Panbo

Maretron N2KView: prices slashed, architecture improved, and BNWAS

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 13, 2014

FPB-78_w_N2KView_courtesy_Dashew_Offshore.jpgI find Steve Dashew's latest FPB 78 long-range powerboat design so intriguing that I won't link to it until the end of this entry for fear of losing you!  The relevant detail in the rendering above is Steve's plan to occasionally use that giant 65-inch 4K resolution TV monitor so he can still see his radar and Maretron N2KView monitoring info as he moves about the vessel's giant main cabin while underway. I got to spend time with the Dashews on their original FPB Windhorse, and it's one heck of an equipment endorsement to be chosen for the next one. I also know that Steve's expert evaluation of Maretron's hardware and software systems came before the major and excellent-sounding N2KView product changes I'm about to outline...

Maretron_N2KView_2014_aPanbo.jpgOn January 1st Maretron N2KView changed from modularized PC software that could cost nearly $3,000 for the works --  monitoring plus device control, fuel management, sophisticated alerting and video integration -- to a $995 package with all modules included, plus a new BNWAS feature (Bridge Navigation Watch Alarm System). Before Jan. 1st, running the N2KView Mobile app on or off your boat required another license, if you wanted the PC version running at the same time. Now it's free. And that, as they say, is not all...

Maretron_MBB200C_N2KView_PC__aPanbo.jpgMaretron also replaced all three of its dedicated N2KView PCs with hardware that's more reliable and arguably less expensive. Yes, the MBB200C black box is pricier than its predecessor, but it includes the entire N2KView software suite, and it can work with two independent or redundant NMEA 2000 networks through two CAN ports (and adaptor cables). The major change, though, is that it works directly with N2k at all... 

Maretron_N2KView_architecture_2014__cPanbo.jpgThe original N2KView architecture -- seen on the right side of the diagram collage above -- was to have the PCs connected to a boat's NMEA 2000 network via Maretron's IPG100 Ethernet/IP gateway and the vessel's router/switch. That has caused problems that didn't have anything to do with N2KView or all the N2K devices it can monitor and control. Apparently, it's gotten to the point where the first question asked of a customer calling in with an N2KView PC that suddenly doesn't work is something like, "Have you or anyone else added or changed an Ethernet system that's attached to your boat's router?"
   The new N2KView system architecture keeps the dedicated PCs inside the N2K network(s), immune to DNS problems and other issues that can mess up an Ethernet network...

Maretron_TSM1330C_N2KView_touch_PC__aPanbo.jpgSo, redesigned hardware like the new TSM800C and TSM1330C touchscreen N2KView displays are more like dedicated marine MFDs than ever. Yes, there's Windows running inside and your monitoring can still connect to the Internet through an IPG100 and router, but it's no longer dependent on that connection to operate properly. 

Maretron_N2KView_BNWAS_combo_cPanbo.jpgThe screens above describe N2KView's new Bridge Navigation Watch Alarm System (BNWAS) feature. It's something like an elaborate snooze alarm that watch standers can't turn off and that escalates to more "buzzers" the longer it's left unattended. But, in fact, Maretron implemented it to commercial marine specs and boats that already have N2KView and one or more ALM100 NMEA 2000 network "buzzers" can now have BNWAS with just a free software update.

Maretron_N2KView_Mobile_aPanbo.jpg

Unfortunately, BNWAS is not designed to work with N2KView Mobile, but it seems that any boat with a NMEA 2000 network and an IPG100 can enjoy many other benefits of N2KView on their Android or Apple mobile screens without further expense. Note that the integrated video also requires a dedicated N2KView PC (which have Ethernet ports just for IP cameras), but I think that "free" N2KView is great news for boats around the size of Gizmo (and owners who are cheapskates like myself ;-).
   I'm already quite pleased with lower level Maretron monitoring and control devices that I've installed, like engine block temperature monitoring and circuit switching. N2KView running on phones or tablets won't be essential but might be some delicious icing on the cake. Now, how about a look at how Steve Dashew used Maretron gear on Windhorse and his incredible visualizations of the FPB 78 Dream Machine.

Windhorse_helm_w_N2KView_courtesy_Dashew_Offshore.jpg

Comments

I'd like to think that my enthusiasm for NMEA 2000 in general and Maretron's still largely unique product line in particular influenced Steve Dashew. But the truth is that he was rapidly thinking of possibilities that hadn't even occurred to me, like getting Maretron to enable simultaneous display of any data point with multiple custom averaging periods.

By the same token I'm not sure that I would create N2KView screens with so many numbers even if I could. One thing I'm learning about monitoring -- and a driving principal at Maretron -- is that when it's done correctly, alerting and alarming can free your eyes for other tasks (and pleasures). Plus I'm not an engineer.

