Navico GoFree, a WiFi & apps strategy partially revealed

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 9, 2012

I think of the beautiful and very powerful iPad navigation screen above as a bit of a tease. Yes, that's Furuno UHD radar overlaid on Nobeltec TimeZero Trident and, yes, I could even control it from the pad as I moved around Gizmo. But there was a lot of complexity behind the scene -- like the NavNet 3D MFD12 forwarding the radar to the PC actually running Trident -- and the control was awkward as that's not a real iPad app but rather SplashTop repeating the PC screen. Then again, isn't this a tease of what should be fairly simple and ubiquitous eventually? Heck, I've already been told that Raymarine is committed to making its RayView streaming app two-way at some point, and Furuno or Garmin could make something similar happen at any time. But Navico seems to be first with a written plan, even if it includes some uncertainties...

Let's acknowledge right up front that Navico's GoFree wireless strategy is only a plan so far. The actual purpose-built WiFi device isn't expected to be available until "late Spring 2012" and I'm not sure that all three tiers of app access will be there when it is released. I make this point because folks are already pretty excited about hooking their phones and pads to their marine electronics and someone has already written on the Hull Truth that you "can now get WiFi unit for Simrad." No you can't, but the plan does sound very interesting
    Besides the "GoFree Wireless Technology Application Update" I recently received (hopefully online soon), I now also have a copy of the more generalized GoFree release that Kees heard about at METS. The center of Navico's strategy seems to be a single marine WiFi device that can connect mobile apps to a boat's whole Ethernet network, instead of putting WiFi into each MFD (take that, Raymarine!). And remember that Navico -- and all the others, I think -- bridge NMEA 0183 and 2000 data onto their proprietary Ethernet networks. So they can completely integrate wireless apps with their systems and/or give apps developers that ability with a software developer kit (SDK).  
    Apparently Navico plans to do both. "Lowrance, Simrad Yachting and B&G are currently working on an app for iPad/Android devices that will enable remote viewing and control of an MFD." And, as shown in the diagram below, the data will also be available to developers and hence to us in three tiers. Even the "Tier 1 NMEA-0183 style data" is attractive as there will be no additional wiring needed to get it to your apps. Of course "Tier 2 NMEA 2000 style data" is also attractive, and devices already designed to handle both these tiers -- like the DMK and Chetco boxes -- are getting a lot of attention. I'm not sure what Navico means by "Free on agreement" though I'm hoping it's simply a licensing and testing program to prevent developers from putting defective messages back into the system.
   Meanwhile, "Tier 3 Video/Radar/Sounder data" is the holy grail of mobile nav apps development but "Price on agreement" is the big question mark. How much will it cost to, say, get the rumored iPad version of Coastal Explorer with complete access to a Lowrance, Simrad, or B&G sensor system? I have no idea at this point but will be trying to find out as GoFree moves from plan to reality. In the meantime, app developers might want to contact Navico's wireless product manager Robert Langford-Wood (robert.langford-wood at about getting on his email list!



I pleased to report that GoFree tier 3 data -- radar, sounder, video -- may in fact be free of charge, at least in cases where Navico feels that the app using it is especially useful to its customers.

The "draft" press release vaguely notes that, but I thought it might be a typo given the "Price on agreement" in the diagram. The finished press release should be out in few days, but GoFree is sounding good.

Posted by: Ben at January 9, 2012 11:46 AM | Reply

How does this relate to/affect Navico's unofficial plans to allow PC navigation software access to BR24 radar without the separate license when a Navico MFD is present on the network?
Technically, the difference is that a GoFree iPad/Android app would display and remote control an MFD and any connected radars whereas a PC navigation software would directly control the radar, the MFD being needed only to allow this access.
But from a user perspective it would be hard to understand why using an iPad/Android pad is allowed and using a PC with nav software is not.

Posted by: Henning at January 9, 2012 1:13 PM | Reply

I don't know for sure, Henning, but maybe this is that plan, only with wireless access and apps SDKs as well.

A highly placed Navico executive told me over a year ago that he saw no problem with freeing up the radar data as long as there was a Navico MFD on board. I asked him again this summer -- when I realized that Rosepoint, because of the high license fee, was holding its implementation of Broadband Radar off the market -- and he said they just hadn't had the resources to get to it yet.

I'd guess that it's not trivial to give other developers command access to your complex navigation system. It seems to me that there has to be licensing with mandated protocols and testing.

I'd further guess that there may always be a fee involved with using the radar or another Ethernet sensor without also purchasing an MFD. Or at least until a competitor decides to go that route ;-)

Posted by: Ben at January 9, 2012 1:31 PM | Reply

Oh boy, what an exciting development. I'll be sure to sign up for the program.

