for optimal GPS reception, and your Pocket PC separately for the best viewing. Bluetooth can travel around corners, and through clothing and other material."
I've talked about the potential of radar and navigation capabilities on cellphones before, but in Japan it is already happening. Although currently meant for navigation in a city environment, it's a perfect example of how cellphones are becoming powerful enough to perform such functions. Combine that with the fact that both cellphones and marine instruments are becoming more and more Bluetooth-enabled, so they can communicate wirelessly, and you will realize that we don't need a dedicated navigation-PC anymore.... Just the monitor.
"Japanese firms Index and Jicoux have developed a navigation system application that runs on 3G GPS phones with digital compasses (which, at the moment, means KDDI's au service in Japan). It includes the ability to show a "radar display" of the location of nearby friends, places of interest, or bus and train stations useful in getting to your destination. There's also a B2B aspect to the service in that, as with most web-based map systems, it would be possible to pay to have your business location displayed on the radar."
I've been waiting for something like this, and I know I'm not the only one. To have easy access to a database with up-to-date and detailed marina information is a great step forward, especially when cruising in unknown areas. And it will just be a matter of time before innovative services will be offered as an add-on. I would not be surprised to see some community driven and/or open source alternatives very soon however.
"Coming soon to the site will be the ability to make slip reservations and other important arrangements right over the Internet, as well as direct to one's chart plotter. Users will also be able to store screen pictures and routes saved in the 'My Marina' section."
Now here's a great way of generating electricity. Forget about solar, wind or generators. The waste you flush down the toilet could one day power your equipment on board. And...."even better, the device breaks down the harmful organic matter as it generates the electricity, so it does the job of a sewage-treatment plant at the same time. Penn State's microbial fuel cell (MFC) harnesses chemical techniques similar to those the body uses to break down food - but diverts the electrons liberated in the reactions to produce electrical energy."
But, don't get to enthousiastic to soon since this system would produce only 51 kilowatts on the waste from 100,000 people....
Definitely not the most inspiring gadget I have ever seen, but at a price of $20 I'm sure there are people that will see this 'very mobile radio' device and conclude that this is exactly what they were looking for....
"Smaller than the size of your palm, the CapRadio fits on the back of your cap, on your shoulder or on the collar of your shirt. The reception is about the same as any Walkman - obviously don't take it for lengthy offshore trips - but at the dock or floating around the bay you should be fine. When you walk, it doesn't jostle, and the tight-fit clip keeps it nice and snug up against your hat."
Interview with Gizmodo.com about me and why I started this weblog four weeks ago.
"Yme Bosma's Panbo.com, the marine electronics and communications weblog, has quickly become a favorite here at Gizmodo, with its sharp focus and incisive writing. We're happy that Yme took the time to participate in the first in a series of 'Gadget Weblog Spotlights' that we'll be running throughout the next few weeks. Our hope is to draw your attention to some of the great gadget reporting that's being done out on the web."
The BBC is running a story on the advances of in-car entertainment. It's not difficult to see how all of this can be applied to yachts as well. Especially the smaller, multi-cabin, boats will benefit from the economies of scale that are being realized in the automotive industry. It's not difficult, nor very expensive (Amazon), to create a personalized entertainment set-up in every cabin. And in the cockpit or saloon as well for that matter. In case you don't feel like any roof-mounted displays, why not use Sony's new wireless Air Board (LF-X1) which is for sale as of last Friday.
One other nice feature that is discussed by the BBC article is voice-control over all these entertainment devices. Again, the development in the automotive sector will create a precedent for yachting. Voice-control can not only be applied to entertainment, but to navigation as well, even more since PC technology is making a strong entry into the maritime environment.
"We're also building in 20GB hard drives Now you can take your home movies, and potentially other DVDS, record them onto a disc, record them onto a unit and keep them in the car. Now you don't actually have to bring in the DVD or the discs."
"A lot of it is voice-controlled and voice-interactive as well, the navigation systems, for example. But voice technology is far from perfect, and a screen can also be a life-saver. A rear view mirror can be connected to a video camera on the back bumper, or simply show an image of the backseat, obviously of potential use for baby monitoring."
I was reading about Geronimo's advances into the Roaring Forties in their attempt to break a record and win the Jules Verne Trophy 2004. The article mentioned that Geronimo could not go any further south because of reports of large icebergs, although they had sophisticated (Fujinon military) nightvision equipment on board. When I started looking into that, I found out that there's some pretty amazing gear for sale these days. For instance, have a look at the Fujinon Stabiscope Nightvision 3rd Generation. At a price of $16,750 it's not exactly cheap, but what you get is the best there is. And if that's too high a price for you, have a look at Amazon's Fujinon collection. These 'cheaper' binoculars incorporate some of the high-end technologies available in the high-end models.
"Fujinon Day & Night Stabiscope makes it possible to observe in the dark, from a moving car, a boat on heavy seas, or from an airborne helicopter. The image-stabilizing gyro system is incorporated in the binocular to get a steady image while observing from a vibrating platform. The image intensifier tube electronically amplifies very slight light 20,000-30,000 times so that you can see objects at night, too. It's compact, lightweight and waterproof."