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Old 28-12-2013, 12:29   #1
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Android Data display apps (DIY?)

I've noticed a number of 4.3" display Android tablets out there selling for down to $30 (USD). This got me thinking.... None are daylight viewable but that will change in time. There are a few nmea collector/repeaters that can send the data stream on WiFi as udp packets as well.

Putting that all together I started to look for Android apps that could display nmea data. Not an exhaustive look but I did not find open source apps - I'm sure that they are there.

So what I envision (may already exist) is a set of open source instruments along with a central data collector/transmitter.

The display would run on Android and to start with look more or less like dedicated speed, depth, wind instruments from the various makers. Being open source adding in heading, ais, position etc would be "easy".

The data collector could run Android or some other linux based system with serial and ethernet port for data input and a WiFi module for broadcast. Add in an encryption layer with shared keys on the instruments for security.

My own programming was quite high level at one time (real time process control in assembly, 60k lines of code. Everything from saw mills to power grids.) but is not really applicable to Android/java. I've been starting to play with Eclipse and eventually will get something going.

So if there is any point to this thread it might be:

Any suggestions for getting a leg up with android apps?

Is there such a project already going?

Is there an open source display for android that would give me a leg up in design?
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Old 28-12-2013, 15:50   #2
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

Android development is essentially event-driven GUI programming, which is different from RTOS and controlllers in assembler, but not out of reach. The developer support is all there, the steepness comes from learning the event model and the quirks of the new environment.

Frankly speaking, I would lean towards Linux platforms over Android, because you have way more development options in Linux, and because most of what you want already exists as a Linux app. I currently mess with the Navigatrix distro on some eee netbooks. Navigatrix comes with many NMEA instruments and OpenCPN already installed. It's a great overview of what's possible.

Another issue -we don't have low-cost sensors for depth, boat-speed, windspeed and direction.
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Old 30-12-2013, 12:14   #3
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

daylight viewable is tough if you have backlight displays. And i dont see that changing any time soon. Look at e-ink products. They are the only daylight viewable displays that i would consider on the boat. Unfortunately they are build into kindle, nook, and other similar readers. e-ink also offers prototype boards with displays you can purchase. But those are for development purposes.

As far as sensors, National Instruments has a USB DAQ, relatively cheap data acquisition device that you can configure in Labview and hook it up via USB to a computer running linux or windows. with a bit of analysis you can interpret AC signals related to wind, boat speed and probably depth as well. engine related stuff like level sensor, pressure transducer, amp meter, temperature all report a DC voltage level so they would be very easy to calibrate and display on a PC.
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Old 30-12-2013, 12:43   #4
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

I expect the tablet/phone consumer to drive the display technology. This is one of the reasons that using small tablets running android is desirable.

Android is desirable in the sense that by creating one app that can display selected datasets you get a wide range of display devices.

I can envision having 3,4 5 or more 4.3" tablets at a nav station displaying the various parameters that I like to monitor. And at $29 each it is a bit better than the cost of a raymarine st70 display.

The data collection server gathers all the nmea data sentenses that you wire into it from your existing instruments. Add in a seatalk converter and what have you (nmea2k?) for other data streams. The server could then broadcast over local wireless to the displays. One could use a multicast address space.

Each display receives all data streams and only displays the specific data stream that the user selects.

In terms of transducers - I expect to use existing transducers. One could plumb in anything that they wish. I'm building a fast heading sensor for example that could be added to the data stream.

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Old 07-01-2014, 16:02   #5
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

I have a similar interest. I keep seeing black friday deals for cheap android phones for prepaid plans as low as $20, even a water resistant model made by Kyocera. These phones don't need to be activated.

There are a number of good apps for WIFI NMEA instrument display for iOS but not many for Android. I don't know why that is. There is iRegatta but it does not have a nice graphical wind instrument display like the Mid Wifi app I use on my iPhone.

I think you will view these two initiatives with interest:

Freeboard [MeshCMS]

Python WIFI NMEA server on TomatoUSB router with Nook Display

Both use a simple web server instead of an app for instrument display on the device.

I currently use a small windows laptop to take in nmea data from my instruments and send over wifi, I'm trying to replace it with some sort of simple appliance, haven't decided the best approach. I'm not keen on spending hundreds for a marine product to do same.

I'm surprised there really isn't more of this going on, forums dedicated to it.
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Old 07-01-2014, 16:39   #6
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

You mean spend 100s on a marine product that's waterproof , rugged , sun light readable. Proper sealed connectors and designed for the job,whereas you are trusting your navigation data to a $29 piece of consumer junk.

Ok then
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Old 07-01-2014, 16:52   #7
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by evm1024 View Post
I've noticed a number of 4.3" display Android tablets out there selling for down to $30 (USD). This got me thinking.... None are daylight viewable but that will change in time....
Your idea loses steam right in the second sentence. Daylight viewable has not ever been a priority of mass marekt devices, which are the cheap ones you mention. The only daylight viewable consumer Android device I am aware of is the NotionInk Adam, we have one. I would not trust it as a primary navigation device, but I Imagine you could find one on ebay if you keep looking.

Daylight screens may be available on commercial/industrial devices, but they are usually very expensive. The prices only come down once the platform is on the way out, and by then, you will want to use the next great thing.

Chris

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Old 07-01-2014, 17:59   #8
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

It's a matter of time before sunlight readable displays are available on mobile devices, just as water resistance has started to become a feature even on low end phones. People are using smartphones and tablets in all kinds of roles outdoors. The market for small GPS devices has nearly dried up and now people are squinting into their phones. There is absolutely no reason not to have instrument data displayed on android devices today; on the wrist, in the shade of the bimini, at the nav station. Hard wired to power and with brightness cranked up I don't think visibility is that bad.


Tablets and smartphones play a fine complementary role right now in marine navigation for most people I suspect. There is no reason that role couldn't and shouldn't expand.
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Old 08-01-2014, 11:39   #9
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

Well it is nice to see at lease one person can see the utility of a set of displays running on android. Why would anyone assume that these would be your primary displays?

The goal is to take an existing data stream and have an inexpensive way of displaying the data at secondary locations. Smart phone, tablet, what have you.

I presume that you have a chart plotter or individual displays for your primary navigational use. With these displays you could add a few to many additional displays at your nav station or helm to display various readings. Nice but not the primary.

I wonder what Raymarine's i70 is running inside? How about the Maretron DSM150-02?
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Old 08-01-2014, 16:03   #10
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

Not to mention there are inexpensive HDMI Android dongles, so you could light up the TV in the salon with instruments, or "Sunlight Readable" monitors that have HDMI, or better yet use Chromecast so you can drive the experience from the tablet/phone.
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Old 08-01-2014, 18:43   #11
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

Alternative approach to using an N16 with tomato for nmea data and other boat use here:
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Old 08-01-2014, 19:21   #12
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Re: Android Data display apps (DIY?)

Thanks muttnik. That's a project I'll be tackling one way or another soon. I want to throw my laptop overboard and find a simpler device to get serial data to TCP/IP.

On the client side I'm curious what web service or library could be used to get the nmea sentences from the url and parse them, perhaps turning them into an XML or JSON. If I had that I could do some rudimentary android app development.
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