One enterprising, if anonymous, Panbot has apparently been searching out filings at the U.S. Patent Office, and discovered some interesting recent activity regarding Furuno Electric Co. and Forward Looking Sonar (FLS). You may recall that Furuno previewed the “FL-7000” at the NMEA Conference in 2005, but then scrapped the product, purportedly due to inconsistent performance. That entry and its comments demonstrate well my personal enthusiasm for improved FLS and the current state of the technology (valuable but limited, with ongoing incremental improvements). Well, patents are hard to read, and don’t necessarily mean much, but…
Aside from Panbo’s able crew of regular commenters—some of whom I’ve gotten to know personally, and all of whom I appreciate—the sixty thousand plus unique monthly visitors here are a somewhat mysterious mishmash of marine electronics enthusiasts, product info searchers, and trades people. (Feel free to speak up your own self, and apologies in advance for the somewhat cranky comment system, which will be improved in 2009.) Actually I also personally know a lot of folks in the trade who read Panbo regularly, and have been told that several companies have a designated monitor tasked with passing along relevant entries and comments to management. How 2009/Web 2.0 cool is that? And it means that if you’d like to express your wishes for the marine electronics future, you will be heard. Russ Irwin, proprietor of the data mishmash above, gets the first word (and credit as instigator):
That’s a Blackberry getting dunked in pan of water, which it apparently survives just fine, thanks to a new “vacuum deposited” polymer coating process called Golden Shellback. You can see the CNET video “Waterproof your gadgets” below, Gizmodo filmed a cell taking a call while in a glass of ice water, and Tekzilla had some fun with an iPhone. But I’m a little confused; all these tech sites talk about “waterproof” but Golden Shellback itself clearly calls its technology “splash proof.” Many of us know from handheld VHF history that there can be a big difference.
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.