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Mikko

NMEA2000 to WiFi

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I'm a marine electronics newbie planning a NMEA2000 network on to a 35 feet sailboat. Essentially Airmar pb-200 and DST-800 to couple of instrument displays. Also, I would like to get data via wireless network to an iPad+iNavX . I would not like to have a laptop or other power hungry server on board, but have not found a clear solution yet.

Do I have to first do conversion from 2000 to 0183 and then transmit to an ad hoc WiFi adapter or are there dedicated and simple solutions available to transmit data via WiFi directly from NMEA2000 network? Or should I try to stay in 0183 altogether?

All input appreciated!

- Mikko

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  • Wish I had an answer for you (getting data out to an iPad wirelessly without involving a PC). I suspect when the solution arrives, it will be via bluetooth instead of wi-fi first.

    An uninformed guess is that TackTick, which already uses bluetooth, will be the first to make boat data available to an Apple or Android device. Should I be right, you may be able to use TackTick's NMEA-1083 interface to get the PB200 wind information included in the bluetooth stream to the ipad.

    There is a cable available for the PB200 that makes the output available via both 0183 and 2000. The 2000 output has advantages, but in this case the 0183 output might meet your needs soonest.

  • We are using the Digi Connect Wi-SP to get NMEA-0183 data out to iPhone/iPod/iPad running iNavX without need of a PC or Mac ..

    http://www.digi.com/products/serialservers/digiconnectwisp.jsp

    http://www.macsailing.net/fbb/showtopic.php?tid/1178/

    N2K is more of a challenge, but MacENC running on a Mac will take the N2K and convert to N-0183 for iNavX. Uses Actisense NGT-1 gateway.

  • I seem to one of a few that continue living exclusively in the NMEA 0183 world.

    I have NMEA 0183 data on ethernet via a Moxa interface and then available on Wifi via a Cradlepoint access point. See:

    http://www.panbo.com/archives/2010/03/nmea_0183_over_ethernet_on_mar_azul.html

    I believe Moxa makes an interface that goes directly to Wifi from RS-422(NMEA 0183), but if my memory is correct, the cost is higher and the cost of having both the wired bridge and the access point is about the same. Adding the Cradlepoint and a Verizon Wireless USB adapter gives you internet access for laptops which was important in my application.

    Someone like Moxa (or Moxa itself) may make a Canbus to Wifi adapter, however, the question is will the software understand NMEA 2000 sentances? Most application programs use 0183 style data.

    Good luck!

    Bob

  • Maybe this will do what you want ?

    http://www.gridconnect.com/wi232.html

    I still think bluetooth would be a more natural fit. The folks at Brookhouse have given some thought about adding this to their multiplexer, but then realized you can get you 0183 data onto bluetooth thru other means:

    http://brookhouseonline.com/nmea_multiplexer.htm

    Quote"
    Optional extra: Bluetooth connector

    Most boat owners prefer reliable hard-wired connections for the transmission of critical navigation data. However, there is some demand for bluetooth enabled multiplexers, mainly for transmission to a PDA or small notebook that can be used in different positions on the boat. Nevertheless, we have decided not to offer bluetooth as an integral feature of Brookhouse multiplexers for several reasons. In the first place, there are now a number of competetively priced serial-bt adapters on the market with very strong features, such as extended range. These units provide better functionality than any integral bt transmitter can do. Furthermore, it is advantageous to keep wireless transmission separated from the core tasks of the multiplexer for service reasons. Instead of integral bt, Brookhouse can offer an optional connector for several industry standard plug-in type bt modules. 5V power is supplied by the multiplexer via one of the connector pins. Please contact us for more information.

  • You should talk to Steve who's doing all kinds of crazy stuff.

    http://www.nomadness.com/blog/

  • has anyone experimented with a can bus to ethernet adapter? Will any nav software understand the output?

  • The perfect solution I think is a device that goes direct from NMEA-2000 to wi-fi. Once this is done at a low enough price point, there will be an abundance of low cost iPad or Android apps to chose from in the the fields of Navigation and environment display/monitoring.

    There are a number of automotive consumer devices on the market that plug into a cars diagnostic port to convert CAN bus directly to wi-fi for use on iPhone/PC/Mac apps. Cost point on one is around $150 which is an indicator of how low cost this can be if there is enough volume to drive it.

    Another approach would be a cost effective NMEA-2000 to Ethernet bridge. Then one can use a wireless router device to get vessel data onto any device - onboard or around the world. The Ericcson W35 router is one product that can do a good job - if only its power consumption wasn't so high.

    My sense is that there are a couple of remaining hurdles to overcome before NMEA-2000 is truly embraced. This topic is one of them. Lower priced transducers is another. Full PGN coverage by display manufacturers is a third.

