WIRE­LESS HELM ELEC­TRON­ICS REV­O­LU­TION

MEET THE FU­TURE OF MA­RINE ELEC­TRON­ICS

Saltwater Sportsman - - Front Page - By Jim Hen­dricks

That re­al­iza­tion hit me a cou­ple of years ago af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Fu­runo’s DRS4W 1st Watch 24-nau­ti­cal-mile radar, the first radar to dis­pense with a cable con­nect­ing dis­play and con­trols. The 19-inch-di­am­e­ter 4 kw radar dome uses Wi-fi, and it doesn’t even need a mul­ti­func­tion dis­play. The DRS4W wire­lessly dis­plays radar re­turns on a smart­phone or tablet as shown above.

Just as wire­less tech­nol­ogy now per­me­ates consumer elec­tron­ics, it’s also the un­stop­pable wave of the fu­ture in ma­rine elec­tron­ics.

Over-the-air Sonar

Trans­duc­ers tra­di­tion­ally use a bulky mul­ti­fil­a­ment cable to con­nect to a fish finder or mul­ti­func­tion dis­play. Yet at least one brand of fish finder ac­com­plishes this con­nec­tion wire­lessly.

Vex­i­lar’s Sonar­phone SP200 T-box (about $150) cre­ates its own Wi-fi hotspot, al­low­ing dis­play and con­trol of the sonar im­age on a mo­bile de­vice equipped with the free Sonar­phone app. The sys­tem in­cludes a tran­som-mount trans­ducer that plugs into the T-box.

Like most wire­less ma­rine sys­tems, the T-box re­quires 12-volt DC hard­wired power, but once up and run­ning, the 200 khz sonar of­fers two beam an­gles — 20 and 40 degrees — and reaches depths of 240 feet. The trans­ducer in­cludes a sea-tem­per­a­ture sen­sor.

No cell­phone re­cep­tion is needed to use the Sonar­phone. The Wi-fi cov­er­age works through­out the boat, from the helm to the aft deck, and the tower to the cabin. That means you can keep an eye on what’s un­der the boat, even when you’re in the gal­ley mak­ing a sand­wich or in the cock­pit watch­ing the trolling lines.

You can also in­te­grate the Navion­ics Boat­ing app with Sonar­phone to see both a fish finder and Navion­ics chart in full- and split-screen views within the same app.

Wire­less Radar

At least two man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer wire­less radar sys­tems. As men­tioned, the Fu­runo DRS4W 1st Watch (about $995) con­nects ex­clu­sively to mo­bile de­vices. Yet many skip­pers pre­fer to read radar on a tra­di­tional MFD.

A day will come, sooner than you think, when hard­wired ma­rine elec­tron­ics net­work con­nec­tions are ob­so­lete. In fact, the wire­less rev­o­lu­tion has al­ready be­gun.

For them, Ray­ma­rine’s Quan­tum Chirp pulse-com­pres­sion radar dome (about $1,650) net­works via Wi-fi with Ray­ma­rine MFDS, in­clud­ing the newer Ax­iom and Ax­iom Pro se­ries dis­plays.

The 24-nau­ti­cal-mile Quan­tum radar dome (as with Fu­runo’s DRS4W 1st Watch dome) re­quires 12-volt DC power, but the wire­less net­work con­nec­tiv­ity sim­pli­fies in­stal­la­tion.

That can be a god­send to T-tops al­ready jammed with wires and ca­bles.

En­gine In­sight

En­gine in­stru­men­ta­tion has also gone wire­less, al­low­ing skip­pers to keep tabs on fuel us­age, oil pres­sure, bat­tery volt­age, main­te­nance sched­ules and more through mo­bile de­vices.

With Mer­cury Ma­rine’s free Ves­selview Mo­bile app, for ex­am­ple, you can read Merc’s Smartcraft en­gine in­stru­men­ta­tion data via Blue­tooth on a smart­phone or tablet.

In or­der to do this, the en­gine must be Smartcraft-com­pat­i­ble (which in­cludes Merc out­boards 40 hp and up built since 2003) and equipped with a Ves­selview Mo­bile plug-and-play mod­ule ($275).

