At Blue Frontier, we are seeing more and more people using mobile devices and “Apps” aboard their boat. The major marine electronics manufacturers seem to have caught up and embraced the idea, integrating remote viewing or control of your MFD. Independent developers have released thousands of boating apps for navigation, safety, and general marine information from tidal data to learning navigation light colors and configurations. We think any tool that allows boater to be safer and more knowledgeable under way is a good thing. And the mobile nature and power of these devices are a fine addition to any boaters “tool bag”.
However, there seems to be some confusion and even misinformation regarding a recent trend using so-called Internet AIS apps. These apps, which are available from Free to $10, are being displayed as being acceptable replacements for “real” AIS. Unfortunately, a growing number of boaters are using these Apps as primary navigation tools.
While these low cost AIS apps are an interesting novelty, there are several limitations that the prudent mariner should be aware of. The savvy user/buyer will carefully read the full description and all the FAQs and reviews in an effort to fully understand the actual capabilities of the Application. While many apps show occasional bugs, even a perfectly working AIS app should not be relied upon as a primary navigation tool.
What I have called “True” or “Real” AIS works over VHF frequencies and comes in two “classes”; Class A and Class B. Class B is the recreational version that most of us use. Both Class A and B require a dedicated AIS receiver and, ideally, a dedicated AIS antenna. Both can transmit and receive. Class A is for vessels with mandatory carriage requirements. Only Class B also offers a receive-only version.
Beside initial cost and carriage requirements from an enforcement agency (Coast Guard, IMO, SOLAS), there are some key differences between Class A and B. The biggest are the amount of data transmitted and the frequency which that data updates. Class A (what big ships use) offers more data, including: Rate of Turn, Cargo, and Destination info. A Class A device transmits its data more often for safety reasons. And, the faster a vessel is traveling, the more frequently the data is transmitted. Class B works under the similar guidelines, but in general, the transmission of the data is less frequent and transmits with less overall power. If you are within VHF range, your AIS will interact with other so-equipped vessels for “real-time” AIS data.
“Internet AIS” (which is what the low cost apps are), relies on an internet connection to get data. So, you must be in a position to have this access either via Wi-Fi or cellular. This may be fine in an urban marine area or near shore. However, without internet access, the app will not update the data. The AIS data is uploaded to the internet from certain commercial Vessel Traffic Zones (VTZ) and from some local land-based AIS stations or commercial vendors that choose to do so. This means that even if you have a “True” AIS transmitter aboard, it does not mean your data is automatically being uploaded to the internet for app users to see. You must be in an area that is capable of and utilizing the upload capability. It is common to read a review where users complain they are watching ships go up and down their local shipping channel, but are unable to see them on the app. Do they have internet access? Are they in an area where someone is uploading the data? Are some of these vessels not required to carry AIS? Do they understand how real AIS works and the differences between real and internet-based?
Because of the uploading requirement, the data that shows up on your app will likely be delayed. While there may be slight delay in real AIS based on the frequency of transmission based on speed or vessel status, the delay on an internet AIS may be anywhere from a few seconds in a commercial VTZ area to several MINUTES or more in a less traveled area or when the vessel is between uploading areas. Most boaters should recognize the danger in such a delay if this app is being used as a primary navigation and/or safety tool.
In fact, if you read far enough into the FAQs and/or Description fields for these apps, most will specifically say that the Application SHOULD NOT BE USED for navigation. However, it is unlikely the purchaser ever sees these warnings because of the hard sell at the beginning of the description as well as a fair amount of press in recent months extolling these apps. One App dangerously describes that it “works by picking up AIS ship feeds used by all passenger vessels, vessels of 300 tons and increasingly by smaller pleasure craft and yachts. This technology is actually faster than radar and is used by vessels for safety and navigation.” This could be a very enticing description to someone looking to save some money and feel safe. “Faster than Radar”? What does that even mean? Most radars transmit their pulses several thousand times a second. Unfortunately, the developer (sales writer) does not go on to expand their claims.
Another Internet AIS App claims the user/boater does not need an MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identification) number to TRANSMIT over AIS. In fact, FCC and Coast Guard regulations require such a number to transmit AIS data. This app generates a temporary number that is used and allows the boater to be seen BY OTHER USERS OF THE APP WHO ARE ALSO CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET. It is not until the last line of the description that declares the app is “not an AIS transponder. You will not be visible to other ships on their VHF AIS systems.”
Blue Frontier recognizes that every boater operates with certain budget restrictions. However, if you are looking to invest in AIS, we would urge you to be very diligent in your research. While a $10 (or less) app for your mobile phone or tablet may be enticing, you should be aware of the limitations of such programs versus a true VHF AIS system. In fact, there are numerous options for real, VHF-based AIS and a receive-only device can often be purchased for less than $175.
