Category: Communications

iKommunicate from Digital Yacht, Signal K gets kickstarted

Oct 26, 2015

iKommunicate Signal K proof of concept aPanbo.jpgSorry for the fuzzy photo, but it makes sense as the iKommunicate Signal K Gateway isn't a real product yet, and the real product may look quite different from the "Proof of Concept" prototype above if it actually materializes early next year. Why so vague? What's happening here is a techy chicken and egg thing. Digital Yacht was understandably hesitant about developing a gateway for Signal K apps and services that hardly exist yet, but the Signal K universal boat data concept -- open source, entirely free, and created by unfunded volunteers -- needs a commercial level NMEA gateway so that third party developers can easily show us what the potential apps and services can do. That's my understanding of why DY launched the iKommunicate Kickstarter campaign and also why I'm hoping that fellow boat geeks and related companies will join me in backing the project and thus helping Signal K become real...

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TBF: NV Cuba, YB3 free, Furuno GP1x70F steals, BT VHF, and Sailing A

Oct 23, 2015

TBF_logo_Panbo.jpgApologies in advance to Panbo readers who've complained about too many acronyms, because I'm adding a new one. The idea of Tidbit Friday (TBF) is to create an entry type where I can share some of the juicy morsels I often come across as I indulge my endless appetite for marine electronics and the wider world of boating. You won't see one every Friday, but when I started listing possible recent subjects, it sure got long in a hurry. There's lots I can do with one image and a paragraph...

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NMEA 2015: FLIR, Shakespeare, Humminbird, Lumishore, Intellian, Nobeltec & more

Oct 20, 2015

NMEA_2015_Signal_K_cPanbo.jpgWhile the big manufacturers showed off some great stuff at the NMEA 2015 Conference, there was also a lot to get excited about in the seminars and expo hall. Discussion of the open source Signal K marine data protocol, for instance, was not just a NMEA first but drew a standing-room-only crowd, twice. Soon I hope to list some of the interesting small and medium-size developers who are adopting SK and also share some good news about how interested boaters can get involved in the first public gateway project. In the meantime, here are some of my Conference highlights...

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Team Soltero: StarPilot, GMN, RedPort, Bliss & so much more

Aug 4, 2015

Bliss_anchoring_in_Pulpit_Harbor_cPanbo.jpgBehold the 39-foot trawler Bliss about to anchor behind Gizmo in Pulpit Harbor. She's a custom Jay Benford design (based on a Cascade sailboat hull) that already turns heads, but note the cabin top presence of both Inmarsat FB150 and Iridium Pilot antennas (the latter formerly known as OpenPort, and tested for Panbo on VOJ). The serious satellite communications -- and there are more devices less visible -- are because owner/operators Luis and Kim Soltero have spent much of their thirty year marriage creating a remarkable portfolio of satcom services and devices, and they're still at it. Yes, we had a Bliss/Gizmo geek rendezvous and it was a blast...

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YB3i tracker/messenger, a highly evolved system

Jul 10, 2015


The hardware portion of the YB3i tracker/messenger couldn't be much simpler or tougher. It's just a little bigger than the GPS mushrooms also installed on Gizmo's flybridge and it feels solid, while the ScanStrut Rokk rail mount that it fits is truly rock-like. The black cable only leads to a power source (9-30v DC) and the YB3i can get along without that for quite a while, thanks to an internal backup battery. And finally, the single LED "interface" is really only needed for extreme trouble shooting. But such hardware simplicity is only possible because of the impressive array of satellite services, cloud server wizardry, and mobile apps that comprise the rest of the ecosystem...

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Coastal Marine WiFi, a winner!

Jun 22, 2015

Coastal_Marine_WiFi_hardware_cPanbo.jpgSince early May I've used the Coastal Marine WiFi kit with all sorts of onboard WiFi devices and all sorts of Internet hotspots, and I'm very impressed with its smart design and easy, reliable performance. Yes, the overall system architecture is quite similar to several other good boat WiFi "booster" solutions like the various Wave Rogue and Bitstorm Xtreme kits, but there's a lot of nuance to making these systems easy to install and operate. And whereas many boaters are still understandably confused about the WiFi booster/router combo that's so unlike what they use at home or office, I'm going to dig deep into how the CMW goes together and what it can do...

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Onboard WiFi and cell booster strategies, the diagrams

Apr 6, 2015

Online_Boat_no_boosters_cPanbo.jpgI've given numerous seminars about what modern mobile communications can do on boats these days and I'll be presenting the latest version at TrawlerFest's new Essex, Connecticut, location in early June. Aside from guidance about useful apps and the neat ways phones, tablets, and the Internet are integrating with marine electronics, boaters want to know how to improve their WiFi and/or cell connections with shore. But when I start talking about typical methods of installing wireless boosters, confusion sometimes follows! So, I'm working on a series of diagrams that Panbo readers might also find useful or might help improve...

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Simple marine cell boosting: Wilson Sleek 4G (weBoost Drive 4G) and Digital Antenna Bullet

Feb 9, 2015


New FCC regulations have caused turmoil in the world of cell boosters and now leading manufacturer Wilson Electronics has changed its name to weBoost. Thus, the Wilson Sleek 4G (460107) above, one of the very first new breed boosters last April, has just morphed into the weBoost Dash 4G-S (470107). Adding to the confusion is the boater's need to replace that wimpy car top antenna with a possibly illegal marine model -- I'm happily using a Digital Antenna 1285 Bullet in my testing -- but the whole package ends up relatively simple to install and effective for its cost.

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Digigone DigiMed telemedicine kits & more Pittman Innovation Award winners

Jan 26, 2015

digigone_DigiMed_Mini_aPanbo.jpgSail's 2015 Pittman Innovation Awards were just announced and one of several interesting winners is a series of DigiMed wireless kits that work with Digigone's existing telemedicine service. Even the smallest DigiMed Mini above can teleconnect you to a 24/7 emergency medical center via Android tablet and Bluetooth headset, and I've seen how the included wireless macro camera allows the experts to examine the victim down to skin pore level...

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Icom M424G & 324G VHF with GPS, and DSC embarrassment

Jan 14, 2015

ICOM_IC-M423G_GPS_VHF_aPanbo.jpgI'm visiting Gizmo in less chilly North Carolina for a week (before TrawlerFest) and was reminded that just before leaving in November, I experienced the first DSC Urgency message I'd ever seen. My reaction was slightly embarassing, but the U.S. Coast Guard response was impressive, as will be detailed below. For now, let's just say that DSC is a potentially excellent but underused safety tool and thus, it's good news that Icom has upgraded two of its fixed VHF radio models to include internal GPS sensors, so they will be ready to make DSC distress calls almost the moment power and antenna are attached. At the London Boat Show last week Icom UK introduced the IC-M423G above, which features a "striking new white backlight LCD" as will the M424G U.S. version...

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