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Old 06-07-2015, 14:28   #1
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Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Ahoy sailors,

I am both a sailor and a curious geek who is into making or hacking things. I have been playing with AIS and other marine electronics and am enjoying it. I see opportunities there to build kits for learning and experimenting with different technologies.

What I have been thinking of is creating an open source modular on-board wireless hub that can be created fairly cheaply and extended with optional modules to provide extended capability for AIS, GPS, NMEA multiplexing etc. The idea is, one would only add the modules that they need to the base platform. Base platform will be intelligent enough to detect the modules and provide the functionality in a seamless way.

Here is what I have in mind at a high level:
  • A base platform wireless based on Raspberry Pi / Cost: $50-60
  • Optional AIS module that you can plug into the base platform (based on TXCO RTL SDR dongle) / Cost: $40-50
  • Optional internal GPS module that you can plug into the base platform / Cost:$40
  • Optional NMEA 0183 multiplexer that you can plug into the base platform / Two port cost: $60-70 / Four port cost: $120-130
  • I don't envision making this water proof so needs to be protected in some other means
This will be all open source with easy to do do yourself instructions. Obviously this will be an experimental project, not intending to replace expensive marine electronics which have proven reliability in harsh conditions. But for sailors who want to play with these technologies without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars, it can be interesting.


What do you think, is there enough interest for a project like this? Would anyone be interested in joining me to get it done?

Cheers,
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Old 06-07-2015, 15:47   #2
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Would it be 12v? Perhaps you could add some usb charging outlets too. Would be interested as currently use usb gps which had occasionally been unreliable. We carry multiple hand held gps as back up too, perhaps nmea ports to add these too when needed? Keep us posted.
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Old 06-07-2015, 16:24   #3
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Yes it will be 12V and will have 4 USB ports by default. Those ports can be used for extension modules or for simply charging outlets.

There are some other functionalities included in the base platform that I did not mention explicitly:

1) It will act as a wireless Internet router if the ethernet port is connected to the Internet 2) Since this is ultimately a Linux box, it can be used as an on-board file server or media server too.
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Old 06-07-2015, 16:36   #4
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tenedos View Post
What do you think, is there enough interest for a project like this? Would anyone be interested in joining me to get it done?
If you build it (on GitHub) they will come

Check out the Signal K project; they are trying to create an open standard for interchange of marine data.
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Old 06-07-2015, 18:12   #5
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Hiya!

This is definitely a topic that I'm interested in! I like the idea of a modular system, and would add integration with a cell phone that's internet-connected to the list. How cool would it be to have my chartplotter show me the measured wind speed at various points around the boat, sourced from NOAA or SailFlow or similar data.

I've actually started putting together a NMEA 0183/2000 bench in my apartment, as another CFer and I have been talking about some ideas in this space.

Given that we're both in SFBay though, we should meet up sometime and chat about this!

-Alex
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Old 06-07-2015, 18:51   #6
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Something like this has been on my "thinking list" for while. The Signal K project mentioned above is pretty neat, and there's also http://marinux.pk973.org . Last I looked it seemed a bit behind in terms of packages, but something like that, with the interesting bits from Signal K as a messaging/communications backbone, running on a Pi would be really sweet. The next big thing that's missing, I think, would be to find a set of known good hardware components that work well together, and publish a list, so there is somewhere for people to start. For example, the rtl sdr dongle you mentioned, etc. The holy grail in that space is a daylight visible screen of a decent size that works with the pi and is even remotely affordable.
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Old 06-07-2015, 18:58   #7
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

I had a very similar idea and got %50 of the way into it for my boat.

In the end I abandoned it and just bought a Vesper. It offered all of that plus AIS transmit capabilities and required no "screwing around".

However, I do think a project like that will be valuable. It offers a great alternative for smaller "weekend" boats..
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Old 06-07-2015, 19:41   #8
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Thanks folks. Looks like there is quite a bit of interest out there. Signal K looks very interesting indeed. I found someone in Signal K forums who was interested in doing something along the same lines with a Raspberry Pi. I have reached out to him to see if we can collaborate.

Alex, let's indeed talk! I will send you a private message later today.

Looks like we already have 'new features' to include ;-)

* Signal K support
* Tethered Internet connection via bluetooth
* Compatible hardware list

And btw, project will be made available on GitHub with an easy to install Raspbian image for Raspberry Pi. Write it to your SD card and boot it.
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Old 06-07-2015, 20:39   #9
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Another one to look at is http://navigatrix.net
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Old 07-07-2015, 08:45   #10
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

After reducing power draw by replacing all incandescents lights with LEDs, I'm left with big draws from the fridge and Raymarine giant screen and associated instruments. I'd be interested if the designs are very low power and we figured out how to use an E Ink screen as one of several options for viewing.
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Old 07-07-2015, 09:58   #11
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Tenados,

I've been playing around with this myself (and looking at signal K).

At the moment I'm just using it as a logging device for GPS position and I also integrated a barometric sensor so I can track air pressure over time (looking for sudden drops etc)

Happy to collude on this if you want to PM me.

G
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Old 07-07-2015, 10:49   #12
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Great Idea,,, you could also include real time "condition monitoring" of equipment, blue tooth or "Zigbe" data log if if you wish or just have alarms for temp., water, vibe etc.
Rocky
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Old 13-07-2015, 15:36   #13
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Hi,

I'd definitely be interested, I was thinking of getting an interface board from the Freeboard project: http://www.42.co.nz/freeboard/ as I have a UDOO board and it supports this.

Were you thinking of a HAT type addon for the Raspberry Pi?

Phil
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Old 14-07-2015, 12:57   #14
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

Not completely sure what is being proposed. Are you talking about a startup selling stuff or collectively designing something and publishing a HOWTO including (I'm guessing) plans for 3D printing enclosures? And are those opto-isolated ports for $60-$70 a pair in which case I'd be interested to see the proposed design as it'd doubtless be preferable to the un-isolated serial-to-usb dongles I have hanging out ofmy hacky little raspberry pi multiplexer/gps/access point thingy.
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Old 22-07-2015, 19:47   #15
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Re: Testing waters for a new open source marine electronics project

I'm interested too. I'm in the process of building myself a Pi based data logger to record NMEA sentences that my instruments put out via wifi, and adding a couple of sensors like heel angle, battery voltage, and bilge pump status. I'm also adding a SIM card interface breakout board so it can email me via cell network if the bilge pump activates or anything else seems abnormal. I've prototyped it all on a breadboard with a Pi model B. I'm redoing it now on perfboard with a B+ for a more permanent installation and better power usage. I have the code for my functionality prototyped too but I need to go back and work on that more to add some robustness.


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