Also, use caution once you have bought that AIS App “just for entertainment”. Remember your first credit card? The one you got “just for emergencies”. How long did it take for the definition of “emergency” to get broader and broader and the card easier to use for convenience. The same slippery slope mentality could apply to your AIS mobile app and the next thing you know, you are looking at it all the time with dangerous reliance.
At Blue Frontier, we encourage you to bring your mobile device aboard and to find useful new ways to use it. But, as with any technology, use caution and don’t rely on it as your sole source of navigation information. Consider it as another tool in your toolbag of knowledge and skills.
As always, we invite your feedback to this article and any information you have for useful “Apps” you use aboard. If you have questions about AIS or any onboard electronics, please don’t hesitate to contact Blue Frontier.
Great online sale going on from Nobeltec! Discount via online promo code on great products such as Nobeltec TimeZero Odyssey, marine charts, satellite photos, tidal currents, Routing module, Advanced Routing module, software and chart updates.
Visit our Current Promotions page for discount information and promo code!
Recently Raymarine has identified a potential touchscreen alignment issue in some e7 and e7D multifunction displays. Customers may experience an issue with the e7/e7D touch screen, which may cause the alignment to drift and cause potentially poor and inaccurate touch screen performance. The touchscreen alignment procedure described in the e7/e7D manual will remedy the problem but the e7/e7D touchscreen performance may degrade again. NOTE: The touchscreen alignment issue only affects the e7/e7D models. The new 7” aSeries, uses a different touchscreen design that is not affected by this issue.
Raymarine is committed to customer satisfaction and quality, ensuring all our customers experience the best performance possible when using our products.
A remedy to the potential touchscreen issue has been identified and as a result Raymarine is launching a customer care campaign beginning on December 31, 2013
for all e7 and e7D owners who experience touchscreen issues.
e7/e7D owners experiencing touchscreen alignment issues or e7/e7D owners wishing to avoid potential future touchscreen performance issues can have their e7/e7D replaced directly by Raymarine. Raymarine will provide replacement e7/e7D equipped with a replacement LCD touchscreen assembly that provides reliable and accurate touch screen performance. How the e7/e7D Customer Care Campaign works: Consumers
Individual end-consumers can return their e7/e7D directly to Raymarine by completing our online return form. This should be completed before
returning their e7 display to Raymarine. Consumers will be issued an RMA number along with detailed instructions on how to package, label and ship the e7/e7D back to Raymarine. The online return form along with detailed return instructions can be found at the following URL: http://www2.raymarine.eu/e/7392/e7customercare-/mw3tv/426561301
The attached e7/e7D Customer Campaign Bulletin
has additional details, as well as answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs.)
Raymarine is taking these proactive steps to ensure that any e7/e7D purchased meets customer expectations in terms of performance and reliability.
off each chart
purchased through the Nobeltec online store
until November 29th,
by entering the Promo Code CHARTGIVING
upon checkout.Get $50 off any of the following:
This offer is available until November 29, 2013. To take advantage of this deal, you must enter the promo code CHARTGIVING
upon checkout. Please note that promo code offers are not cumulative but this code applies to each chart
KVH Technical Bulletin: DISH Network Changes to 61.5°W SatelliteProducts Affected: TracVision M1DX, M3DX, M5, M7, M9
DISH Network® recently changed the tracking parameters of its 61.5°W satellite. Since TracVision® antennas use these parameters to identify and track the satellite, the antenna may no longer be able to track 61.5°W.
As a result of this change by DISH Network, customers who wish to receive programming from the 61.5°W satellite will need to implement the following modification depending on the antenna type: TracVision M1DX or M3DX
: The satellite tracking parameters must be modified by entering antenna commands using the Flash Update Wizard* as follows:
1. Connect your laptop to the TracVision antenna’s main board and turn on the system.*
2. Enter the commands listed below into the Wizard’s “Command Line” box:
* Please refer to the Flash Update Wizard’s Help file for details.
Note: Once the software modification is complete, the interface box will report a tracking frequency of 12412.
DIRECTV® Obsolete Receiver Notification Does NOT Apply to KVH’s 12V Mobile Receiver
As part of its plan to replace some older model receivers, DIRECTV has been contacting many of its customers, sending e-mails similar to the one shown below:Notice from DIRECTV: WE NEED TO REPLACE YOUR RECEIVER!
DIRECTV is currently phasing out some 2003 and older receivers (known as "MPG"), and our records indicate that
one or more of these receivers is active on your account. A forthcoming change in our broadcast method requires these MPG receivers to be replaced because they will no longer function and will lose access to programming. In
preparation for this transition, DIRECTV will ship newer-generation replacement receiver(s) to you FREE of CHARGE* and with NO COMMITMENT or change in monthly charges when you contact us.
This notification applies only to receivers that use the MPG transmission methodology. The KVH 12V mobile receiver (M10 model), which is included in TracVision® A7, M1, M3ST, R1ST, and R6ST systems, does not use this methodology.
