Panbo

WaveTrax iThing app, more smart boat logging to the cloud

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 8, 2014

WaveTrax_log_history_cPanbo.jpgI wish that track was on the water, but testing WaveTrax auto boat logging over the road is impressive, nonetheless. Running on my iPad mini, the app not only collects a track point every minute, but automatically creates log entries marking my Lat/Long, COG, and SOG on the hour (and at user selectable distances). It's fairly easy to add notes, captioned photos, engine/fuel status, and weather observations as desired, and when a trip is done, I even get to touch scribble a signature. But that's hardly half of it... 

My_WaveTrax_web_page_cPanbo.jpg

WaveTrax is both an app and a synchronized personal website, and in my view, that's the way to go for tasks like this. The iPad is easy to use on a trip, but my home PC is better for, say, adding text and photos of my various vessels and regular crew members. And since that data gets synched back to the app, it's ready to use the next time I start a fresh log entry. Synchronizing app data with the cloud also protects it, plus a mobile device is generally good at wireless connections.
   For me, so far, that just means using a Bad Elf Pro for precise GPS records, but I'm optimistic that WaveTrax or similar apps will soon be automatically fetching GPS, weather and lots of other log data via an onboard WiFi source like the just-tested Vesper XB-8000 or the Navico GoFree tested last year (note the TripCon PC log software examples in that entry). All the pieces are falling in place to make automated voyage logging easy, inexpensive and data rich.

WaveTrax_test_log_PDF_cPanbo.jpg

But I get ahead of myself. The WiFi boat data connection will be great, but I think that many boaters will enjoy just a well-designed logging app like WaveTrax that also lets you access and edit your trip data on the Web, once they understand the possibilities. For instance, I spent very little time collecting the data that's in the printable PDF trip log that a WaveTrax user can create on his or her personal website, and it can even include captioned photographs. WaveTrax can also synchronize "certifications" (important documents), though so far they have to be images, not PDFs and the app sells for $13 with a free year's subscription to the website. (You can try the WaveTrax website for free and it can create logs from existing GPX track files.) 
   I've also been testing the free (Android) BoatLogger app that can now automatically upload data to the BoatLogger website I began beta testing in January. The app is not as polished and full featured as WaveTrax, but then again, my personal WaveTrax website is not as polished and full-featured as what BoatLogger makes possible. Hopefully, these two ambitious developers are checking out each other's work! 

My_Boat_dashboard_testing_cPanbo.jpg

Any developer trying to make it easier for us boaters to keep track of all the data even a moderately complicated vessel can generate should also check out the new iPad app My Boat. The core component is a database of all the gear, spares, etc. you have stowed around your boat, but as you enter them you can assign costs and service/inspection reminders that flow out to other elements of the app. You can also photograph items likes spares. Unfortunately, My Boat does not synchronize to a personal website -- though you can back up the database to DropBox -- and I ran into other issues like an inability to customize storage locations. But then again, the $20 app does include a lot of pre-built checklists that you can easily customize. 

I don't plan to invest more time in My Boat unless the developer makes my data web accessible -- I'm already happy with CarbonFin Outliner for general to-do and checklists -- but I will definitely keep testing BoatLogger and WaveTrax as they develop more features (and crush more bugs). I will also predict, though without any inside information, that this year we'll see a big developer like Navico, Garmin or Navionics/Raymarine announce a vaguely similar logging service. Aren't the possibilities obvious?
   The final illustration shows three screens from the BoatLogger app. It may be rudimentary compared to WaveTrax, but they even threw in some scripts for bad situations like MayDay with all the right data filled in automatically. 

BoatLOGGER_Android_app_cPanbo.jpg

Comments

Ben,

Do you know if WaveTrax logging runs in the background if, on the iPad, I'm running an app such as iNavX for navigation in the foreground?

Posted by: Paulius at April 9, 2014 8:45 AM | Reply

Hi Ben

It may be time to review/compare apps that are used for logs, inventory, etc. You mentioned a couple here, but other than the GPS tracking, there are some pretty nice ones out there these days. I have been using Boating Suite for a couple of years and found it to the be easiest and most accommodating for me, but I would love to see how others work and compare as well as feedback from others who are using these programs.

Posted by: ValkyrieYachts at April 9, 2014 8:51 AM | Reply

Thanks, Valkyrie. I hope anyone who is using a logging app feels free to discuss it here. And please include links, like:

http://www.boatingsuite.com/

The big deal to me, though, is synchronization with a personal web site. When possible, I'd much rather enter data like inventories and trip details using a real keyboard, mouse, etc. My PC is also where lots of my existing boat data is easy to find, cut, and paste.

I also want maximum protection of any database I put effort into, and having it synchronize with the cloud whenever it can is pretty ideal for that. Finally, syncronization also puts my data a step closer to possible integration with other software and services, like maybe Vessel Vanguard or similar.

Posted by: Ben in reply to ValkyrieYachts at April 9, 2014 12:11 PM | Reply

Paulius, WaveTrax does seem to run in the background when a voyage log is open.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Paulius at April 9, 2014 12:16 PM | Reply

ThirdMate is an Android app that logs course and speed changes, barometer changes, weather, lets you enter notes, creates email logbook pages, KML files, etc.

There is no need to subscribe to anything for this app. and no need for an internet connection to do logging in the background. All data is kept on the device until offloaded to email or KML file.

Advertised here on the classified pages and available at:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.SquawkLog.ThirdMate

Posted by: John Williams at April 9, 2014 2:05 PM | Reply

Paulius, yes we confirm that WaveTrax does run in the background. Multi-tasking is a basic iOS feature and allows you to have multiple apps open and running. It's not just having other apps open as if you want to use your device for other comms (calls, texting etc) or media (music, video) functions then running apps need to continue unaffected. As always though battery life needs careful monitoring. There are some simple tips for this and other aspects of using devices at sea in our free On The Water Guide iBook at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/marine-ipad-iphone-use-on/id839520018?mt=11

Posted by: WaveTrax in reply to Ben at April 10, 2014 5:34 AM | Reply

Thanks for the mention ValkyrieYachts.

Ben, we couldn't agree more about cloud synchronization which is why we are adding back iCloud syncing. We completely re-wrote our database structure and that forced us to temporarily pull back iCloud integration but we're working on it. In terms of web syncing, we've gotten 2, maybe 3, requests for this since we launched our app in 2010. Many people use our app on an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard to facilitate data entry. People who are passionate about their vessels tend to have their iPhones or iPads with them at all times so the need to view on the web is less of an issue these days.

Finally, to your point about integration with other services.... We thought about this from the beginning and have always allowed users to export their data to CSV files for flexibility in using the data outside the app. In addition to the CSV exports, we also allow the user to backup the entire database and store it locally on their PC for safe keeping.

Kind regards,

Rob Anonen
President - Boating Suite, LLC
rob@boatingsuite.com

Posted by: Boating Suite at April 14, 2014 2:12 PM | Reply

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