Panbo

N2KView, PGNs get packetized

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 5, 2007

N2KView_screen_builder_cPanbo

Check out the full size screen shot. I took it here at my desk while designing a custom screen for Maretron’s N2KView monitoring and control application. I was picturing myself the master of a high-end cruiser putting together the screen I’d like to have accessible anywhere on the boat—and off it—when anchored. Which is completely possible, given the concept at work here. In fact, the data you see is real stuff coming out the lab’s NMEA 2000 network, through a Maretron USB Gateway into the lab laptop where it’s being packetized and served into my home network, in this case via WiFi. Zounds!


That means that if and when I figure out how to access my network via Internet, and Maretron comes up with smart phone N2KView client software (promised, and seen in the prototype), I could have this data in my pocket. Some controls too, as N2K can be used for digital switching (and is used bigtime in the Octoplex distributed power system built by Maretron partner Carling). At any rate, with N2KView I could be, say, lounging in a Saint Tropez cafe, yet still able to mind my boat laying in that port’s exposed outside anchorage (hey, it’s Friday, an anniversary of that sweet junket, and a guy’s got to dream). 
   By the way, on that screen above I’m placing an outside temperature gauge just below the barometer. I’ve already chosen the data source and type of gauge and now I’m offered the chance to custom scale the colors used. Once done, it and all the other gauges are resizable and movable until I exit the screen design mode. Pretty slick, but N2KView is still more vision than reality, especially given its $3,000 price tag. It needs to learn more data types (how about that Set and Drift info I discovered in my network), gain more screen design flexibility, and, above all, get lots of routines for establishing alarms and logical controls. Plus I should note that Maretron is not the first to packetize N2K data and distribute it via Ethernet. Raymarine’s been doing that for a while, and Garmin has gotten started (Krill too).
   But Maretron does not have charting software or networked displays to sell, and the principals there are true believers in NMEA 2000 as an interoperable standard. Actually they told me that they would be willing to work with NMEA to make their packetizing scheme part of the Standard. Which in retrospect should have happened in the first place! That train may have left the station, but there is some good news coming for developers just wanting to use N2K data in PC software without racking up big certification costs. It’s called Intelligent Gateway and I’ll write about it soon. (PS, media people should note that Maretron has announced a FLIBS N2KView press conference.)  


N2KServer_screen_cPanbo

Comments

This is really cool... on the other hand, in addition to loving boats, I work in computer security, and I have to say, navionics command and control via wireless really, deeply scares me. I'd love to talk to these people and make sure they do this right, because if it does make it to a standard, there's only going to be one chance to get it right before it's too late, and there's an installed base out there just waiting for tragedy to strike.

Posted by: Dymaxion at October 5, 2007 9:32 PM | Reply

Well, you almost had me until you mentioned that it was $3,000 for a bit of software. I used to do this sort of work, and that is a pretty excessive price for what looks to be a bunch of VBA ole controls. (By the way, why is the "W" upside-down and the "N" right side up on the compass control?)

Somebody is laughing all the way to the bank. (Hint, the entire operating system that you use actually costs the computer manufacturers about $40, and it represents almost a million man hours of work.)

Posted by: George at October 6, 2007 12:00 AM | Reply

Back down on planet earth, most of us won't spend $3K for this s/w. However, this sort of UI configuration tool would help sell a lot more DSM250 displays. It's far superior to configuring that display with four buttons and a seemingly infinite array of nested menu's.

Hybrid systems, configured on one platform for use on another can capture the strengths and benefits of both. In this case the large display / keyboard / mouse and comparitive ease of use of the PC, with the comparitively lower cost and better reliability of a DSM250.

Configure on the PC with a free program, upload the display config to the DSM250 and you've transformed a flexible but tedious to configure product into a highly desireable product.

Ease of use sells products.

Posted by: Russ at October 8, 2007 12:35 AM | Reply

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