If you’ve been studying up on NavNet 3D, or watched yesterday’s video, you’d know that Furuno describes the product’s remarkably fast and smooth charting engine as based on “Time Zero” technology. And it’s so distinctive—especially, say, when you go into 3D mode and freely fly around placing a route, eye-balling radar overlay, etc.—that it deserves a name. However, Iker Pryszo, whose father Bryce founded MaxSea way back in 1985, explained to me that “Time Zero” has an entirely other meaning. In the life of a software program there comes a TIME to dump all the old code and start again at line ZERO. That’s just what MaxSea did some four years ago, even starting with a new programming language (though Iker didn’t say which). So apparently while some developers continued to work on the old code—evolving MaxSea up to its present 12.5 version, plus building the module that can integrate 12.5 with Furuno NavNet vx2 system—others worked on MaxSea Time Zero, the entirely fresh product that launches tomorrow at the Paris Boat Show. Judging from the screen shot above, bigger here , Time Zero is much more like what we’ve been seeing demoed on the NavNet 3D machines than it is any earlier version of MaxSea, despite those familiar icons running down the left side. And I’m told that the two, NN3D and MSTZ, are going to work together very nicely. Plus, simultaneous with Time Zero, MaxSea’s cartography company MapMedia is announcing a wide expansion of its coverage including new vector charts “Powered by Navionics”, with 3D data and photo maps, and new raster areas. Hopefully, there will be much more detail on all this at www.MaxSea.com very, very soon.
Above are Furuno Product Manager Eric Kunz and MaxSea developer Iker Pryszo at METS, where they had good reason to grin; Furuno’s booth was as jumping in Holland as it was in Florida. I can’t recall a marine electronics product that’s ever generated such a buzz. This comment from Milt Baker—“I thought NavNet 3D was the big hit of the Lauderdale show and I believe it will have a huge influence on the course taken by the marine electronics industry in the years ahead.”—is representative of many I’ve heard. And NN3D admirers include the best informed and most critical group I know…the product managers at Furuno’s competitors.
In addition to the networked GB40 series, Simrad also debuted the single station NX series at METS. Again there’s no information online yet, but a student of marine electronics will take one look at the image above and already know a lot about NX. Yes indeedy, I first tested, and liked, that 12.1” screen as the Navman 8120. Then at METS 2006 , when Brunswick New Technologies decided to drop the Navman brand in the U.S., the 8120 became the Northstar M120 and got a 8.4” sibling, the M84. But again, while you can learn a lot about the Simrad NX series by checking these Northstar pages, the units are not exactly the same. You guessed it, the NX40 and NX45 will both support SimNet/NMEA 2000. (Have I mentioned that 2008 is turning out to be the year of N2K!)
There’s nothing online yet, but Simrad did debut its Glass Bridge 40 series at METS. It’s somewhat familiar because it’s obviously based on the existing Northstar 8000i system, but it is not just a rebranded product. For starters the GB40 doesn’t utilize touch screens, instead offering more conventional monitors in 10–, 15–, and 19–inch sizes, and the OP30 controller—which is shown below, and can sit in an inset cradle—is nothing like the 8000i keyboard. Plus the GB40 only comes in a black box version, and that box, unlike the 8000i’s, has a SimNet/NMEA 2000 connector on it. (Have I mentioned that 2008 is turning out to be the year of N2K!)
Comar Systems introduced no less than five new AIS products at METS, most of them seen in the photo above, bigger here. Together with Comar’s existing receiver and Class B transponder, they represent about every AIS possibility there is…except for one-channel-at-a-time receivers which Comar doesn’t believe in. Neither does SeaCas. I agree, and think they’ll go away fairly fast once navigators see how slow one-channel-at-a-time Class B plotting is, and also as Class B hardware becomes less expensive. At any rate, here’s a page of new Comar gear, including a lower cost ($440 retail) true dual channel receiver, an Etherneted IP-talking receiver (the more shore stations the better!), and a $3,000 Class A transponder that might possibly be fit on non mandatory vessels without the need for the separate $1,150 display. Meanwhile, Panbo reader Kurt Schwer, blogging from the eNavigation 2007 conference in Seattle, reported that the USCG’s Jorge Arroyo predicted that U.S. Class B sales will start in December. A thank you to Kurt, and let’s hope.
