October 2007 Archives

NN3D & N2K, sweeeet!

Oct 31, 2007


Yes, a first look at Furuno’s NavNet 3D had me burbling “incredibly sexy”—and I will explain that!—but today let’s talk about how thoroughly the 3D system embraces NMEA 2000. For starters there’s a standard N2K connector on each of the three NN3D displays, and the Product Guide lists lots of specific standard PGNs they can input and output (so there should be no Garmin-type data surprises). Now check out a bigger version of the NN3D “building blocks” diagram above to see how many N2K sensors Furuno itself is offering. Besides the FI-50 instruments already discussed, there’s an interesting N2K SC-30 GPS Heading Sensor (said to be reasonably priced and very accurate), an N2K Weather Station, an N2K Smart Transducer, and an N2K GPS.
   Now at least a couple of those are obviously rebranded Airmar products, but note too the odd “Ethernet…dotted line…NMEA 2000” label on the UHD Radar Sensors (mentioned yesterday). You see each of those scanners has an N2K connector on it, able to both power any of the Furuno N2K sensors and take their data, packetize it onto NavNet, and deliver it around the boat (and beyond, if and when Furuno decides to extend NavNet like, say, N2KView). The sensor data coming through the radar scanner is available to any manufacturer’s N2K device via the NN3D display’s port, and I’m told that any N2K data, even proprietary PGNs, going into that port is put onto NavNet. The installation possibilities are pretty amazing. Like radar, weather, and GPS from an antenna mast with only one power cable and one Ethernet cable. At any rate, Furuno may be one of the last of the big marine electronics manufacturers to adopt NMEA 2000, but, man, didn’t they!

Raymarine HD Radar, crisp but not yet Super

Oct 30, 2007


So let’s see if I can show you why I called Raymarine’s new high def radar demo “stunning” last week. First take a peek at the 1:10,000 chart for the section of Ft. Lauderdale canal shown above at 1/2 mile radar range, understanding that we were in head-up mode going almost due South, putting what I’m told is a submarine pen to starboard. Now look at the bigger screen photo here, plus the wide angle photo below, taken a moment earlier through a starboard pilothouse window. Feeling the def?  Note the complete lack of clutter around the boat, yet how close and sharply defined the round steel dolphins and low shore are. And would you be surprised that further ahead are a couple of tied-up freighters with small boats outboard and cranes on shore?

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Bluetooth VHF headset, coming soon

Oct 29, 2007


Standard Horizon plans to introduce this Bluetooth wireless VHF headset some time this winter (plus a VHF/GPS handheld). There isn’t a brochure or web link yet but these are the specs I recall: waterproof, 150 foot range, can be used either voice-activated (VOX) or push-to-talk (PTT), will sell for around $150, and will fit many S.H. radios.

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FLIBS, "expensive" is relative

Oct 29, 2007


This is turning out to be a big year in marine electronics, particularly at the high end, and FLIBS is always a reminder of how high that end can be. I won’t argue with commenters who find the new NavNet 3D and G-Series expensive, but I might point them at something like this custom helm seen in the Super Yacht Tent. Check it out bigger here, and note the several translucent alarm-coded trackballs like the Palladium model I found in the same tent last year. Palladium, by the way, designed theirs from scratch and says it not related to the “Chameleon” hardware found at a German manufacturer. Whatever, these trackballs are a great idea. The helm, incidentally, was put together by Radio Zeeland DMP, and I have no idea what it cost.

3D & G, wowsuh!

Oct 25, 2007


So much to gush about, so little time to gush. Yesterday I got on the water with a full-on Raymarine G-Series system—seen above, 4 monitors fed by 3 processors—and it truly is E-Series on steroids. The interface is E familiar yet nicely improved in some areas…and wicked fast. Plus we got to see Ray’s new high def radar, which was stunning. Then I attended the world premier of Furuno NavNet 3D, which is freaking amazing. It’s not NavNet of old, it’s not MaxSea; it’s something entirely new. The poor photo below was snapped as the Furuno guys replayed a trip recorded in the Cape Cod Canal, high def radar overlaid over an ENC vector that’s mixed with a high def photo map in a good way you’ve never seen before. The tabs at right are a smart new form of soft key driven by a “Rotokey”. I thought the interface, often demo'd live from a 3D black box unit, was incredibly sexy and ran charts faster and smoother than I’ve ever seen before, on any platform. Today much new dope is supposed to appear at both NavNet.com and Raymarine, which is good, because I gotta go.

NavNet3D intro cPanbo

Interphase SE-200B, on DAME short list

Oct 24, 2007


Now online along with my PMY column about George Wallner, owner of Electra, is a write up of Interphase’s neat black box SE-200B FLS (forward looking sonar). The two related as Wallner, like me, is a fan of FLS, despite its limitations, and had a series of Interphase models on his former yacht Tumblehome. An SE-200 could have integrated nicely into Electra’s two helm system, but Wallner chose a Color Twinscope instead, feeling that a stand-alone unit would be less distracting to use, which usually happens to be when he’s maneuvering in thin waters. Click here for pictures and details of Electra’s systems that couldn’t fit in the PMY article. Today, it was announced that the SE-200 made the DAME awards short list, one of 34 products selected from 138 entered. I don’t even know what some of the electronics category entries are! But I’ll be at METS to find out, assuming I get through the FLIBS mad house, which starts for me in one hour. As you can see from the press schedule and show list, I’m going to be a busy boy.

