Panbo

METS, field reports

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Nov 21, 2008

I’m pleased to pass along METS notes from Andy Murray, Service Manager at Globe Marine, and Kees Verruijt, a software developer/entrepreneur and marine electronics enthusiast. A big thanks to both for some interesting impressions and news nuggets. Of course all biases expressed, or mistakes made, are their own! First up, Andy:

Navico: From what I saw of the radar it looked very impressive but poorly marketed; we only saw the same screenshots as you have online and on the broadband radar web site. There is no pricing or an official launch date; I can say it’s not the prettiest looking unit in the world!

Lowrance: The broadband echo sounder was very impressive and the new HDS units are looking very nice. They are not “NavNet 3D” fast at rendering but they are not exactly what I’d call slow.

Garmin is releasing new firmware next month to make the 4000 / 5000 series “as fast at rendering as Furuno NavNet 3D.”

Furuno have released a new M1835 LCD radar replacing their workhorse 10” CRT unit; this looks very attractive and will be priced to suite. The new NavPilot 611 and other equipment (GP330B and weather station) were on show (not an Airmar but produced in house by Furuno). Also speaking to the R&D Guys about the broadband radar from Navico: “Furuno is heavily down the development path” on solid state radars in S and X band and have field units out there but can’t confirm a release date for this new “radically different from the competition” technology (I think Furuno’s technology will be closer related to Honeywell’s very impressive system).

ICOM is releasing a Class B AIS/radio “soon” according to the MD of ICOM UK. 

Intellian were present in a big way; they are coming to visit us in 2 or 3 weeks to install some demo units on the commercial fishing fleet. Intellian will be releasing a Fleet 33 and Fleet Broadband 250 in January along with the I1 and i2 units for small boats.

Actisense: The delay in the NMEA 2000 gateway has been because they needed to redesign the unit with a 32bit processor since the 16bit processor in the unit shown 2 years ago locked up if NMEA 2000 bandwidth was high. So effectively we will be getting the GATEWAY 2 hopefully January / February 2009. I also met a representative from NMEA on the Actisense stand who was telling Actisense that Maretron’s “USB Gateway” is no longer meeting the NMEA requirements and I think the specs for NMEA2000 have moved a bit.

*****************************************

And here are some notes from Kees that don’t fit with the Navico Broadband RadarPoly-Planar Marine Stereo, and Simrad AT10 entries he’s already commented on.

Lowrance HDS: Lowrance were showing off their new HDS echosounders/chartplotter/radar displays that Ben reported on last month. I was actually very impressed with them, even though the firmware is clearly a work in progress. (I won't bore you with how they locked up and showed various screen artifacts.) Market introduction supposedly to be April/May. They looked clean, neat and modern. Good screen resolution and brightness. Very shallow and frugal on power (< 1 amp @ 12v). coupled with the broadband radar you have an excellent solution for sailboats and smaller powerboats who are careful with their power draw.

Navionics Platinum+ with TurboView: TurboView was also plastered all over the place. Nowhere though (including Furuno) did I see a really convincing demo of 3D that make me actually want to use it in the field. Nice to show off, it does not help actual navigation IMO.

AIS: The first Taiwanese (who I did talk to) and Chinese manufacturers were showing off AIS-B transceivers. See AMEC (Alltek Marine Electronics Corp). They were quoting a USD 800 end user price for the AIS-B receiver without screen.

Plastimo replaces Navman with advanSea: Now that Navico is pulling their brands closer together that left Navimo (known mostly by their Plastimo brand) without the Navman products that they sold very successfully in Europe. They have developed a tit-for-tat replacement brand of that they completely own themselves. The price point is to be the same as Navman, e.g. low-end. The displays looked a little better than Navman, with clearer LCD displays and the capability to show a lot of data . The chart plotters (that the spokesperson still referred to as "Trackers") looks very much the same as the Navman offering, but I don't really know those very well. I didn't see anything really new there. They do offer NMEA 2000 in the plotters and there's supposed to come a conversion box to convert the displays to NMEA 2000 as well. These do NMEA 0183 normally.

