Most marine electronic­s networks today are based on the 21-year-old digital communicat­ions system known as NMEA 2000 (N2K for short). But now a new system known as OneNet stands poised to become the new standard for networking. What does this mean to you?


Developed by the National Marine Electronic­s Associatio­n (which also created N2K) and released in 2020, OneNet uses a high-speed Ethernet with far greater bandwidth. It can connect as many as 60 devices per network and streams data as much as 40,000 times faster than N2K. A single power-overEthern­et switch energizes all devices on the network, eliminatin­g the need to power each individual­ly.

OneNet is designed to complement—not replace—N2K and its predecesso­r, NMEA 0183.

Existing NMEA networks can feed into OneNet via special connectors and gateway devices. “These serve to translate between protocols, allowing 2000 and 0183 [to work] seamlessly in parallel with OneNet,” says Mark Oslund, director of standards for NMEA. This eliminates the need to replace existing devices. Two types of OneNet products are anticipate­d: a marinized device (such as a sensor of some type) providing a watertight physical connection to a network, and a software upgrade that can be installed in a multifunct­ion display. The use of Ethernet in marine electronic­s is not new. Furuno, for example, introduced its proprietar­y Ethernet protocol known as NavNet in 2000. Other brands use different protocols. The advantage offered by OneNet is a uniform Ethernet language, but electronic­s companies seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach right now. But if universal adoption occurs, it could allow for cross-brand compatibil­ity. For instance, if you have a Garmin MFD, you’re limited to a Garmin radar system. But with OneNet, a Garmin could conceivabl­y be networked with another radar brand.

Looking ahead, OneNet is designed to adapt to future technologi­es. Oslund points to the potential for streaming over-the-air data from outside sources. “Imagine being able to monitor in real time coastal radar networks or satellite images on your MFD,” he says. With OneNet, this is within the realm of possibilit­y.

The incentive for electronic­s brands to adopt OneNet might come about sooner rather than later if government­s require OneNet integratio­n in order to bid for military or lawenforce­ment contracts. That would motivate many to switch and could be a major boon for boaters.

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