    Maybe it just comes down to consumer demand? Our business has been trying to drive a NMEA-2000 to wi-fi product with a number of manufacturers for the past 6 months but it comes back to market demand. This will happen if we can demonstrate buyer interest.

  • Gary, I think there is a market for an N2K-to-WiFi device, but I'm not sure how big, and don't think anyone will know until such a product actually exists and people can see what it does (and costs).

  • Hi Ben, I think the specification looks like the following:
    - Sell price less than $200
    - NMEA-2000 port
    - Powered from NMEA-2000 bus - less than 100 milliamps
    - Size less than a ciggy packet

    The device would have the same functionality as a N2K-USB converter - like Maretron or Actisense.

  • Well, there's a problem right there, Gary. The Maretron USB100 and Actisense NGW-1 are NMEA 2000 to NMEA 0183 USB adapters, and there will never be a perfect translation of 2000 to 0183. Now the Actisense NGT-1 is straight NMEA 2000 to PC, but there is no standard for how that data is packaged on PC so Actisense had to write its own DLL. (The Maretron USB100 will also gateway straight N2K, but only to Maretron software). So if you want to go real NMEA 2000 to WiFi -- the way to go, I think -- you should probably be talking with Actisense, which is already working with a lot of charting software developers.

  • Ben the Maretron USB100 works with Coastal Explorer, Actisense NMEA REader, NavmonPC, OpenNavy, PolarCom, anything which understand NMEA 2000 as far as can tell. It does not work with OLDER SW that only seems to understand NMEA 0183 like Airmail. Airmail is so infrequently updated anyway, I'm hoping something will replace it anyway.

    Anyway, there are lots of SW packages that work with the Maretron USB gateway, right out of the box. I did NO configuration to my USB100 at all. As an example in Coastal Explorer I can see GPS and wind data no issues and the data mirrors what I see in the Maretron DSM250.

    I did use an Actisense NGW-1-ISO to connect my Icom M504 and Pactor PTC-IIUSB to the network and that works great too. They have awesome support too, helped me figure out that wiring.

    I think they are both great and I think you are erroneously evangelizing one over the other. If you have more facts to share please do though.

  • It's confusing Patrick, but the reason those programs work well with the USB100 is because they are getting translations of NMEA 2000 PGNs into NMEA 0183 sentences. However Maretron only supports about 20 translations, albeit the ones most commonly used for navigation. Only Maretron programs like N2KAnalyzer and N2KView receive NMEA 2000 PGNs through the USB100.

    It's all pretty well explained in the USB100 manual, and there are even diagrams in the back showing how the PGN fields map to the 1083 fields (which demonstrate how tricky these translations are).

    http://www.maretron.com/support/manuals/USB100UM_1.2.pdf

    Maretron went this route because they developed the USB100 way before a true N2K gateway was conceived of by NMEA, and before any third party software developers showed any interest in supporting PGNs. The USB100 has been, and remains, a very useful tool, but it is not a Third Party Gateway. Maretron did experiment with opening the USB100 to Coastal Explorer (and there's still a bit of software for that buried somewhere on the Rose Point site), but has so far stayed out of TPG because it has other fish to fry.

    I make mistakes, for sure, but I'm confident about this. The Actisense NGT-1 is the only TPG at this point, and it's not done yet in the sense that Actisense has not finished the certification tool. You can see that several of the programs you're using are working on compatability with the NGT-1 here:

    http://www.actisense.com/HTML/Products/Gateways/NMEA_2000_PC_Gateway_1/Software.htm

    Once done, any of these programs will be able to see PGNs like engine and power info that are not available in 0183, or not translated by Maretron, Simrad or Actisense 2000-to-0183 adapters, and -- if the developers enable it -- show you a list of devices, let you choose among redundant sources, name multiple sources (like different temp sensors) etc. etc.

    You can further verify what I'm saying by running Actisense NMEA Reader on your USB100 again. You'll see that it's showing 0183, not 2000, messages (the Reader sees both). They'll match some of the twenty 0183 sentence translations listed in USB100 manual.

  • Thanks for the clarification Ben. Sounds like I should keep that Actisense USB gateway I was sent accidentally when I ordered my NGW-1-ISO and give it a try to compare.

    More toys to play with!

  • Hi Ben,
    I'm not sure that I understand the problem. On the wifi side I would expect to pass N2K data straight through as N2K data. One would also want to be able to transmit data onto N2K. It would be up to the application program to handle that data stream.

    In the case of new applications on an Idevice or PC or Mac, the developer needs to deal with N2K as I would expect (?) that the N2K development intended. After all 0183 was never set up as a bidirectional protocol.

    Legacy applications could either handle the support of NMEA 2000 natively (by way of a software update) or the alternative is to have an intermediate DLL or whatever do do the necessary translation from N2K to 0183.