Navico, well done so far! Now don't make the marketing/pricing mistakes made with the BR24PC program and you will surely (a) sell a lot of extra devices (b) be able to define this market and sign up a lot of 3rd party developers.

Posted by: Kees at January 9, 2012 6:02 PM | Reply

Great product!

I so much wish NMEA would get involved with over IP data transfer. Even better, Navico, Chetco, DY, etc should get together and take the industry by the balls by forming a new International Marine Network Standards organization with simple product certification and logo.

This organization should focus first on defining how NMEA sentences get sent over IP. This is the foundation and what is a must for the future. Not HTTP/WebService and push/pull or Web server type questions because at this point it's secondary.

We need some standards before we have too many products on the market making it impossible to regroup the industry.

Ben, thanks for all your great works. I enjoy!

Posted by: David at January 10, 2012 10:01 AM | Reply

When are we going to get radars that talk to each other over wireless, wifi, cell, whatever? Is there any company out there working on this? Imagine that screen above if you could take the radar from another boat/s, or a marina based radar, and combine it with your own. Instead of a mess of blobs, you would have a much clearer image.

Posted by: John Devers at January 10, 2012 1:24 PM | Reply

+1 from the Netherlands

Posted by: Hendrik in reply to Kees at January 10, 2012 1:36 PM | Reply

@Dave. I'm looking into producing an IETF Informational draft re: auto discovery and transport of NMEA 0183 and 2K data streams over IP. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Paul at January 10, 2012 5:35 PM | Reply

Ben, I was going to ask, but as it does turn out splashtop work with my BlackBerry PlayBook too (yes I know, but it is faster than an iPad2 and built like a brick has an HD screen, etc.). All I need is the right N2K interface and wow who needs another chart plotter. Does anyone what to write a Marine Navigation program for the Playbook?

Posted by: Anonymous at January 11, 2012 8:11 AM | Reply

Nice GoFree details from Navico:

1. Our target is to have the Wifi module selling for under $200.

2. The strategy for GoFree is to enhance Navico MFD sales. We strongly believe a powerful wireless strategy adds significantly to our leading product and integration strategy. So, the speculation is correct that the Tier 3 data will be provided to some developers free of charge or priced very competitively depending on how well the App enhances the user experience and use of Navico MFD. Our goal is to have affordable or free Apps available (from us and developers).

Note: If the App replaces the MFD then the royalty fee will be in line with the BR24PC SDK license. This license cost is high for the leisure market but has been very successful in the Military and Professional markets. The MFD acts as the data bridge with GoFree which is why we can offer the data free-of-charge without impacting MFD sales, unlike the BR24PC license which replaces the MFD. To-date, over 10M USD has been spent on developing the Navico Broadband Radar Technology and gaining a competitive advantage in this area.

3. Existing Navico Ethernet-able MFDs, such as Simrad NSS and Lowrance HDS Gen2 (which both feature a processor optimized for Tier 3 data streaming), will feature some degree of GoFree backwards compatibility.

4. Developers are free to choose which platform they use to build apps for, this could be Apple, Android, Windows or Linux.

Posted by: Ben at January 13, 2012 5:23 PM | Reply

To me this reads like:
- GoFree is primarily a software interface that allows remote display and remote control of many future and some existing Navico MFDs (those with a powerful enough processor)
- The existing BR24PC SDK license is rebranded as a part of GoFree but without material changes
- GoFree does not include a provision for direct communication between app and radar that depends on an MFD being present to work at a cost less than the BR24PC SDK license
If that interpretation is correct then this is interesting for those wanting to remote control their MFD but does not help the Coastal Explorer-BR24-situation. Navico would still not have allocated resources to make a Navico MFD take the role of a license server for the BR24PC SDK license.

Posted by: Henning at January 14, 2012 4:31 PM | Reply

This really is a great initiative by Navico!

Posted by: Zak in reply to Ben at January 16, 2012 2:03 AM | Reply

From Mets 2012 News that arrived today.

Simrad Yachting
GoFree Technology - Simrad NSS and WIFI-1

Category: Marine electronics & Marine related software
Introduction date: 01/10/2012

Posted by: Hendrik at September 11, 2012 11:33 AM | Reply

Level 1 GoFree (0183) is in the latest NSS update. The setup menus look straight forward but I haven't gotten it to work yet. I got some advice from Navico tech that involved changing the IP address of my router -- which seems daunting -- but then I recently realized that I may have used a cross-over fitting getting the Ethernet cable from the Simrad system to the router. I'll change that when I have a chance. You do need a Navico Ethernet to RJ45 patch cable, but otherwise this should be an easy way to get 0183 data to apps like iNavX.