Therefore, it is not subject to DIRECTV’s replacement requirement.
The complete Technical Bulletin with all of the details is available on the KVH Partner Portal. Download the bulletin now
Free Raymarine Wireless Apps through April 7th.
Raymarine's Free Wireless Apps offer ends on April 7, 2013. Don't miss out on your chance to experience the convenience of our RayRemote and RayControl apps on your compatible Smartphone or Tablet. Compatible with Raymarine's c-Series and e-Series MFD's our wireless apps let you see and control your navigation system from everywhere onboard.Find Your Free Apps Online:iTunes App Store
Google App StoreAmazon App Store
Garmin announces several major price changes. Many of the Garmin GPSMAP chartplotters and multi-function display systems have been drastically reduced. To take advantage of these great price decreases please contact Blue Frontier, LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org
or give us a call at (978)-255-3505
If you are serious about your fishing, then the next generation of fishfinding technology is for you. It is called CHIRP
. What is CHIRP? It is a transducer technology developed by Airmar and stands for Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse. Unlike your traditional fishfinder which operates on a distinct frequency (likely 50kHz or 200 kHz) in short pulses, the CHIRP transducers send out a "sweep" pattern of sequential frequencies in a longer pulse. When you combine this transducer technology with a broadband Digital Signal Processor (DSP), ie, the "blackbox" fishfinder, the result is remarkable. According to Airmar, compared to a traditional sounder, you are likely to see 5 to 10 times greater detail and resolution, making it possible to easily distinguish between individual
baitﬁsh, game gamefish, and underwater structures. Based on your settings, it is possible to actually see the thermocline due to how the signal passes through the differing densities of water temperatures. The image above shows individual baitfish within a baitball as well as distinct targets along the bottom.
Combining the appropriate transducer set with a DSP also allows you to "dial in" a specific frequency to track. This is good news for tuna fisherman who typically want to see the 88kHz zone, where tuna are reported to show up best.
Like all great new gadgets, this new technology does come at a price. Even if you have an existing fishfinder/sounder in your system, you will likely need to upgrade the whole thing. Your MFD should be fine with a simple software update. However, because the technology truly starts in the transducer, you will need to upgrade those to CHIRP. Typically there are three versions of transducers that cover varying frequency ranges; Low Frequency (40kHz to 75kHz), Medium Frequency (80kHz to 135kHz), and High Frequency (130kHz to 210kHz). Depending on the ranges you want to cover, you pick two of the three ranges. Each transducer can be used to send out a "Sweep" of all the frequencies within its range or you can tell it to focus on a specific frequency. Transducers may come in a "classic" bronze thru-hull version with built-in combinations like Low/High frequency or Medium/High frequency. Or for best results, you may choose two individual bronze, tilted element transducers, each covering its own set of frequencies. You will choose the transducers that best fit what you are fishing for and where, i.e., whether you are a ground fisherman or bluewater; or deep water or shallow. MSRP for the transducers start about $750 and go up from there. Larger commercial style transducers are also available. Contact Blue Frontier
for help picking your transducers and actual pricing.
Once you have decided on the frequencies you want to cover, you next need to address the DSP. This most likely is in the form of a "black box" sounder module. If you are currently running a Garmin GSD22, Raymarine DSM300, or the like, you
have a sounder module in your network. This is good. Unfortunately, those units will not accommodate the CHIRP transducer. You will need to upgrade to a Raymarine CP450, Garmin GSD26, or Simrad BSM-2 depending on the existing system you are running or purchasing. Currently, Furuno does not offer a CHIRP specific networkable sounder module. They have stated that they are waiting to see how the market reacts before introducing (or not) their own CHIRP capable DSP. However, the Furuno FCV and Sitex/Koden CVS-FX1 Sounders can be used with the Airmar CHIRP transducers for enhanced performance. Expect future releases of MFDs from several manufacturers with "built-in sounders" to have the processing capabilities to handle the CHIRP transducers. Currently, the above mentioned sounder modules from Garmin, Raymarine and Simrad start at about $1999. Please contact Blue Frontier
for actual pricing and compatibility with your system.
With your new CHIRP transducers installed and connected to your CHIRP-capable Sounder Module, you now connect to your MFD and you will be getting fish and bottom images and target distinction unlike anything you have ever seen before. Fish beware!
Much like the move Navico (Simrad) made with its Broadband radars, it seems like there is a new movement afoot to take an old, tried and true technology and turn it on its head. If Airmar's advanced technology continues to make waves within the walls of the fishfinder manufacturers, I think it is likely that there will be a serious move to enable all sounders with this capability. If you are skeptical, consider this: Garmin recently showed off an image of a CHIRP sounder tracking bottom in over 17,000 feet of water at 20 knots of speed!
Feel free to contact Blue Frontier
with any questions about CHIRP and how you may benefit from it.