A Lot's New for 2011
Convergence comes to sailboats, but in divergent ways!
Rumor has it that Garmin, too, is adding camera controls—and maybe even night-vision cams—to its ever-expanding multifunction systems. What’s definite, and definitely interesting, is the company’s new GHP 12 sailboat autopilot. Based on the company’s innovative hydraulics-only powerboat self-steerer, the promise is remarkable course-holding abilities along with a control head that nicely matches GMI 10 color instruments; excellent NMEA 2000 networking of wind, heading and other pertinent data; and a special relationship with Garmin M.F.D.s, even as in steering to automatically calculated routes. Note that existing linear drives won’t work with the GHP 12, but that’s an indication of how different this autopilot is.
If you aren’t yet familiar with Garmin’s GPSMap 700 series, an early 2010 surprise, check out a remarkable number of features packed behind a 7-inch touchscreen. While they won’t share charts or radar with other Garmin M.F.D.s, they do support radar by themselves, network well via NMEA 2000, and seem as fast as their bigger cousins.
While wandering among the Big Four of dedicated marine-electronics systems, you may well bump into Geonav, the brand that’s trying to become Number Five. Long based in Italy, Geonav is now the saltwater mark of Johnson Outdoors, which also owns Humminbird along with extensive engineering and manufacturing operations here in the States. And while the brand may not acknowledge sailing quite yet, it certainly exemplifies the current demands of mainstream convergence and what it takes to add something new to the do-it-all category. You’ll see two handsome M.F.D. series along with radars, fishfinders, an autopilot, and numerous Ethernet, NMEA 2000, or NMEA 0183 peripherals. Add to that the option of Side Imaging, which Humminbird actually pioneered and may remain marginally better at than Navico’s StructureScan facsimile. What’s still unique—besides a brand-new interface that seemed interesting in prototype—is the ability to display the most advanced cartography bundles available from both C-Map or Navionics, 4D and Platinum+, respectively. Geonav’s MID 110 multi-instrument display is also unusual in that it has an Ethernet port in addition to NMEA 0183 and 2000. What that means in practice hasn’t been revealed, but what’s possible is 4 colorful inches of auxiliary video, charting, fishfinding, or other moving imagery.
For something entirely different, visit the Digital Yacht booth for the debut of BoatraNet, a dedicated server designed to feed boat-sensor data, Navionics charting, a library of manuals, and more to any combination of onboard WiFi devices that can run an HTML5 web browser. This can or will include all manner of laptops, smartphones, and tablets. BoatraNet will have a separate high-power WiFi Internet connection so that it can keep its own folders synched and re-serve the web to all its client devices.
While few would find such a system up to primary navigation today, and it’s not yet meant for that, Digital Yacht, along with numerous other developers and sailors, envisions a time when radars and other boat-specific Ethernet sensors can share data wirelessly on bright, weather-resistant wireless apps screens that will soon (I’m told) become relatively inexpensive. Then BoatraNet and systems like it could become a new paradigm for converging marine electronics, although by then the Big Four, or Five, may have reached out to wireless devices and the Internet in their own ways: the divergent convergence.
Ben Ellison is CW’s electronics editor.