Carbon Wireless Display: A small French company ixsuns showed the Tachyon Carbon Wireless Display. With a handmade real carbon fiber case, IP 68 all the way. It supports Mac OS X and Linux as well as Microsoft Windows. It weighs 2,9 kg, has a 12" XGA display with good visibility. The standard version has a power plug, with a battery there's 4 hour autonomy. Touchscreen is also an option. What I liked about this was that there is a provision to put the screen on a VESA stand for the times where you're not carrying it around. It is quite expensive (starts at €3300 without battery). 

Albatross NMEA2000 converters {added 11/24}

Ben logged a brief pointer to Albatross in 2007, but for me it was the first time I'd seen the actual product. For simpler NMEA 2000 installations and refits to existing installations they provide analog to NMEA converters -- which is different from Maretron, Offshore Systems and Lowrance. The interesting idea they have is that a single NMEA 2000 converter can talk to multiple analog sensors, making this a cost effective solution. For instance their ALBA MULTI can interface to not just one but four tank level sensors or any other resistive loads. It can also be used in parallel to existing 0-5V analog (VDO) gauges. That last feature in particular makes it ideal for retrofitting into existing boats.
   I also noticed that they now say on their website that Lyman-Morse is going to test some of their products, so they seem to be expanding internationally. Ben, that's right next door to you isn't it? (At least from where I am!) Albatross also produces a combined software/hardware solution called Albatross On Board which consists of a PC, software and NMEA inputs & outputs. It goes beyond Maretron's N2KView (which is view only as the name says) and seems to be growing towards complete boat control functionality. In other words, more something like Octoplex.

Comments

Ben, whilst your absence from any reports on METS is regrettable, I don't think it's a good idea to use other opinions without first checking them out in the event that they carry no credence. As I've just discovered, Andy Murray (although wearing the title Service Manager) is not technical, and works for a Furuno dealer which is clear from his comments which lean heavily towards Furuno. Kees, on the other hand, is qualified to comment on software.

However, in your own defence you mention both that these are only their opinions and that they differ. When I read your reports I find them professionally presented and objective (as well as enjoyable!) - it's only then that I may or may not read the subsequent comments. Keep up your great work Ben, but don't let others spoil your own efforts!

I hope this post doesn't come across wrongly, I just wanted to say that I regularly read your site because I like what you have to say, and if that provokes discussion then great, but when the personal opinions come without your prior input it doesn't come across as the type of material that I hoped to read.
Steve

Posted by: Steve at November 21, 2008 11:56 AM | Reply

Andy & Kees ... I enjoyed reading both of your field reports. Thanks for sharing with us !

Posted by: Anonymous at November 21, 2008 12:45 PM | Reply

Steve, would like to discuss further, not sure where you get the "not technical" comment from but I would like to discuss this further having worked on most brands of marine electronics on vessels from 5 meters to 300 meters.

Please email me service [at] globemarine.co.uk

I don't try and hide the fact that I work for a reputable Furuno dealer and the Lowrance comments are also echoed by Kees.

I try to keep my views as open as possible to the entire market. I wished i had more time to talk to the Navico engineers about this amazing new product but unfortunately i only was able to see the short video that is on youtube playing on their stand.

If you were at METS perhaps you would like to publish your comments.

Posted by: Andrew Murray at November 21, 2008 2:06 PM | Reply

There's some mystery regarding "a representative from NMEA on the Actisense stand who was telling Actisense that Maretron’s USB Gateway is no longer meeting the NMEA requirements."

Apparently the fact is that here are new NMEA “intelligent gateway” requirements which haven’t been codified yet, which means that no one has a gateway that yet meets the requirements.

Posted by: Ben at November 21, 2008 5:16 PM | Reply

To corroborate what Andrew has stated:

The Actisense folks told me that they started off with a 8 bit controller and then progressively went to 16 and now 32 bit controllers to keep up with high NMEA 2000 traffic. This fits completely with what Andrew said.

