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Old 07-03-2017, 16:22   #1
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Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

Hi all. I am just getting interested in the wifi mux concept, maybe using iNavX as the display app.

A little background: small sloop (Contessa 32), PNW coastwise cruising. I don't have much need for radar & have never owned one, but over the summer I do usually venture into a fog-plagued area for at least a week or so. Maybe a few days out of the whole year, I would like to have radar available. So I don't want to spend a fortune on it. So I was considering the Furuno wifi radar (as my first radar set), discussing it with a very experienced cruiser on the local dock, and he said, "oh no, don't go that proprietary route, get a wifi mux and hook up everything!" And he showed me his spiffy NMEA/wifi setup. So now I'm doing my homework.

One thing I'm having a hard time finding is an overview document that I can read to give me the big picture, answer basic questions like "can I display radar output on the iPad, and if so, which radars are compatible with which muxes." That sort of thing. Can anyone point me to a really comprehensive overview of the technology?

I've got the basic idea, I just don't know what the limits of the technology are, what cannot be done with it. I'd love to believe that I could buy just a radome from a major vendor, install a wifi nmea mux, connect all my nmea instruments to it and use the iPad as a single magic "Tricorder" displaying everything I want to see. But wait, there are multiple NMEA standards, not all muxes support all standards; not all radars actually spit out NMEA; and does iNavX actually display radar output?? Before I go out and buy a bunch of geeky toys, I'd like to understand what's possible and what isn't -- so I don't end up with expensive paperweights.

Ideally I'd like to hook up a Simrad/Lowrance 3G broadband radar (low power drain!) to an nmea wifi mux, also my TillerPilot 100, gps and depth sounder, and at least be able to display nav data and a radar screen on an iPad or Android tablet. I'd love to avoid buying yet another expensive and bulky display screen just for the radar. Dare I hope?
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Old 07-03-2017, 16:34   #2
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

I have exactly the same question as CO32. Looking forward to enlightenment.
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Old 07-03-2017, 17:13   #3
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

The radar will talk directly to the client, it won't go through the mux.

The mux is for NMEA type traffic. The radar would be a streaming data connection, not something you can convert or do anything with.
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Old 07-03-2017, 17:53   #4
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
The radar will talk directly to the client, it won't go through the mux.

The mux is for NMEA type traffic. The radar would be a streaming data connection, not something you can convert or do anything with.
So, hmmm. Supposing I had a Furuno Wifi radar, I would need two different iPads if I wanted to display its radar-over-wifi-to-proprietary app data as well as muxed NMEA data...?

That's getting pretty expensive again :-) OTOH, I could have just one iPad and switch it to radar mode when required (connect to Furuno wifi network rather than NMEA mux wifi network), giving up the all-in-one convenience of the iNavX system and using, say, handheld Garmin or other dedicated screens for navigation, as in the good ol' days. Am I understanding this correctly?
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Old 08-03-2017, 08:57   #5
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

CO32, you mentioned make and size of your boat, but no word on existing equipment. Do you have a Furuno MFD? And is it wifi connectable?
I have the RM e7d, and all the newer RM MFDs can connect to iPad or android tablets via wifi. I'll be adding the Quantum wifi radome next month. The radar streams to the MFD, and I can mirror it on my tablet via the wifi app. I haven't seen any of the marine electronics mfr.s putting out an app that would let you connect their radome directly to a tablet or PC. After all, that wouldn't be very good for MFD sales. Is somebody in the OPN field doing this, and I'm just ignorant of it?

OTOH, if somebody could write such an app, they could probably sell a lot of them!
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:19   #6
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

If you like the Simrad 3G radar you could hook it up to a B&G Zeus2 MFD, plus WiFi and see the radar images on an iPad or other tablet device. Need both N2K and Ethernet connections. Add other instruments as you like on the N2K net.
By the way. Love the CO32. Best boat ever....
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:23   #7
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

We accomplish this using the proprietary GoFree WiFi capability available with Navico brand MFDs. [Some require an external GoFree WiFi device, some have it built into the MFD.]

If you don't already have an MFD, and don't need to network more than one on your boat [excluding networked tablets] then to save $ you may want to look at the B&G Vulcan MFDs. [I suspect the other Navico brands- Simrad and Lawrence- have similar stand-alone MFDs (i.e., cheapest for use with 3 or 4G RADAR) but I'm only familiar with the B&G offerings.]

If you need to network more than one MFD, you need to go up one or more models and spend the extra $...