That’s Charlie Hsu, sales & marketing guy for Alltek Marine Electronics Corp. (AMEC), along with the company’s chief engineer. They were at METS looking for companies interested in distributing their Class B AIS, mentioned here last April. When showing me the unit, Hsu pointed out some yellow colored targets and explained that they were “buddy” boats. “Oh, you mean like the Simrad AI50’s buddy feature?” said I. “Exactly like that!,” replied Hsu, laughing. Then he showed me a new MOB product Alltek is working on, seen below (with the AIS display used to plot MOBs). Of course I said “Oh, you mean like Raymarine’s LifeTag system?” “Exactly like!” answered a proud Mr. Hsu.
So one of many things I’m feeling thankful for on this Thanksgiving day (here in the states) is the computer and Internet technology I’m still fascinated by, and which is crucial to the way I enjoyably make my living. So I decided to participate in the One Laptop Per Child GoGo program. GoGo stands for “Give one, Get one” and means my $400 will get a nifty seeming XO laptop (Pogue take here) given to a child in the third world, plus one sent here to Panbo World Headquarters. Who knows, maybe some of the component technology—like the small but high res and inexpensive sunlight viewable display—will be useful on boats. Plus I’ve got a geekish little nephew who may soon be ready for his first computer. Maybe you too should GoGo?
Since Sunday I’ve been testing a SPOT—the Globalstar-based “satellite messenger” first mentioned here in August—and I’m impressed. Check out the full size screen shot above, which shows me out in Muscongus Bay this morning (being shown a very cool cruising power cat, more info to come). The mapping is a little confusing because events are numbered backwards chronologically, and time is given in GMT (both quite fixable on the Web site, I think). So at #10 I activated SPOT’s “OK” function which sent a canned email/SMS, along with a Google Map link, to a list of people I’d set up on my SPOT Web page, where I can also customize the OK and Help messages. Then a few minutes later, at #9, I activated the tracking function which, as promised, sent an automatic position every ten minutes thereafter. Only position #7 is an anomaly; we weren’t over on that side of the island. At any rate, the unit is fairly easy to use, and seems to offer a lot of safety value and tracking/check-in function for the money. I do wish I’d had a chance to try it in Europe, which is supposedly under Globalstar’s not-quite-global footprint, but at least we do know that this technology works fine from Norfolk to the U.S.V.I., as discussed recently. Remember, Globalstar short messaging does not have the problems voice/email does…and, fellow yanks, here’s wishing you a fine Thanksgiving.
I took to the Simrad AI50 at first sight, but the more I learn the more I like. Above is the back of a unit I played with in demo mode at the NMEA Conference, and I’ve also been checking out the manual (available here). Here’s what I’ve learned so far. First of all, as indicated by those dual (daisy chained) SimNet cables above, the AI50 is a NMEA 2000 AIS transponder, the only one I know of. In fact it also puts out AIS plot data on 0183, but I think the included GPS is N2K, and so are some of the network features. Like easily initiating a DSC VHF call to an AIS target, without having to type in its MMSI number. (At the back of the manual, Simrad has nicely listed all the standard and proprietary PGNs the AI50 uses, but I still can’t tell if this feature will work with other manufacturers N2K radios, though right now Simrad has the only ones.)
It’s official. Today Inmarsat flipped the switch on the marine version of BGAN, dubbed Fleet Broadband. It’s been a while coming, as noted here last March, but the good news is that the smallest dome turns out to be less than a foot tall. Thus the new KVH TracPhone FB250 is almost the same size as the company’s existing TP 252 dome (Inmarsat Mini-M), as shown above in a photo I took at the NMEA Conference back in mid-October when KVH officially introduced the products. The big difference is that the Mini-M offers “dial-up” style data service “up to 9.6 Kbps” while the FB250 offers a “standard IP” always-on connection “up to 284 Kbps”. The bad news is that this wee dome still costs about $13,000 and pay-as-you-go data is about $13.50 per MB. Now that data cost is less than the earlier Fleet series (which charged in megabits not megabytes), but it’s still wicked costly if you want to surf the Web the way most of us do at home or work.