FloScan, doing N2K right

Oct 23, 2007


FloScan has been measuring fuel flow for over 30 years, so I’d guess they have a darn good idea how to do it. It’s refreshing that their new NMEA 2000 Diesel Monitoring System focuses on what they know well and let’s the resulting data go wherever you want. The flow sensors and those “hubs” seen above, bigger here, are all you need. Yes, you can buy FloScan’s round gauge upper right, but you don’t need to. All data is sent in standard N2K messages, and the little calibration needed is done right in those boxes. The rest of this NMEA Conference booth had Simrad, Lowrance, and Raymarine displays all showing the gallons per hour, remaining fuel, etc. Note that FloScan’s site says that, “Furuno is currently developing NMEA 2000 products which will interface with our system.” But we knew that, right, and will know more when NavNet #d debuts (hey, I might live blog it, if there’s WiFi there). Note, too, how the port engine is “Instance 0” in the N2K system and the starboard engine is set as “Instance 1”. You can set that with a switch in the hub. But who the heck decided to start instances at zero instead of one. Wouldn’t it be better if, say, GPS #1 was instance 1, GPS #2 instance 2, etc.? 

Handheld VHF/GPS/DSC, two coming

Oct 22, 2007


I’ve long liked the concept of a handheld VHF with a built-in GPS and hence built-in DSC alarm capability (just add MMSI). I made the case here in August. So wasn’t I tickled to see this prototype kicking around the Lowrance booth at NMEA, and later to hear that Standard Horizon is also planning a combo unit. But it was very much a prototype, in fact just an empty shell, and Lowrance could not say when it will be ready. Ditto Standard Horizon. And the naysayers still report that the needed engineering is challenging.

AIS Class B in the USA, just "a matter of weeks"

Oct 19, 2007


Unlike last year, or last May, this morning’s GMDSS Task Force meeting seemed to yield good news about Class B AIS in the USA. The FCC has finally granted a waiver so that the various units already approved by the USCG can be sold and used even while further rulemaking takes place. The waiver needs to be reviewed by the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), but FCC representative Ghassan Khalek said that would be done in “a matter of weeks, not months”. And publication in the Federal Register will not be necessary;  the moment IRAC grants its blessing, CG and FCC approved AIS B units can be sold and used. 
   Why did I use the fudge word “seemed” in the first sentence? Well, a year ago Mr. Khalek told me that FCC Class B approval would be quick once the CG was done. So I double checked that “matter of weeks” quote with him as he exited the meeting. He nodded yes, smiled, and murmured a compliment about Panbo’s AIS coverage. Cool.

Furuno FI-50 instruments, & more N2K

Oct 19, 2007


It’s a crappy picture, but this scene, bigger here, does give some sense of what Raymarine’s new ST70 instruments look like next to the brand new Furuno FI-50 series mentioned yesterday. The ST70’s look almost as good as the PR photography, but you can see that the screen is a little smaller than Furuno’s, which will also cost less (“about the price of ST 60s”, said the Furuno guys). The FI-50s aren’t at all graphic, but I thought the wind gauge with its “Formula 1 style” white face was very readable from a distance. There are three more FI-50 displays in that same style—close hauled wind, heading, and rudder angle. There’s also another digital display with one large data field, and the backlighting on all is automated and they draw little power as those are OLED screens. I fooled with the button controls and found the instruments easy to work, and that there are lots of data types supported.
   The picture, by the way, was taken at the Airmar booth and the NMEA 2000 wind data is coming from a new Weather Station model that outputs both N2K and 0183, has improved sensors, and will ship “this winter”. And the network could have included a new series of Simrad N2K instruments that look quite interesting. There’s much to learn about all these new instruments, but there’s little doubt that Furuno has done well on the N2K cabling front. Each of the FI-50 instruments has both male and female metal Device Net style connectors on the back, so they can be either tee’d from a backbone or daisy chained. Each also includes a switchable terminator so it can be set as the end of a backbone. Finally, seen below, Furuno has come up with an N2K cable box that can act as a backbone junction and 6 tees. This will be useful to an installer with tricky wire runs, a tight budget, or a burning need to strip wire. Oh, and the two wind instruments have a third connector for a new Furuno analog wind sensor whose data goes out as standard N2K PGNs, and the FI-50 brochure suggests that that Furuno will also be offering an N2K Weather Station and Depth/Speed/Temp triducer (no doubt Airmar’s). All good news, but possibly minor compared to NavNet 3D, debuting next Wed. night. By the way, Furuno is showing a bit more 3D leg here, and I like it.

Furuno N2K connection box cPanbo