The GoFree WiFi used with our B&G Zeus MFD and 4G RADAR is a great combo for us. The tablets can run the MFD, and mirror everything [including AIS.]

In case any of this is useful information... Best wishes sorting out what is best for you.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:35   #8
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

Thanks, Bill, for a fuller explanation of the Navionics suite. Defender has deals going now for Zeus2 MFDs with 3G Radar. I have the Zeus2 7" which needs the separate WiFi1 base station. The newer Vulcan 9 has built in WiFi and now can handle their 3G radar too. The wifi mirroring seems to work well, but I have not really tested in in earnest yet. Seems you are happy, though.
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Old 08-03-2017, 10:56   #9
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

Oh my. "You are in a mazy of twisty little acronyms, bewilderingly alike."

As I mentioned in original post, I have no MFD and no radar at present. I have a very simple boat :-) This is my instrument inventory:
  • one modern VHF with GPS,
  • one TP100 which allegedly receives NMEA but I have never managed to get it to listen to another device (not that I have tried all that hard),
  • one handheld Garmin 76Cx (all time favourite marine device, they should never have discontinued it) for close navigation,
  • one Android tablet for route planning and tides (Navionics),
  • one small-screen dedicated GPS at the chart table, used mostly as a knotmeter & backup to the tablet and handheld. it's a SH I think (shows you how much I care about it, can't even remember the brand name if I'm not looking at it!)

If I had my druthers, what I would ideally like is a portable radar which I set up only when it's foggy :-) with a small radome (12 inches diameter) that weighs less than 15 lbs.

No one makes such an animal :-( Failing that, I would like not to have to buy a spendy MFD as well as the radome. My budget is limited -- restoring this Good Old Boat of mine has been very expensive the last few years and I'm kinda tapped out... and besides, I don't have room for another display at the chart table. And if I have to buy another screen I would far rather it be a really useful, versatile device like an iPad. Spending $600 or more (CAD) for a screen that isn't portable (where the heck will I put it in my tiny cabin?) and can't run standard Android or iOS apps seems nuts to me.

So... I'm trying to figure out if I can buy just a radome, and use a general purpose tablet screen (Android or iOS, don't care) for the display, then also load that tablet with other useful marine and personal apps.

It seems that the only vendor addressing this niche right now is Furuno with their headless wifi radar unit (12lbs, but unf 19 inch diam), and that my only display option (without buying the large clunky spendy MFD) would be to attach the iPad to the Furuno proprietary wifi via their app. I could however switch it on other occasions to an NMEA wifi run by one of these newfangled compact NMEA mux devices, if I wanted to play with all the spiffy features of iNavX. That might be good enough, given the very very few days per season that I actually use radar.

A suitable iPad will set me back a few hundred bucks of course, almost as much as an MFD. But it will be so much more useful -- including on shore! I don't know why marine vendors even both to make MFDs any more, since they are -- in essence -- just crippled versions of graphics tablets :-)

[update:] Yikes! just checked out the Zeus2 from B&G at Defender. $1K-$2K US? Totally out of my reach. Vulcan9, about $1K US. Nope, them's for wealthier folks than yours truly. Furuno's wifi radome is looking better all the time :-)
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Old 08-03-2017, 11:14   #10
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

At Defender they offer a "remanufactured" Zeus2 7" MFD for $500. With 3G Radar it's $1600. If you want to see the charts, etc and radar on a laptop you would have to add the WiFi1 for $200. The other "hidden" cost is the mount for the radar dome. They are't cheap, but you could make your own. Nothing is easy or cheap in this game....Good luck. You have a beautiful boat!
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Old 08-03-2017, 11:54   #11
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

This will start a little educational, please bear with me. NMEA 0183 is basically a serial interface. It will carry basic data such as GPS, instruments (wind, depth, speed), AIS and waypoint/route transfer. A lot of boats have Raymarine instruments which talk to each other via Seatalk (different protocol). NMEA 2000 is a CanBus based protocol, similar to what is standard in the automotive world. NMEA 0183 is universal, cheap, easy to connect (just splice the wires) and relatively easy to connect to a computer/tablet via a serial-to-Ethernet converter ($6 on Amazon). Seatalk is easy to work with but a pain to convert to nmea/serial (you need either a mux for $300 or an old Raymarine chartplotter/radar that will take Seatalk data and output it to nmea.

