Monitoring 2017: Siren, QuikTrak, DotMobile, Yacht Protector, GOST, Maretron, Boat Command & GoFree

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 23, 2017

MIBS2017_Siren_Marine_Dan_Harper_cPanbo.jpgThere was so much going on with remote boat monitoring, tracking, and control at the Miami International Boat Show that I started wondering if 2017 would be the year this technology takes off. I've long thought that many boat owners would really appreciate the peace of mind offered by good monitoring if only they experienced it. And while this hardware/service category is confusing because there are so many things that can be done in so many ways, wow, there sure are a lot of companies that hope to help you experience it...

Siren Marine MTC

Siren_Marine_MTC_w_wireless_sensor_n_app_aPanbo.jpgWhen I detailed Siren Marine's new MTC system last October, I thought it would soon materialize. But boat monitoring at this ambitious level must be easy to install and use while being wickedly complicated under the hood, and that takes time and money to develop. So, perhaps, CEO Dan Harper and his crew are grinning even more than they were at the Miami show now that Siren funding is secured and initial MTC units are expected to ship this month. Taking the MTC features tour does reveal that some advanced capabilities -- like NMEA 2000 support, video capture, wireless sensors, and satellite backup -- are coming later, but a boatload of effort and monitoring experience has gone into the MTC "basics" and I look forward to testing the system.

Speaking of testing and difficult development, the ambitious SkyMate Mazu/mSeries sat comms and monitoring system I learned about in Miami apparently hasn't shipped yet either, as this system, too, is planned to make Gizmo perhaps the most monitored little cruising vessel on the planet.

QuikTrak BoatWatch

MIBS2017_QuikTrak_Global_cPanbo.jpgQuikTrak Global was a new company to the Miami show and to me, and their BoatWatch site seems light on details, but their technology looks quite interesting. If you download the BoatWatch catalog, for instance, you'll see that the Australian mother company M2M Global Technology not only serves many tracking and monitoring markets, it claims a proprietary "IMNS" SIM technology that can smartly switch between multiple GSM and WCDMA cell networks.

Unless a remote boat monitoring system uses satellite data, or has a satellite backup, cellular coverage is critical and none is truly "global" -- even in reasonably civilized places like my Camden, Maine, home port. The core hardware for the BoatProtect, BoatTrack, and BoatWatch service levels is also tiny, and I was told that both hardware and subscription pricing would be suitable for small boats, but those are the sort of details I hope we'll see soon on the BoatWatch site.

DotMobile

DotMobile_Watercraft_Ecosystem_aPanbo.jpgThe DotMobile Watercraft Ecosystem was another first time Miami booth visit and is again a division of a larger IoT enterprise, but their emphasis seems to be on larger yachts, even monitoring tenders and crew. Check the PDF download for the best detail of features and hardware specifications. Like QuikTrak's, it seems possible that DotMobile's technology will be more fully realized under a more familiar marine brand name. In fact, it seemed like most every monitoring company I checked out in Miami had already been visited by a research team from Garmin!

Yacht Protector

Yacht Protector live demo app screens 5-17 cPanbo.jpgMeanwhile, various versions of Yacht Protector are detailed and ready to ship, though I have to add that my first testing experience last fall did not go well. While the mostly wireless installation was a breeze, I do live on the edge in terms of cell data service and Yacht Protector has since switched from Vodophone "Global" to an AT&T service that will likely work fine here and elsewhere I cruise (possibly excepting further downeast in Maine).

YP has also gotten many new features since I first looked, like an optional interface to various Dometic climate control systems, fault codes included, and I'm told that an engine monitoring option is coming. I also understand that YP is working with certain boatbuilders to build in hatch and door sensors, which would be great as they are usually painful to rig on a finished boat.

Yacht Protector is the U.S. version of Spain-based Dokensip -- where you can see more possible features like an image capture sensor -- and longtime marine distributor Yacht Group makes its home in Coral Gables, Florida. That's why trying the free and easy Yacht Protector live demo will take you to app screens like the ones I captured above. I don't think that you can actually mess with the real boat's conditioner, but it's certainly a good way to see how this system works and get a taste of remote boat monitoring and control in general.

GOST

MIBS2017_GOST_HD_XVR_cPanbo.jpgGlobal Ocean Security Technologies (GOST) has been in the boat monitoring business since before they were GOST, and just last week their venerable Nav-Tracker 1.0 was key to the recovery of a stolen Yellowfin well on its way to Mexico (hi res tracking here).

But what they were showing off in their Miami booth was the new GOST Watch HD XVR, which can be combined with all sorts of cameras including FLIR thermals to surveil most every aspect of a yacht. With GOST Watch you can remotely monitor multiple cameras with a phone or tablet, and though it took a while due to the slow boatshow WiFi, the demo above did eventually and impressively show all 16 live video streams. (And note the nifty Leatherman Tread multi-tool on the wrist of GOST CEO and master gadgeteer Jay Keenan.)

Maretron

Maretron_MBB300C.jpg

In my experience, no manufacturer is close to Maretron in terms of deep sensing, alerting and alarming for mid-size vessels, and they also offer ways to extend the monitoring off the boat (control too). They've been refining their flagship N2KView software in recent years, with the latest (and least expensive) generation running in this MBB300C dedicated PC. I thought of effective N2KView alarming when I read this gripping entry during the Atlantic crossing of the good ship Dirona.

But given 37-foot Gizmo's size (and budget), I've long been interested in getting Maretron monitoring without a PC. That's why I celebrated the DSM150 in 2013 and was pleased to see the much better looking DSM410 appear last week. One is headed this way for review, and I also purchased another TMP100 to extend the excellent engine temperature monitoring I've already been experiencing with only Maretron displays and ALM100 audio. (While my focus with this gear is onboard monitoring, the SMS100 offers a relatively simple offboard link, though I had local cell card trouble in my 2013 testing.)