On the NMEA requirements, I did not see or speak to a NMEA representative, but Actisense told me that their new gateway enforces NMEA 2000 protocol (as I have already logged to the Simrad AT-10 topic) but they did also say that Maretron's USB gateway does not. They did not suggest to me that Maretron is in violation of the NMEA 2000, only that their approach made it necessary to fully certify all software in combination with the gateway. According to Actisense, their approach would make it easier and cheaper to run a "fully certified" NMEA 2000 system.

My impression is that on the other hand, Maretron would only need a software upgrade to cater for NMEA 2000 extensions and not require any firmware upgrades to the USB gateway itself.

The way I see it the closest software analogy is a "cooked" TCP connection versus "raw" ethernet access. The cooked approach is better suited to applications that are only interested in making 'normal' requests. The raw approach is better for advanced purposes, such as wire analyzers.

In other words: if this is all true the Maretron is better for engineers that need to analyze network traffic and tinker with the data, and the Actisense is safer for day to day work.

Now I have not actually worked with either, so whether there is any real world difference remains to be seen.

What will probably be a big difference is the list price: USD 150 (Actisense) versus USD ~ 350 (Maretron).

Posted by: Kees at November 21, 2008 6:24 PM | Reply

Chatting to Phil on the Actisense stand he did say they would probably bundle some simple software to display the network items on a pc very handy for quickly checking everything on the N2K bus is being seen.

He also added that they may develop a better NMEA 2000 program to find faults (obviously with the correct approach on the Actisense side of things means electrical tests cant be carried out but still will be very cost effective i think) .

Posted by: Andy Murray at November 21, 2008 6:58 PM | Reply

Were the Furuno 611 pilot and 330B GPS announced as available, or just for show?

Posted by: Anonymous at November 22, 2008 1:02 PM | Reply

Think they are getting the units out now but they were very low serial numbers so i would assume for show only.

Posted by: Andrew Murray at November 22, 2008 1:20 PM | Reply

Note an add-on from Kees about Albatross NMEA 2000 data converters. In fact, I have an ALBA demo case in the lab and will cover soon.

Posted by: Ben at November 24, 2008 11:36 AM | Reply

Andy, since you have inside contacts at Furuno please make certain they understand that a growing number of us hope to purchase their forthcoming solid state radar(s) to use as a stand alone radar (dedicated, non-chartplotter display), and, would also like to feed the data to non-Furuno navigation software such as MacENC, Coastal Explorer, etc., along with other sensor data. Regardless of how maddening that may be to a MaxSea product manager, it's reality and we will be deeply gratified, as well as indebted to, whichever radar manufacturer recognizes that the mix and match market will grow, not go away. Those vendors who cling to the winner-take-all fully networked marketing strategy will foment greater resentment, especially as more easily manufactured solid state technology breeds more competition.

Which one will first recover from megalomania and publish a defacto standard interface that may be used by all of the Nav software vendors? "Lead" the way to more open networking of the kind that created today's Internet despite the self serving strategies of DEC, IBM, et al in decades past. We've seen this play before.

Posted by: Don at November 24, 2008 6:10 PM | Reply

Hi Don,

This is something we can all hope will come to the marine market.

I’m not quite sure what you are looking to do here.

Put a Furuno Ethernet radar onto other equipment such as macenc or similar?

Or use a Navico (or any other networked radar scanner) on any display e.g. Navico radar, Furuno MFD?

The latter I don’t think will happen (at least in the short term) all manufactures have different levels of processing varying voltage levels and all look for different commands coming from the MFD's not to mention not all radars are networked some use specific cables.

I am not sure of the legality of decoding companies Ethernet protocol but sea talk has been decoded by many people and specifications are online for free.

If a software company were to invest in a radome / mfd it would be possible to monitor the network traffic (assuming they use non encrypted data over TCP/IP) even if they did encrypt network traffic it would just make it slightly harder to decode the network traffic.

[I wouldn’t think they would due to the added processing power of decrypting the data at the other end].