But that's one beauty of N2KView; you can set it up however you like.

Incidentally, I have some fairly good photos of my Windhorse visits which I must make into a Panbo entry.

Posted by: Ben at January 13, 2014 8:23 AM | Reply

"possibilities that hadn't even occurred to me, like getting Maretron to enable simultaneous display of any data point with multiple custom averaging periods."

In several posts I've mentioned the need for chart plotter manufacturers to get a little smarter about averaging data inputs so they are far easier to understand. I sure hope someone like Dashew starts pushing this point because when I mention it to a manufacturer I get a response like "nobody ever asks for that" .... seriously?

I'm a founder of a web db biz that focuses on effective UI design. Our product is the best in the market by a wide , wide margin. In hopes that someone is reading this that can drive change, here is how I would approach it (customization , averaging being just one aspect):

- start in design mode with a blank screen
- allow user to select a gauge style, set its position and size on the canvas,
- after the gauge has been selected user picks one or more data inputs for the gauge... some gauges could have multipli inputs potentially, like a single gauge displaying true and apparent wind
- for each input the user could select an averaging period... this should be a running avg calculated from maybe 10 samples of raw per second... so a 3 second avg is off 30 data points... update rate of screen might be 10 hz, so every 1/10 of a sec the screen is updated and 1 of 30 data points have changed the avg only slightly... even less if 5 sec avg because now 1/50 have changed.

The net result is the user sees a very fluid gauge with smooth needle movements that take the noise out of the picture. The customization makes it easy to setup , say, magnetic true wind direction with a very long 15 or 30 sec avg (to capture shifts and oscillations ) while having maybe 3 sec update for TWD and a 1 or 2 second avg for boat speed. Etc etc. Sensible defaults (diff for each data item) and fully customizable.

Excuse any typos as posted via phone...

Posted by: Rob at January 13, 2014 10:42 AM | Reply

I agree with Rob, and in fact have thought about how to write an open source N2K display library using those principles.

One thing that surprised me is how infrequently Dashew uses graphs (at least per the screens shown). We graph almost all engine data on our N2KView screen, right next to the current value for each data point. We think that helps us get a clear read on any trends that might indicate flow blockages, overheating, fluid leaks, etc.

But I LOVE that giant N2KView screen on the FPB!

Ben, do you have any more information from Maretron on how the loosening of these N2KView licenses will affect existing owners? I'd like to think that the company would provide its earlier adopters the best of what capabilities current buyers get, in acknowledgment of their longstanding support.

Thanks!

Posted by: Adam at January 13, 2014 12:54 PM | Reply

Thanks, Rob! Interesting comments and the good news (I should have mentioned in the entry) is that you can download the demo version of Windows N2KView and see for yourself. There's also a Mac version I forgot about.

The demo is loaded with pre-built screens but you can start one with a blank slate, and I think you'll find at least some of what you're looking for. (I just downloaded the demo myself and easily tweaked a tachometer to my liking, but am already familiar with some of the gauge customization from Maretron DSM displays.)

A neat thing is that I'm pretty sure you can use screens you build in the demo for an actual N2KView install. In fact, that's how people who only use the free mobile apps will be able to create their screens. The design facility is not in the apps (understandably) but you can supposedly save screen designs from the demo software to the IPG1000 where they'll be available to the apps.

Adam, I've queried Maretron about the situation for existing owners, and I dare guess that it was big concern when making all these changes. Obviously you now have BNWAS and all the app usage you want, but there may be more.

Posted by: Ben at January 13, 2014 1:15 PM | Reply

Dare I add that the N2KView architecture change seems like a head's up for everyone who wishes that their marine electronics integrated easily with their boat's LAN (i.e. local area network via Ethernet, TCP/IP, etc)? I can testify that Maretron's normally mild-mannered CEO Rich Gauer can get quite worked up when talking about all the not-N2KView-related router issues their tech support team has had to deal with.

And another thing I probably should have mentioned in the entry is this suite of N2KView training videos:

http://www.maretron.com/videos.php

Posted by: Ben at January 13, 2014 1:36 PM | Reply

Ben,

I do not see any of this information on the Maretron site or under their press releases. Do you know how this will play out for those of us who are already Maretron users? Will the additional modules become available to us?

Posted by: HenryD at January 13, 2014 5:02 PM | Reply

Hi Henry,

I don't think there's been a press release yet, but the new hardware and changed N2KView software licensing is all up at Maretron.com (and in my links). I believe I'm reporting on changes that have already happened, not just a future plan.