    I wonder if such a low cost N2K to wireless device would rattle the cages of our traditional instrument vendors as it opens up the development of applications to iPad, iPod and Android platforms. Consider that a sub $200 iPod walks all over DSM200/250's, ST70's and so on in capability.

    There will always be a place for the traditional devices where they are needed for environmental reasons or if it is thought they are needed because they may offer better reliability.

    Frankly I would like to see Raymarine, Maretron and so on develop low cost apps for the new generation of devices. Their problem might be that doing so takes away revenue from their proprietry hardware.

    Maybe I'm missing something?

  • I'm not sure what you have there, Patrick; Actisense has several USB "Gateways" -- 0183 to USB, RS485 to USB, N2K translated to 0183 to USB, and, finally, N2K to USB (the Third Party Gateway).

  • Gary, I'm not a programmer but I don't think it's as easy as "pass N2K data straight through as N2K data." I've been watching the Third Party Gateway initiative pretty closely and while I think it's happened way too slow, the pieces do seem to be coming together so that software developers can get bidirectional access to N2K networks in a safe, approved, and inexpensive way. It would be real nice to have the option of a wireless link, even just input, but why not find out how the TPG process works?

    Also I think your "iPod walks all over DSM200/250's, ST70's and so on in capability" is off base. How about aspects like waterproofness, screen brightness, compatability with a boat's power system, and the ability to mount a display neatly at a helm?

    Remember too that the low cost of consumer electronics can cut both ways. What if you develop some sort of proprietary N2K-to-WiFi gateway and then someone comes up with an small, inexpensive, low power 12v PC/WiFi device that works well with the Actisense or another TPG that's already supported by many charting software developers and approved by NMEA? And what about wireless USB? Just saying.

  • I was sent the NGT-1-USB which sounds like the one I would want to have to replace and\or compliment the Maretron USB100.

  • Thanks for the heads up on the Third Party Gateway initiative. Sounds like the right way to go for commercial product.

    I am not that an iDevice is a replacement for a full strength marine product. I would always recommend a "brand" device as the primary GPS/Plotter/Sounder/Radar interface from the position of reliability, ruggedness, power supply and so on. If you can get past the glossy screen and need to use in a dry environment then why not.

    For a starting price of $200, a Idevice packs a lot of punch when it includes a high resolution colour touch controlled display, very low power consumption, fast and capable CPU, gigabytes of flash memory, audio interface, network (wi-fi) interface, bluetooth interface and an advanced software development environment. It doesn't matter if we are talking Apple IOS or Google Android devices, there is an unsurpassed interest from the technically minded public to embrace and/or develop applications on such a device.

    I question what is wrong with "amateur" development of iDevice applications that are restricted to read-only NMEA-2000 data access? This type of activity can only be good for NMEA-2000 as the demand for transducer and gateway devices increases.

    I agree that write access to NMEA-2000 is a "professional affair" and should be restricted to a compliant gateway. That's not to say there isn't room for lower cost read only gateway.

    Maybe the wi-fi access should first be handled by an ethernet gateway product that gives global access to N2K data via the appropriate wireless router mechanism. What is important is that the gateway should be affordable and open architecture for access by all.

  • Hi folks, I think Gary is right on target. This is my first post here and I’m just a con/pro-sumer type – but here’s my question on this topic: What is the monumental difficulty with creating a NMEA 2000 to WIFI adapter/gateway device?

    I see that a company called OBD KEY already has a CANbus to Wifi adapter with an iPod application! (see http://www.obdkey.com/wifi/index.asp/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prCTsUPXLGs). NMEA 2000 to Wi-Fi would just be a variation correct?

    My application is for re-instrumenting a 20 year old sailboat with NMEA 2000 based wind/depth/speed sensors (aka Tactik, Garmin, Raymarine) and a NMEA 2000 to Wi-Fi device for transmitting sensor data to an iPad based chart plotter application like iNavX or Navionics – perhaps even a sailboat racing centric app. I think this is a highly typical use case.

    My wind/depth/speed instruments and quite old and desperately need replacing but I’m not going to buy anything until a NMEA 2000/Wi-Fi/iPad solution exists because this is the “obvious solution”. I understand that consumers typically want standards based solutions but vendors want a more proprietary solution locking them into their branded solution. I’d be willing to spend about $2,500 for a complete system (sensors, transmitter, iPad application)

    iPhone/Pad applications are replacing dedicated hardware solutions in every conceivable market space. Believe it or not but, I can even take a photo of a check using my bank’s app to deposit checks without ever going to a bank. If stodgy old banks can innovate like this, I’d sure hope marine electronics makers could as well…..