The market has become a lot more open with NMEA-2000 but I believe the core building blocks of a system will be kept in-house (maybe the next edition of NMEA will provide enough bandwidth to share video and it will be all change again)

Andy

Posted by: Andrew Murray at November 24, 2008 7:57 PM | Reply

Andy,

Don't confuse the issue with MFDs, video, DVDs or whatever. It's not so complicated. Radar is nothing more than another sensor, like GPS, depth, speed or wind. Growing numbers of Nav Software vendors should be able to legally read the link data just as they have read NMEA 0183 sentences from other transducers.

MFDs, video and similar "feature creep" obfuscate the fact that radar vendors have been keeping that interface proprietary so they can hope to sell their Chartplotters/MFDs (aka proprietary PCs) instead of allowing users to opt for Dell or Panasonic or Apple or other PCs running third party software. After designing big league communication systems for 35 years, I don't want all my data on one cable. I won't allow TV, or music or Pacman to infest my critical navigation systems. Military & Fortune 1000 customers have always urged me on to greater redundancy, failsafe operations and disaster recovery schemes, so I know better than most how vulnerable today's networked boat systems are.

The biggest market players attempt to define/use NMEA 2000 as the latest greatest attempt to complicate things and minimize the sale of independent instrumentation. Most of us over forty years old, with technical backgrounds, understand the game. I was actually employed by big names to sit on International Standards Committees and create similar monopolistic policies & practices. Perhaps its my guilty conscience that makes me so tormentedly reject such mendacity.

Of course there remain a variety of obsolete complicated radar interfaces in the market, along with automobiles from the 1960s, but I'm referring to the several emerging radars that feature low voltage serial data interfaces almost without exception. May those vendors who fail to open/publish that interface be forced to plug theirs where the sun doesn't shine. Sorry to be blunt but I've always been passionate about wise system engineering practice :-)

Posted by: Don at November 25, 2008 12:57 AM | Reply

Don, I too would like to see an open standard radar that could be made to work with multiple charting programs and MFDs, but a radar scanner--even a solid state--is simply not a simple sensor like a GPS or depth transducer.

And I think you severely mischaracterize NMEA 2000. It's not all bad, or all good. While some manufacturers have messed around with it, there are more boats every day sharing data well within and across brands using N2K.

Posted by: Ben at November 25, 2008 8:11 AM | Reply

Ben,

The idea that Furuno, Garmin, Raymarine or any other radar manufacturer would create an open radar standard for all of the PC Chart Plotter Companies to use freely is a fantasy. Maybe Honda will make a VTEC engine that you could "Plug and Play" into a Toyota as well.........

Those make this absurd request or believe it may happen were probably spending too much time at the Coffee Shops in Amsterdam during METS .....

Thanks for the chuckle.

Posted by: Eric at November 25, 2008 1:02 PM | Reply

Hey, I miss those "coffee shops", though I'm getting too old for that stuff.

I'm sure you're right about the major manufacturers you name, but what about Koden or JRC, which both already make scanners for other brands (I think)? Or some yet unknown company that's into solid state radar but not into marine systems?

Posted by: Ben at November 25, 2008 2:24 PM | Reply

The standards are there already, just need to be adopted by the marine industry with marine specific XML tags

- Physical Layer - air, nothing but air, excluding engine and steering. Note: NMEA-2000 likely living on for decades in the role of critical engine control, steering control, and future power distribution node controls.

- Protocol - Bluetooth 2.1 (TCP/IP) including radar, Bluetooth 3.x later to include video

- Product data read/write - SOAP 2.0 (with a marine standard for XML tags)

- Product configuration & software uploads - almost impossible to standardize, best handled via browser based configuration of each device

Posted by: Dan (b393capt) at November 25, 2008 2:51 PM | Reply

Don,

I'm not mistaking "MFD's video for "DVD video"

The radar image is sent down as a digital video signal and it is then decoded at the MFD / PC.

I highly doubt we will see a completely multi sensor standard for radar as you would basically be giving your rivals your systems.