The Ves­selview Mo­bile sys­tem also out­lines per­for­mance sum­maries and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, spells out fault-code di­ag­nos­tic in­for­ma­tion to clar­ify par­tic­u­lar prob­lems and how quickly they need to be ad­dressed.

Such sys­tems help avert se­ri­ous prob­lems, keep en­gines run­ning well, and max­i­mize fuel ef­fi­ciency. The net re­sult is less down­time and more time on the wa­ter.

Wire­less Se­cu­rity

As with home se­cu­rity sys­tems, many boat se­cu­rity sys­tems rely on wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity and apps on mo­bile de­vices to alert you of sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties in and around your boat. Brands like Aqualarm, GOST and Siren Ma­rine pro­vide both the hard­ware and mon­i­tor­ing ser­vices.

These com­pa­nies of­fer a mul­ti­tude of wire­less sen­sors, such as mo­tion sen­sors that warn of ap­proach­ing thieves, an ac­celerom­e­ter that de­tects on­board vi­bra­tions, or a mag­netic sen­sor ac­ti­vated when a hatch opens. Bilge-wa­ter sen­sors and low-volt­age de­tec­tors and other sys­tem mon­i­tors are also avail­able.

All of these con­nect via Wi-fi with a 12-volt, Dc-pow­ered cen­tral on­board mod­ule, which (when armed) no­ti­fies you on your mo­bile de­vice and/or com­puter. Boat se­cu­rity sys­tems also sound an on-site alarm such as a pierc­ing siren and blind­ing strobe light to scare away in­trud­ers. In ad­di­tion, you can turn the sys­tem on and off re­motely with your mo­bile de­vice or com­puter.

In­ter­net Up­dates

Like your mo­bile de­vice, most MFDS re­quire pe­ri­odic soft­ware up­dates to the op­er­at­ing sys­tems to en­sure com­pat­i­bil­ity with new ac­ces­sories and pe­riph­er­als. Not so long ago, this re­quired you to down­load the up­date to your com­puter, trans­fer the file to an SD card, and then plug the card into the MFD and up­load it.

MFDS with wire­less in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity make the up­dat­ing process far less cum­ber­some. With the Lowrance HDS Gen3 and Car­bon MFDS, for in­stance, when you turn on the unit, it searches for a Wi-fi net­work. Once the HDS unit es­tab­lishes a wire­less in­ter­net con­nec­tion, it alerts you to avail­able soft­ware up­dates not only for built-in fea­tures of the MFD but also for net­worked com­po­nents such as the Lowrance Broad­band radar or Out­board Pi­lot sys­tems.

Keep­ing the soft­ware up to date max­i­mizes the ef­fec­tive­ness of your MFD and its fea­tures, and ul­ti­mately helps you nav­i­gate more safely and ef­fec­tively.

Smart Con­nec­tions

Nearly all MFDS now let you repli­cate the dis­play on a mo­bile de­vice with the right app, thanks to wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity. With apps such as Garmin Helm, you view and con­trol com­pat­i­ble Garmin chart plot­ters from an IOS or An­droid de­vice, as well as plan and view routes on a mo­bile de­vice, then trans­fer them wire­lessly to the chart plot­ter with Garmin Bluechart Mo­bile.

In yet an­other ex­am­ple, Fu­runo’s Navnet Re­mote app lets you take full con­trol of your Navnet Tz­touch2 MFD. You can re­motely op­er­ate and view the dis­play from your mo­bile de­vice when con­nected to a wire­less net­work. Such apps let cap­tains stay in touch with the chart plot­ter, radar, sonar and more, no mat­ter where they go on the boat.

These rep­re­sent just a few ex­am­ples of how wire­less tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the way ma­rine elec­tron­ics share and dis­play in­for­ma­tion — changes that ease in­stal­la­tions, max­i­mize ver­sa­til­ity, in­crease safety, and help boat­ing an­glers find more fish. The rev­o­lu­tion has be­gun.

WI-FI RADAR: Ray­ma­rine Quan­tum wire­less radar

Wire­less con­nec­tions do away with tra­di­tional ca­bles in the boat, and that saves on rig­ging time and weight.

STAY MO­BILE: Fu­runo mo­bile apps of­fer re­mote con­trol.

NO CABLE: Fu­runo DRS4W Wi-fi radar dome

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