It will be interesting to see Navico's WiFi box!

Posted by: Ben in reply to Hendrik at September 11, 2012 1:08 PM | Reply

I attended a Simrad (Navico) conference yesterday, and the GoFree WiFi is set for release in 2013. It will come with some Beneteau Oceanis 41 and 45s as well.

Posted by: Tristan at September 12, 2012 5:56 PM | Reply

I saw an (unofficial) demo of wifi1 yesterday on the Simrad stand at southampton boat show.

The nss screen is repeated in full on the ipad, with touch gestures allowing full remote control of the nss mfd.

The ipad app can connect to different networked nss units. Wifi 1 creates its own hotspot with standard class c address range. (192.168.x.x) Not sure if this can be changed to work over internal network.

Control mimics the controls available on the physical nss (ie drag to scroll, short press, long press etc), ,long with a floating toolbar with virtual buttons (page, menu etc)

All nss screens are available (ie it just repeats whatever the nss can do) on the ipad. For example, the radar can be turned on and viewed and controlled directly on the ipad.

Autopilot control was locked out currently for (US) legal reasons of the lawyers not wanting to allow physical boat control whilst down below and not on watch.

There was a slight delay between the ipad screen and mfd screen due to wifi latency, but nothing too bad.

The system seemed multi master, with users on the nss and ipad being able to control the same session (ie it really is screen sharing)

A view only mode was available via advanced menu options.

Release scheduled for week 3 of November(presumably after Mets). Wifi 1 currently, but future versions to be Wifi 2 with 3g connectivity for remote login and simrad remote system management.

Ipad only at the moment.

Posted by: A. in reply to Ben at September 18, 2012 6:44 PM | Reply

Anyone know if there's a plan to allow info sharing between the Navionics app on the iPad and the charts on the NSS...kind of like what Raymarine is doing with the e7d? What I'm looking to be able to do is create waypoints or routes on my iPad and then move them over to the NSS.

Posted by: Capt. A at September 18, 2012 10:53 PM | Reply

There was no navionics to NSS route transfer that I saw. Presumably that would require software modifications on both sides. Neither company seems particularly open to this type of user suggested modification - so i'm not holding my breath on that one.

You can plot and save a route using the iPad controlling the NSS. Not as fast or interactive as using navionics, but it does work and obviously would be using the nss's charts.

Posted by: Adrian in reply to A. at September 19, 2012 2:32 AM | Reply

Will the iPad just mirror the current display on the NSS or can you have two different pages on iPad and NSS?

Posted by: Jarald in reply to Adrian at September 19, 2012 12:15 PM | Reply

Gofree is alive and kicking :-)

Posted by: Hendrik at September 19, 2012 12:27 PM | Reply

Tristan, Thanks for the update. Thats the best information I've seen on GoFree. Well reported.

As for Navionics integration... Navionics have on their web site that they want to work with other manufactures and encourage people to request this from the display manufactures.

The big thing that's missing for me (from both Raymarine and Navico) is autopilot control. I dont believe it has anything to do with legal as they already sell remotes. I believe it has to do with selling less remotes. I wish they would just price a autopilot app so that it is available and a win win.

Posted by: Dean at September 19, 2012 5:11 PM | Reply

From what i saw and understand, the ipad and always show the same screen, controlled by either device simultaneously.

Posted by: Adrian in reply to Jarald at September 19, 2012 6:31 PM | Reply

I would like to know if there is any indication that gofree will work with the NSE systems? If so will it only repeat the screenshot, or will there be a control function as well.

Thank you for any information.

Posted by: Rex at September 19, 2012 9:22 PM | Reply

Navico GoFree got a lot more real today.

Press release here:

New Simrad page here:

Plus I saw the WiFi-1 module and full NSS control app working well at IBEX today. But as you'll see at the links above, Navico envisions hundreds of 3rd party apps running over GoFree -- at least at Tier 1 -- and they're already naming names.

I have more questions to ask, but I'm hopeful that GoFree will eventually include NSE, NSO and Lowrance HDS...

Posted by: Ben at October 2, 2012 5:57 PM | Reply

The GoFree control app is now available from the Apple iOS App store. You're probably best off searching for Navico, I can't find the link on yet.

Can someone with a HDS G2 Touch see if it works for them? I'm awaiting delivery of my HDS-12 G2 Touch but that's going to take a few more weeks.

Posted by: Kees at October 16, 2012 1:43 PM | Reply


Is on my Ipad since october 8, but I don't have a NSS with new software.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 16, 2012 2:13 PM | Reply

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