Beta testing FloatHub boat monitoring, and the wonders of marine WiFi

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

12 Responses

  1. gregy says:

    Great review and interesting product
    For “shore power” monitoring. Whilst it’s possible to use chargers etc as a proxy
    For Presence of mains power,
    I find the simplest and most foolproof method … a miniature mains relay,
    Wired across a mains/shore power circuit
    The relay contacts can be configured using either normally open or closed, and
    Can Switch to negative or positive voltage – so infinitely configurable for any type of telemetry/monitoring device input.
    The power consumption (the relay coil) is minuscule – and only present when the shore
    Power connected (or generator running) .. and the relay contacts can be used for multiple purposes … even in the simplest config, to wire a LED as a simple visual monitor (for those of us lucky to be able to see our boats from the back door 🙂
    A suitable relay a few $s only at hobbyist shop or online.

  2. Jovini says:

    It’s easy to get nuts about boat monitoring and it seems like it’s taken a long time for the industry to get competitive and offer interesting alternatives. I think the first question to ask is what are your needs, and how do you operate your boat. If you just want to see what it’s doing on the dock, on shore power, on a reliable wifi network then you can really go nuts. If you want to watch your boat while in new and perhaps faraway places I would argue you have to keep it simple. Relying on wifi, and having to keep it and any components of your NEMA network powered up are simply non-starters in remote places. I personally have begun to hate the hassle of connecting to a new wifi service in every new harbor; I’m done with it.
    While I love to geek-out on my boat in this case I went with a text message driven system instead (Boat Command – Ben mentioned in 5/23 article) and couldn’t be happier with it. I bought it impulsively as a boat show special three years ago not quite sure what I was getting. It’s become one of those rare products that delights me in its power and simplicity every time I interact with it. Every three hours it sends a text message to its server with a status about my boat (battery status of two banks, bilge pumps runs, temperature, location, shore power status, intruder detect, more) and I can access that data easily by app or pc. If an alarm setting is triggered (e.g.: too many pump runs, or intruder) then I get a text immediately. I can also force an immediate update any time I want. My solar trickle charger easily keeps up with the tiny power consumption. I’ve used this in New England waters and it’s worked flawlessly and without a single adjustment everywhere I cruise. I sailed my boat to Bermuda for the America’s Cup in June and left her there for the summer and continue to get all the status updates. What peace of mind! I head to the Caribbean in the fall and will leave the boat there at times and know I’ll stay informed, hassle free. All for $9 a month. It’s the perfect answer for my needs.

  3. Agreed, Jovini, that Boat Command is a well designed system and a good value. Here’s the main Panbo writeup:
    http://www.panbo.com/archives/2016/03/boat_command_remote_vessel_monitoring_for_the_app_age.html
    But I’ll be really interested to hear if BC works well for you around the Caribbean as I’m skeptical about “global GSM” cell claims (largely because at least one doesn’t work here in Camden, Maine, though there is GSM coverage and BC works fine here).
    It may turn out that it often makes some sense to have a WiFi based monitoring system and then, if need be, to use a separate cell product to keep it connected in a difficult locale. Or Iridium 😉
    At any rate, the FloatHub Kickstarter campaign got past the 2/3rds funded mark, but only has 24 hours left. It’s going to be close:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiot/floathub

  4. Anonymous says:

    the same canoe done with the new Victron Venus PLUS there will lNOT be monthly charges

  5. Robert Wilkins says:

    Ben, in regards to Wi-Fi and Cell. Here is a solution.
    I have a Pepwave MAX BR1 with Wi-Fi (LAN) and it has two slots for sim cards. I have an AT&T GSM sim card in one of the slots. You can “set” which you want as primary and secondary source for the Wi-Fi.
    I have a Coastal Marine Wi-Fi with a Ubiquiti 24 V PoE injector wired into the Pepwave as my (Wan) source.
    Also have a Wilson Amp connected to an outside antenna then connected to the PepWave.
    So, loss of Wi-Fi, PepWave would auto switch to AT&T Cell signal. WORKS GREAT. The Apps of Pepwave and Coastal Marine on an i-Pad, makes life really easy.
    Bob Wilkins