JRC make sensors for people but do not have a network scanner (that i am aware of please any one from JRC or connections to JRC correct me)

I would assume Navico / others add the network module into the scanner.

Koden do have a network radar system and I'm sure if you are willing to buy enough they will give you the standard!

ERIC totally agree!

Andy

Posted by: Andrew Murray at November 25, 2008 3:39 PM | Reply

Ben,

You tell Don, "but a radar scanner--even a solid state--is simply not a simple sensor like a GPS or depth transducer", yet that's the point.
Manufacturers greedily insist on being the sole source of 100% of the value added to the sensor. I read Andy's news of Furuno's M1835 LCD
radar announcement with great interest, wondering if a USB cable to my PC would be an option. I too, will not be replacing my old radar until I can buy such a dedicated unit featuring no complicated and expensive multi-functionality.

We should be careful not to shoot the messenger. You do Don a disservice by saying he severely mischaracterizes NMEA 2000. Product development & marketing strategies for similar product lines have historically prioritized tighter integration and incessant feature addition to bolster price points and discourage competition. I enjoy it aboard my
2006 24' center console. It's cute and a case study in how too tightly integrating subsystems worsens Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) thus degrading reliability (Availability = MTBF / (MTBF + MTTR). My experience is that failures occur just as predictably as they do in an IT environment, but they're tougher to deal with.

Therefore I will never embrace such a fully integrated system for the 46' Ketch (or any future replacement) we sail up and down the East
Coast. After we lost a depth transducer in a night collision with a submerged log, we installed redundant depth transducers, port and starboard, allowing us to swap RCA cables as well as NMEA 0183 cables when necessary. And, I can manage this arrangement into the future regardless of whether the next failure occurs in a place that only sells, Furuno,
Northstar, Simrad or some other depth instrument. We also had a piece of flying equipment sever a cable in heavy seas, but only lost the one data
path from our anemometer. It's unfortunate that the benefits of independent instruments and star wiring architectures aren’t given their due amidst the excitement about watching video in a window adjacent to a display of virtual engine instruments, GRIN.

Remember when buying a PC dictated the choice of which word processor, or spreadsheet or other application software you would be using? Or, when
vendors supplied proprietary, point-of-sale, or, banking terminals that were actually just PCs under the packaging? “No choice but my bundled configuration” is a flawed business strategy for this industry just as it was for early PC vendors. As a humble Engineering professor I could be wrong, but I hope Don is correct in suspecting that the advent of low power solid state radar components might be the
catalyst that spurs entrepreneurs to compete and knock some of the kings off the hill.

Posted by: Dorothy at November 25, 2008 3:40 PM | Reply

Another vivid example of open standards at work is the pipe we are all using to conduct our little chat -- it's called the Web. Tim Berners-Lee and others set down a set of standards (HTTP, HTML), that, along with the Internet Protocol TCP/IP, enables lots and lots of devices at endpoints around the world to all talk in harmony. Millions of applications have been written to take advantage of this simple but effective method of passing messages.

All some of us are asking is that we apply some of these principles to "Marine IT" and create a set of open protocols for machine to machine messaging between marine electronics. As has been shown in my business (software), open business models eventually trump closed/proprietary models when innovation is allowed to flourish.

Posted by: Drew Clark at November 25, 2008 5:27 PM | Reply

Futurists, egalodreamers, and antiproprietarorists*, lend me your ears. There is no profit in open-sourcing the results of huge research budgets. It will not happen. They got it because we want it. We get it when we pay for it. This is lemonaid stand economics.

*20 letters, 180 points, doubled. Those who are opposed to proprietary protocols and threaten non-comformist response outside the traditional elements and ethics of the market place.

"open business models eventually trump closed/proprietary models when innovation is allowed to flourish." I think not. The Internet is the only example existant. Open business models bankrupt open businesses. The root of the internet was paid for by the only deep pocket around that is not expected to operate at a profit.

Posted by: Sandy Daugherty at November 28, 2008 10:39 AM | Reply

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