Smaller, faster, cheaper! I’m wondering if some of the new automobile computers, like this Jensen NVX3000PC, wouldn’t work pretty nicely on a boat. You got your built-in GPS, 7” touch screen, 30 gig drive, Windows XP, SD card slot, dual USB ports, 12v and li-ion power supplies…even WiFi and a remote control. There’s also the Azentek Atlas CPC-1000, which apparently adds AM/FM/Satellite/HD audio, a CDRW/DVD/MP3/WMA drive, Bluetooth, and CANbus integration. And no doubt there are others, at least concepts. I don’t know if any of these things are actually shipping, and I’ve heard that states like California are clamping down on how much computing you can do, or visual entertainment enjoy, while driving…which might impede developments. But isn’t some sort of inexpensive, mass market computer going to make sense afloat?
Yesterday I got to spend a few hours on a Navionics test boat tooling around Bass River, Cape Cod (unfortunately damnable cars and planes were also involved in the trip). A few of us boating writers got to fool with eight chart plotters, and see first hand what Navionics is up to for 2008 (very cool, but I can’t write about it just yet). Another highlight was spending time with company founder Giuseppe Carnevali. This is not the first demo cruise I’ve taken with this gentleman and I’ve come to appreciate his fathomless enthusiasm for cartography, the technologies that make it better, and boating. He’s been a creative force in marine electronics since he and Fosco Bianchetti developed the first vector charts in the early 80’s. Yesterday it occurred to me that with Bianchetti selling C-Map and Darrell Lowrance finally retired, Giuseppe is one of the last of his generation still pushing this field forward. And he’s going strong.
Continuing on about how we’ve just gotten started with electronic cartography, check out the demo video at Perceptive Pixel showing the developers exercising two handed control over Google Earth and other imagery. Then there’s Microsoft’s new “Surface Computing”—also “multi touch”—nicely presented by Popular Mechanics on this video. It sure seems possible that the ‘surface’ could be one wizbang chart table…eventually. Meanwhile, Google has introduced Maplets, which means that users can now contribute mini applications as well as content. And Michael “heywhatsthat” Kosowsky has already created three, two of which I used in the mashup below (and bigger here). One very usefully overlays Michael’s topo lines and the other guesstimates new shorelines if sea level rises. Just add 150 feet and I’ve got waterfront!
Where is this bubbling geographic/Internet stew going to take us (like EarthNC), and, in particular, what the heck else is being created nearly under my nose (like ActiveCaptain)? The latest is a rather amazing service created by one Michael Kosowsky out in the Lincolnville hills west of Panbo HQ. It began with Michael wondering what distant bumps he was seeing from his yard and now--much programming later--he's inventor/proprietor of Hey, what's that. Check it out. Right off the bat you'll see what's what from Mt. Battie, which happens to be where I took the header photo of Camden Harbor above. You'll see it centered in Google Maps with each visible peak marked by an icon, along with a panorama view above and a list of the spots to the right, each interactively clickable. But you've just gotten started.
Today Garmin announced a slew of new tools meant to encourage third parties—commercial and otherwise—to interact every which way with Garmin hardware. I’m not a developer, but my quick read suggests that possibilities include writing a cell phone app that’ll get location from a Garmin GPS via Bluetooth; equipping a Web site with an easy way to up/down-load waypoints, routes, and tracks; creating a set of “Garmin Rich POIs” (GPI) from raw XML or GPX files; and more. In fact, it looks like Garmin is going to share some of the sophisticated software goodies it acquired with Motion Based, figuring, I guess, that even if other developers make something good enough to command subscriptions, Garmin will still get the hardware sales. But like I say I don’t really understand all the developer talk. So I’m hoping that those of you who do will check out the new site and report back.
It wasn’t surprising that Jeppesen Marine’s Miami press conference was meatier than Navico’s. Jep’s acquisition of C-Map had been through a many-month due diligence process and had already closed before the boat show. I came away thinking that existing C-Map customers, retail and OEM, have nothing to worry about, and that the products that evolve out of this combination are going to be interesting. For one thing, we were introduced to the new manager of the Recreational division, James Detar—to the left above, with Jeppesen Marine VP Tim Sukle and Nobeltec manager Shepard Tucker. Detar seems evolved for the task; he grew up in a Cape Cod boatyard, then went on to earn an advanced degree in cartography and work at C-Map for some 15 years, first in chart production, then business development. He even speaks fluent Italian. When asked if Jeppesen would change any of C-Map’s many existing OEM relationships, Detar said, very convincingly: “Absolutely not!” Sukle and Tucker described the overall vision of Jeppesen Marine, which is next generation charts/data/software (not hardware), both for OEM’s and their own products. Thus Nobeltec will help advance C-Map’s plotter OS much like it’s worked backstage on Simrad’s Glass Bridge and certain Northstar products. (I later spoke with a big C-Map OEM, and he’s excited). Tucker also described how Jeppesen is applying its massive resources to a set of Web services that will include facilities for users to share data, including POI info, with each other and the world. That made me smile.
Jeppesen, by the way, has a heck of a history. It didn’t seem to be in the movie (worth watching), but we were told that founder, and early mail pilot, Elrey Jeppesen famously said, “I didn’t do this to make money; I did it to stay alive!”
Some might quibble with “distinctively handsome profile”, but wow what a concept: 6 knots ‘free’ using 6,000 watts of photovoltaic panels laid on the (thus squarish) cabin tops and deck, but if you want to pick her up to 15 knots cruise (and/or the big AGM battery banks need topping up), the Mercedes diesel generators, living in sound proof chambers forward, kick in. This is more out-of-the-box thinking from Reuben Trane, who also put together the more subtly innovative Island Pilot I tried in August. He spoke about this hybrid idea with much enthusiasm, but I didn’t expect to see ads and a web site so soon. Needless to say, there will be a very interesting monitoring and control system on these boats.
Brunswick still hasn’t sold its BNT electronics division, but a big reason it might want to raise cash is becoming more apparent. Ever since the stock price popped a bit on the late April announcement, it’s been downhill sledding. And yesterday was awful as BC announced “significant” retail sales declines and plans to reduce production. (Overall this is not a good sign for the economy, or my business, though, wow, BC’s big boats are still selling.)
Meanwhile the rumors about who would buy BNT have pretty much died down…but Northstar/Navman seems to be chugging along just fine. In fact, I’ve got two folders of really interesting screen shots to share in the near future, and BNT ME recently announced a big sale of 8000i gear to Viking Yachts. (Whose sales may be just fine, because…oh, I don’t know…we’re living in the Roaring 00’s?)
Let’s see, according to the Samsung press release, that little 32 gig solid state drive (SSD) she’s holding, used in the new laptop and UMPC, can take twice the impact of a regular shock resistant laptop HD, reads 300% faster, and runs much cooler (meaning that its easier to waterproof the surrounding box). Of course it’s a little pricey now, but won’t these be useful around an electronic helm? (credit: Gizmodo)