  6. Karl says:

    OK, looks good…but will this be yet another recurring monthly fee for cloud storage? Such fees were nickel-and-diming me to death, and I’ve eliminated all but essentials.
    Off topic, but how about an article on Anderson PowerPole DC connectors, or, have you already covered them? They seem to be under-utilized in the marine world, yet are a staple in the communications industry. (feel free to edit/delete this paragraph) https://powerwerx.com/anderson-power-powerpole-sb-connectors

  7. Anon, actually the Victron Venus (or Color Control GX) could give me much better off boat power monitoring than the FloatHub because it can integrate with Victron current sensors, solar panel controllers and inverter/chargers:
    http://www.panbo.com/archives/2017/04/news_victron_venus_cruzpro_sog2_dy_windsense_vaavud_ultrasonic_panbo_news.html
    And while it’s great that Victron includes the cloud monitoring at no extra charge, you do have to purchase a number of Victron components to get the most out of it.

  8. Thanks, Robert, but I’m jealous. I’d like a setup like yours and Coastal Marine WiFi just lent me their PepWave SOTG router, which integrates cellular data with their EasyBullet WiFi app. Info is somewhat hidden on their order page:
    https://www.coastalmarinewifi.com/Order.aspx
    https://www.coastalmarinewifi.com/CellularSetup.htm
    But so far AT&T seems unwilling to activate a SIM card because they don’t like my billing address (it’s a roaming area for them) though I’d mostly use it south of here. Sigh.

  9. Karl, as wrote (and linked to) in the entry, the FloatHub service plans “happily start at $0 per month”:
    https://floathub.com/plan/pricing
    As for Anderson Powerpole connectors, I love them! Just about every marine electronics device installed on Gizmo gets Powerpoles installed on the 12v cable, often going to a RIGrunner fused distribution box like this:
    https://powerwerx.com/west-mountain-radio-rigrunner-4008h-horizontal
    I’m not sure that they make sense for “permanent” installs but they hold up fine in my experience and they let me easily do things like test current draw, as you can see about half way down this entry:
    http://www.panbo.com/archives/2017/06/raymarine_axiom_lh3_a_little_fishing_then_the_install.html

  10. Robert Wilkins says:

    Ben, as we all know, it seems that the wireless companies have rules that they use and some that they do not. AND, mostly it has to do with the person at the AT&T store.
    My AT&T account has a Sewell, NJ billing address. I have (2) i-pads (2) i-phones (1) “hot spot” and now the AT&T sim card in the Pepwave.
    And, I had the Sim card activated in Brunswick, ME (Cooks Corner) just south of Bath, ME. They just added the sim card to my account, for “I think” $15.00 per month. All these devises share the “MEG plan” that I have.
    So, just an FYI as to how I got my sim card activated.
    Robert Wilkins
    Bruckmann Abaco 40 (Bella)
    Lying at beautiful Great Island Boat Yard in Harpswell. ME.

  11. Patrick W says:

    Got my Floathub a day or two ago and had a frustrating time setting it up today but all is well as I received spectacularly prompt customer service on a Saturday evening. The problem turned out to be that the font used on floathub.com made it hard to distinguish between and upper case i and a lower case l in my device ID. I have no doubt that will be fixed very soon.
    Kudos to FH for a quick resolution of the issue.
    Looking forward to installing it on the boat.

  12. as marine electronics have gained a lot of popularity, these devices have become prone to theft and being stolen. in this situation what a boat will generally want is a security that will keep track of its devices.
    furthermore, I have recently noticed that my boat was performing abnormally. the outward sterndrive was seemed not to receive the entire internal power. it is not easy to pick a reliable and good product. however, your post will make people more aware of the devices and will make them more informed. keep up the good work.

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