Existing Maretron device users now have a less expensive upgrade path to N2KView, including just using the free apps. You do need an IPG100 to use those apps but I wouldn't be surprised if that device becomes a OneNet gateway when the standard comes out (just a guess).

Existing N2KView users obviously get a couple of goodies they didn't have before Jan. 1: BNWAS and unlimited use of the apps (if they have an IPG100). The situation beyond that seems to be unclear and tricky. For instance, I didn't get into the dongle aspect, which Maretron seems to getting away from and which apparently adds complexity to changing what current customers have access to. Maybe I'll learn more today about what Maretron plans to do.

Posted by: Ben at January 14, 2014 7:55 AM | Reply

Henry and Adam, I got some info from Maretron about the situation for existing owners of N2KView:

Aside from the unlimited free apps, most everything stays the same. Existing modules will continue to receive operational updates at no charge, and additional modules will still be available to purchase "although it may be more cost effective to buy a new fully bundled hardware license key depending on how many modules you want to add."

Posted by: Ben in reply to Ben at January 14, 2014 4:49 PM | Reply

Ben, that's consistent with what I heard directly from Maretron. I'll be on the boat tonight and will see if I can update the IPG100 and access it from the iPad app.

Thanks for following up.

Posted by: Adam at January 14, 2014 4:53 PM | Reply

Great. I hope you can get the app working with your system and let us know about it. And if you get into it, please consider writing a Panbo entry about how to set up app screens using the PC or Mac software, load them to the IPG and so forth. With the new pricing scheme, I suspect that at least N2KView Mobile will get a lot more interest from us DIY types.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Adam at January 14, 2014 5:00 PM | Reply

Ben and Adam,
I upgraded my N2Kview last night to version 4.x via the built-in sync functionality. When I tried to open N2KView, it would not connect back to the USB100. I called Maretron (Mark) today but I was at work and not available to be on the boat. Since they are Arizona time, I will have to try again one day when I am off work. There is no documentation yet on the new version.
Fortunately I have a backup harddrive to recover my setup.

Posted by: HenryD at January 14, 2014 5:30 PM | Reply

Ben,
I am trying to figure this out. I spoke to Mark and since I am using the very 1980s model of a USB dongle license, his comment was "nothing changes".

I have not purchased the Video or Alerts module in the past because they simply are too expensive and I can run the video through my RosePoint for free.

Your article said
"On January 1st Maretron N2KView changed from modularized PC software that could cost nearly $3,000 for the works -- monitoring plus device control, fuel management, sophisticated alerting and video integration -- to a $995 package with all modules included, plus a new BNWAS feature"

But then your reply on the 14th stated the additional modules would still need to be purchased, adn the price sheet on Maretron's site do not show any price reductions.

What am I missing? I really don't see any new features except you can use an iPad if you use the IPG instead of the dongle and BNWAS which you need Alerts for.

Posted by: HenryD at January 27, 2014 5:19 PM | Reply

Well, Henry, it's all true! Anyone buying N2KView today gets the whole package for $995 retail:

http://www.maretron.com/products/N2KView.php

But existing customers who don't have the whole package can still purchase N2K modules as before. Nothing changed for you after Jan. 1 except that unlimited N2K apps are available without a license fee (if you have IPG100) and you get BNWAS if you have Alerting (I didn't get that last part until now).

I'm not sure that Maretron is treating existing customers as well as they could in this transition, even though you got some usexpected benefits, but I do know there's almost always some pain to changes like this.

Posted by: Ben in reply to HenryD at January 27, 2014 5:38 PM | Reply

Ben,
When other software developers role out new features or licensing changes, usually they try to at least make things even for their exisiting customers. I was thinking from your first post that my N2Kview would now have Alerts, Fuel, etc. Yes, I would need to purchase the flow monitors, the the buzzers, etc.
As far as iPads/mobile access - I would have thought if you had your N2KView on the network, you could connect to it - I do not undertand why the IPG100 supports it but if you bought the USB100 to get your N2Kview on the boat network, you cannot connect without another $995.
I know several other users of N2KView who have the same questions.

Posted by: HenryD at January 27, 2014 6:14 PM | Reply

Does the mobile N2Kview app sound alerts if it is the background? I use an iPad on board and if I am temporarily using another app it would be nice if the Maretron app could still sound an alert if something goes outside of limits.

Posted by: Howard at January 27, 2014 7:03 PM | Reply

Howard, I don't know what happens with N2KView running in the background on your iPad, but you could always add an ALM100, which will sound a piercingly loud shriek if an alert is triggered.

Alerts are pushed to the ALM100 from the IPG100 (assuming you have one), so it doesn't matter if the iPad app is running or not.

Posted by: Adam in reply to Howard at January 27, 2014 7:07 PM | Reply

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