NMEA 2000 is a pain in the neck because the connectors are expensive and the network design is quite strict. It is approximately 6x faster than NMEA 0183 which is a dead end because it is not fast enough for radar or sonar and it does not really offer anything new. Yet many new MFDs only support NMEA 2000, so go figure.

Radar is connected via an analog cable or Ethernet. All radars are proprietary and require a viewing device that comes from the same vendor. The only radar that has been hacked is the Navico 3G radar for which you can get a plugin for OpenCPN.

My recommendation will be to move all your data to Ethernet as quickly as possible. You can then use consumer grade connections that are cheap. This means that you need a serial-to-Ethernet converter ($6 on Amazon) that will take your nmea data and feed it into a wireless router ($20 on Amazon). Next, you can get a Lowrance 3G radar and also feed it into the router. You can view the data on any wireless device connected to the router but note that the device needs to be able to run OpenCPN if you want to access the radar image. If you have Seatalk data you need to get a Seatalk multiplexer.

While you can put together this system cheaply, note that in actual use you will have many points of failure. Sometimes the radar plugin will freeze. The wireless network will go down with the microwave. You will spend a lot of time configuring the connections on an ongoing basis. It is not an ideal setup for a boat but if it is for occasional use it may make sense for you. Also consider getting a used analog radar/Raymarine display such as an RL70. These run about $200 on ebay and are quite robust. You can also get a used Lowrance HDS-5 gen 2 unit that will display 3G radar for about $300. Low power, high visibility, waterproof... may be a better option that what I described above. Raymarine has better MARPA while the HDS will gave a better radar (this is comparing the two units above).

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Old 08-03-2017, 12:31   #12
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

OpenCPN has also a plugin for the 3g Garmin radar.
This is what I am using:
Garmin radar -> 4 ports Network switch
4 ports Network switch -> Garmin 741 MFD
4 ports Network switch -> local laptop with OpenCPN

Also, the Garmin 741 have built in wifi, so it can stream its display content to my ipad over a close wifi peer2peer network.

7" screen on the Garmin is a bit small for radr overlay at the helm, but streaming to the ipad makes it perfect.
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Old 08-03-2017, 12:52   #13
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CO32_Tazling View Post
Oh my. "You are in a mazy of twisty little acronyms, bewilderingly alike."

As I mentioned in original post, I have no MFD and no radar at present.
Not to quibble, but your first post only mentioned that you've never owned radar, you said nothing about other instrumentation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by CO32_Tazling View Post
I don't know why marine vendors even both to make MFDs any more, since they are -- in essence -- just crippled versions of graphics tablets :-)
They make them because they are highly functional, waterproof, extremely rugged instruments, usually with multiple input/networking potential. Tablets running marine apps are none of the above. Well, they are convenient (mostly due to their portability and non-marine uses). Spill a coffee on them and maybe they'll work, maybe not. Drop them once, hard, and they're toast.

My MFD can run radar, gps, and sonar/fishfinder apps at the same time. Try to do all that simultaneously on a wifi tablet.

But thank you for mentioning the Furuno 1st Watch, didn't know they would run on an Ios/Android app.
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Old 13-07-2017, 12:48   #14
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CO32_Tazling View Post
Hi all. I am just getting interested in the wifi mux concept, maybe using iNavX as the display app.

Can anyone point me to a really comprehensive overview of the technology?

But wait, there are multiple NMEA standards, not all muxes support all standards; not all radars actually spit out NMEA; and does iNavX actually display radar output??

Dare I hope?
CO32 asked three questions, and true to form CF members have yet to answer a single one!

While CO32 has asked these questions, there are other cruisers that either have asked the same question(s) or soon will.
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Old 08-11-2017, 05:53   #15
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Re: Best write-up on NMEA wifi muxes?

I too am interested in this concept as a replacement for my dead Ray MFD.

There are WiFi/LAN MUX's from the likes of VYacht, Digi Yacht, and Ship Modul that would on the face of it at least, seem to integrate my NMEA 0183, 2000, and Raynet hardware so that it can be displayed by open CPN on my chart table laptop and cockpit Android tablet.

What I do not see is how to integrate the Ray digital radar on this new network, so that I can have chart overlay, MARPA, etc as on the old RAY MFD.

If I need a Ray display for the radar, I may as well go with another planned obsolescence Ray MFD with WiFi to the nav station laptop

Or if I understand this correctly, buy another hacked radar, putting me in the same cost bracket as a new MFD, although with the open source advantage.
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