  • To explain where I am coming from. We are a small Australian company that is multifaceted in the marine industry. We design and supply electrical systems and resell electrical and electronics product from many manufacturers. Essentially we are a systems provider. http://www.shopoma.com.au

    We are also involved in the manufacture of a new cruising catamaran http://www.argusboats.com

    In the process of oufitting Argus Boats we have a direction to embrace NMEA-2000. The vessel is being fitted with two Raymarine E120W displays, AIS500, SPX10 autopilot, ST8002 control head, and notably Glendinning engine controls to command the Suzuki 90 HP outboards. The Raymarine decision was driven by the vessel owner and I think it was a good one.

    The E120W is a great product but I am not happy that the Raymarine systems can not display system information like water levels, black water levels and refrigeration system temperatures. And the system ability to consolodate engine fuel consumption and express it as vessel litres per nautical mile is frustrated. We will probably end up putting a Garmin GMI-10 at the helm to look after what the Raymarine E120W display can't.

    The owner is having an iPad at the helm, permantly installed, for email, internet weather radar and music (iPod style).

    He would ideally want an iPad app that showed vessel system data. The iPad could easily be an Android device - this is not religion.

    The bottom line is that Raymarine shows no interest in extending their NMEA support to cover vessel environment data. And even if they did, we would still be lacking a gateway to access vessel data over the internet.

    I would certainly like to hear from others who are like minded in order to demonstrate to NMEA members that there is a market for a cost effective gateway product that can communicate with the new generation of Apple iOS and Android based products.

  • Gary, the Argus E35 looks like a neat boat to me, and I wish you well with it. It reminds me of the Buzzard's Bay 34, one of which was looking good in my harbor this week:

    http://www.mdcats.com/

    As for your NMEA 2000 to iPad gateway, as long as it's just getting system output, I can't imagine that NMEA cares. And I hope you come up with a efficient, inexpensive solution, and tell us about it. If you want to get into N2K input as well, look into the TPG program.

  • Ben wrote "I'm not a programmer but I don't think it's as easy as "pass N2K data straight through as N2K data."

    Exactly right!

    I hope the TPG efforts provide some generic capability to configure N2K devices to upload deviec updates using an iPhone or Android, rather than using MFD's from the same vendor as the device or loading software onto a PC.

    What's the best way to participate or observe the TPG effort Ben? Are you or Jeff a contributor ?

  • Sorry, Dan, I don't know anything about NMEA committees. Suggest you ask direct.

  • I am trying to refit a 63 foot sailing boat along the lines others are talking about. Personally I think an NMEA (2k or 0183) to Ethernet is more useful than WiFi since you will (today or in the near future) want to get internet access over the same network and the NMEA->WiFi devices I've seen considered do not have the ability to add a 3G modem as well. It is probably cheaper to couple a NMEA-Ethernet box with a regular 3G Router.

    Apart from the NMEA to iPad/iPhone/iPod discussion I'm also trying to figure out how to combine the good parts of of current systems (some Raymarine/Seatalk stuff, an Adveto chartplotter/GPS Compass and an AIS transponder). I suspect we currently run Seatalk + 0183, but the loop isn't complete. I'm tempted at looking at Tacktick for a new wind instrument since it alleviates the cabling problem with an 80 foot mast, but it seems like that would add even more complexity. How hard are those things to solve?

  • Great topic. A low-cost N2K to wifi (or Ethernet) adaptor needs to exist before app developers can come up with useful applications here. Personally I have just taken delivery of a new 45DS yacht and fitted it out with Raymarine Autopilot and Garmin sensors all N2K talking to each other. The Navionics iPad application has saved me a lot of money and more useful than any other screen on the boat with no problems in the Marine environment. I use it every day abroad.

    What I really want is an iPad app that does the job of a Raymarine wireless controller especially to steer the auto pilot.

    From this discussion it seems there is a community who want the device and want to contribute but not necessarily the technical skills to build it, myself included.

    Hence maybe the problem is a commercial issue and our contribution needs to be the money we would be prepared to buy one with. This could either be in the form of preorders with a partner company or a cooperative company we all set up.

    I know this is a different direction but it seems the missing link is ability not willingness.

    Thoughts?

  • While teh TPG initative is undoubtably useful, I cant see how native N2K over TCP or UDP would actually work, are we saying we can "extend" the N2K network over Wifi, or is it just read only stuff.

    how can be handle N2K address resolution using the TPG, i dont beleive it supports it, also does it support the Request protocol.

  • It looks like there are two threads going on this subject. Should we shut one down?

  • My first priority would be to embrace a read only device that could simply broadcast NMEA-2000 strings. The applications have the ability to display data. I can not see why this device needs certification so price can be kept down.

    A wireless device could work in either adhoc (direct to an iPad or PC) or bridge to a router where the data would be available on any network.

    The TPG initiative should then focus on a true bidirectional gateway product where by nature it must have certification and will be inherantly more expensive.

    Wouldn't this be good for all parties?

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