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Old 09-01-2010, 23:38   #1
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Computer Nerve Center

I am not that knowledgeable with the most up to date navigation electronics but I am wondering what the newest options and future trends are?

I was wondering if anyone has had success integrating more than just navigation/GPS with their computers?

I have been reading how a "new" solar charge controller can boost efficiency of the solar panels by controlling voltage... I think it would be nice to have some software to control and monitor the battery charging and use...possibly having the controller hooked to the software? In some SCADA systems in industrial applications there is PLC (which is a programmable controller) but these PLCs are hooked to a computer which acts as the Human Machine Interface using software.

Is there a solar charge controller with a USB or other computer interface?

I could see using the computer with the autopilot...and integrate all of this to the on deck computer system? Instead of individual modules ...GPS/Nav/Radar/instruments (wind speed and direction)...one central computer interface

I assume that the big electronic companies offer integration...how proprietary is their interface?

Obviously reliance on a central computer introduces a single point of failure...so likely you would need for voyaging, a spare computer backup and of course...the traditional redundancies including a compass and paper charts.
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Old 10-01-2010, 00:01   #2
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your really want to put a $500 dollar PC ( probably built with $50's of components) in charge of your boat.!!
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Old 10-01-2010, 00:21   #3
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your really want to put a $500 dollar PC ( probably built with $50's of components) in charge of your boat.!!
absolutely not!! this would be in addition too only... I would love to gain the versatility on reporting and displaying data, integrating and enjoying software that gets created to assist.

possibly a water proof screen and keyboard for deck (as robust and expensive as you like) and a sealed unit below...with redundancy...as it becomes more important...but not essential.

power management would be an excellent place to add efficiency and control

a 10 year old car has 100 x s the computer and automatic control power that 99% of sailboats have...just a thought
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Old 10-01-2010, 04:09   #4
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That's the plan.. It can be done now, take a good look around
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:34   #5
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Originally Posted by LuvToSail View Post
I am not that knowledgeable with the most up to date navigation electronics but I am wondering what the newest options and future trends are?
The latest MaxSea TimeZero software is the most exciting thing that I've seen in more than 10 years. If you haven't seen it, you need to. As a $350 software program, it can run your helm or be used as a backup or planning tool. The performance of panning and zooming is unlike anything I've seen. Again - this is the new US version of TZ, not the older MaxSea with the dongle software protection (there's no dongle on the new TZ).

There's also a version of TZ that's much more expensive that will allow Furuno data across NavNet3D to be shared on the PC. That allows the PC to turn into another radar head. If you have Furuno NavNet3D, this might be a good option.

In general though, if you're using something like The Capn, Coastal Explorer, Fugawi, Maptech, etc. and are looking for the next thing, you should see TimeZero.


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Originally Posted by LuvToSail View Post
I was wondering if anyone has had success integrating more than just navigation/GPS with their computers?
That's pretty easy. I've been doing that with my Raymarine equipment for years. I have a ShipModul multiplexer that grabs everything off SeaTalk (and NMEA) and makes it available over Bluetooth or serial (wind, rudder, heading, depth, GPS, autopilot, etc). There are a variety of ways to get data from your onboard sensors into a PC today.


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Is there a solar charge controller with a USB or other computer interface?
Yes, there are a few. Search on "PowerMonkey Explorer" to see one that's pretty good and includes a USB option. The nice thing is that it can charge its battery from a variety of sources - use DC engine power while motoring for example - and then powers devices from its battery. There are also options for AC, solar, and USB-in. The PowerMonkey is for smaller devices (phones, etc). They also have a PowerGorilla for laptops but I haven't seen it and doubt that it would get charged enough from the small solar capability of the PowerMonkey.


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I assume that the big electronic companies offer integration...how proprietary is their interface?
Some are very proprietary. Some are very open. Everything is moving toward being open. There are usually ways of getting proprietary data out in an open way.
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:53   #6
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Jeffrey,
Thanks for the info about MaxSea being able to integrate with a Furuno NavNet3D system. I'm going to look in to that. Right now all I have is NMEA 0183 going out of my Furuno system and in to a few data logging computers on a research boat. It would be nice to be able to see and log more data on these computers. Perhaps log images?
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:25   #7
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sounds great, but

The thing that concerns me with this level of integration is when one critical component goes down and brings everything down with it. Losing 1 system could be a problem that can be compensated for with others, ie radar goes down, AIS/GPS/VHF are still there. But what happens when the central controller, or the bus, goes down and you have nothing? That is a big issue, especially given the (un)reliability of a lot of marine electronics.
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Old 10-01-2010, 10:41   #8
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The thing that concerns me with this level of integration is when one critical component goes down and brings everything down with it. Losing 1 system could be a problem that can be compensated for with others, ie radar goes down, AIS/GPS/VHF are still there. But what happens when the central controller, or the bus, goes down and you have nothing? That is a big issue, especially given the (un)reliability of a lot of marine electronics.
Well, it would be totally irresponsible to be anywhere w/o paper charts and a handheld gps, with a bunch of C cells to power same. The FM radio would still work and a backup handheld would be prudent. As for AIS and Radar, I guess binoculars would have to work. Does not seem there should be any shortage of redundancy.
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Old 10-01-2010, 11:34   #9
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I honestly don't see the redundancy issue at all. In fact, using a PC gives me extra redundancy. I have all Raymarine equipment - multiple chartplotters, radar head, multiple autopilots, fishfinder, rudder indicator, wind indicator, 2 depth displays (one for each side), etc. Then I have a port that allows me to grab the data that exists on the Raymarine network to repeat it on a PC. The PC will also work with a stand-alone Bluetooth GPS and can act as a self-contained chartplotter all by itself if needed. So either side can go down and I still have a backup. Of course, if the autopilot pump goes out, I won't have the autopilot and will have to hand steer (how 2003!). Same for radar - losing any sensor will lose the data for that sensor. I mostly care about position reference, especially when offshore.

I also have 2-4 smartphones with GPS and charts running alongside. It's an electronic madhouse at my helm! The phones are great for dinghy use or a catastrophic failure like a lightening strike - they run on batteries and are disconnected from the rest of the boat.

In all seriousness, even with all of this electronics, I have every chart and they are always opened and followed with post-it notes showing our current position.
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Old 10-01-2010, 19:10   #10
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I believe everything can be integrated by now starting with bilge alarm and ending up with hd radar.

Now we are using a laptop (x2), but I want to switch to netbooks for offshore - they need less energy so I could use them more.

b.
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Old 15-03-2010, 12:14   #11
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I've actually been using embedded mini-ITX MOBs coupled with used Toughbook screens. total cost for a windows PC is about $140, not including software. and the touchscreen entry is great for most nav programs.

Yeah, I've got Raymarine driving the boat. But what I reference most often are the two PCs - one running Garmin charting and the other AIS using OpenCPN for the base map.

Intel Atom board, 7" square. Processor included. $69
1g memory. $20
Toughbook VDL01 touch screen monitor. Daylight viewable. Out of a policecar system. eBay $50

Then a Garmin USB GPS. $50
NASA AIS engine. $180
you could add a mini keyboard for $10
what else would you need?

besides, the big screen on the Toughbook monitir beats the crap out of a little Raymarine or Garmin GPS chartplotter.
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Old 15-03-2010, 15:17   #12
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I've got two Toughbook's that cost less than $200 for the boat. Those things are so cheap, it just doesn't merit using a high end box. Mine have been splashed with boarding seas, spray and rain with no issues.
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