Boat Command

Boat_Command_on_Condesa_by_Clark_Beek_cPanbo.jpgI did not see Boat Command in Miami, but I know their notably inexpensive offboat monitoring system continues to perform well. It was simple, for instance, to move my test unit to our house, so I could make sure the furnace kept running while we vacationed in St. Lucia. And thanks to BC's easy sharing feature, I can see that Steve Mitchell's thoroughly reviewed Boat Command system is running fine today in Seattle, and so is Clark Beek's near Sausalito.

The infamous Capt. Beek even figured out how to rig a BC smoke alarm -- showing OK on screen above -- and, in fact, installing such monitoring systems is one of his post-circumnavigation work activities. Fortunately, though, Clark continues to blog at Condesa.org and he still does not own a helicopter.

GoFree Vessel

GoFree_Track_hardware_kit_cPanbo.jpgFinally, GoFree Vessel also seems somewhat behind schedule -- you may detect a theme here -- though the Track hardware component is now available for purchase. It's seriously well designed and manufactured hardware, as I saw when installing the beta test Track Cell-Fi kit above on Gizmo last fall. Even the sensors come with heavy cables, quality connectors, and a pigtail design to ease installations.

Unfortunately, the Track cell connection doesn't work in Camden harbor -- Vodophone "Global" service again -- though that situation has shown the smarts of its having WiFi too. In fact, the Track stayed connected to marina WiFi for months at a time last winter providing the very basic monitoring in Vessel's free WiFi SD service, and when I have gotten underway, it stores the data in its prodigious memory until it gets another chance to post the trip online (below). However, none of the "HD" service plan features have been enabled yet, and therein lies much of the GoFree Vessel goodness I described last October.

So I didn't test as much monitoring as I'd hoped during Gizmo's Camden winter in the water, but there's still a lot of 2017 left and this fall I'll hopefully be watching the boat in southern marinas and anchorages when not happily aboard. And I did just enjoy a conversation with a local who bemoaned the winters he kept his schooner in the water, mainly for the times he felt obliged to check her bilges and batteries. I'm confidant that Gizmo's test Nautic Alert system handled those chores better, and with far less pain (and note that numerous new NA features like intrusion and shore power detection are in the works and at least scheduled to arrive this summer).

GoFree_Vessel_testing_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.jpg

Comments

Some boat monitoring history from a reader (thanks, David!):

"Ben:

Do you remember Sensaphone's Boat Remote monitor from the 90s which alerted via POTS? They're a remote environmental monitoring systems manufacturer that's been doing telematics since 1985. Evidently their founder was also a boater, so he naturally adapted one of his products into the Boat Remote... and from my exp. he put a lot of thought into it.

I installed mine in 2000 shortly after I bought my sailboat, and it's been running just fine for 17y. Even as a new owner it was super easy to install and program, hardwired for AC, DC, 2 bilges, high water level, temperature, and a security sensor alerting selectively via voice annunciation on multiple dial-outs.

It cost ~$2.7k back in the day, which I thought at the time was well worth my piece of mind. Initially I used it w/a landline at my dock, easy enough. Eventually I acquired a mobile phone terminal for ~$1k to use it anywhere, but really to free me up from Verizon. Times have sure changed b/c the new terminal I got a few years ago when changing carriers only cost ~$35! Presumably if I got one w/GPS built-in I could also remote ping my boat's location.

While Sensaphone is alive and well, between their founder's stepping back/retiring from the business and the relatively small recreational marine market, they discontinued the Boat Remote years ago. His daughter now runs the co. All that remains is the legacy manual: http://www.sensaphone.com/legacy-products/boatremotemanual.pdf and a few installs like mine.

What happened to another marine telematics pioneer, who you knew, BoatSense?"

BoatSense worked pretty well but is long gone:

https://www.panbo.com/archives/2007/05/boatsense_hip_hip_for_the_home_team.html

Like digital switching, remote boat monitoring is a niche that requires business tenacity. Neither has really caught on yet, but there will be some winners when they do.

Posted by: Ben at May 24, 2017 9:47 AM | Reply

Ben, do any of these guys harden their stuff against lightning (and other electrical hazards)? We have a cabin in the mountains of AZ, and building a security system that wouldn't just curl up and die every time a lightning bolt dropped in the neighborhood wasn't easy (and lightning protection is what I did for a living for a long time!).

I don't mean hardening for a direct strike - that wouldn't be practical - but against nearby hits and spikes coming in via the power line, it should be do-able.

Posted by: Hartley at May 24, 2017 10:16 AM | Reply

Hi Ben!

Does any of the solutions mentioned in your article or other system like InReach have a simple method of logging track and navdata for every trip? What I am looking for is application or device with an easy way of "starting" a new trip and the application/device starts logging the track, speed, heading, wind etc (like a combination of an electronic logbook and VDR) and when you have reached your destination a simple way to "end" the trip and giving it a name. Useful functions would be: Possibility to add remarks, notes, photos with time/position stamps, replay, filtering, searching for particular data, timeline presentation, visual presentation on charts and sharing on social media.

Best regards,

Sven-Bertil

Posted by: Sven-Bertil Carlsson at May 24, 2017 4:33 PM | Reply

I believe gofree HD will do what you want.

Posted by: Hendrik at May 29, 2017 1:04 PM | Reply

I'd be interested in some solution that will allow me to determine if my anchor is dragging and if someone is messing with my ground tackle. Mysteriously I leave my boat at anchor that is set and holding solid and in hours I am dragging.

Posted by: Taylor at June 27, 2017 5:19 AM | Reply

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