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Old 23-10-2013, 02:14   #1
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Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

I have been looking at the prices for the usual brands of wireless systems and the prices are nothing short of ridiculous. Clearly this is just a boat tax as the technology is very cheap these days. I am typing this on my $15 wireless keyboard, I can then print this thread out on a $150 wireless printer.

Is there anyway we can eliminate most of the gear and wiring so that just wireless sensors can be used to stream information straight to say, and Ipad or Laptop? Most of us already own a ipad/laptop. All that I actually see the need for is some sensors that would output a signal readable by the device then some software to display it.

In theory this sounds very doable and cheap. Has anyone experimented with this sort of thing? Can usual sensors be plugged into something that would convert the signal to wifi/or bluetooth or something?

There has to be a way with some clever thinking.
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Old 23-10-2013, 09:21   #2
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

(the owner of a 40 ft boat is complaining about electronics prices? Really? )

The "boat tax" you speak of, is more an issue of:
- marine electronics is a relatively small market
- this market has traditionally demanded electronics that are dependable, which means engineered for longevity, robustness, maintainability

These qualities are about 180 degrees from the current criteria for most mainstream electronics products: pretty, leading-edge, cheap, cheap, cheap, cos it will be replaced in 1 to 3 years.

Options are appearing. I can't remember the link, but there's a $99 weather-station sensor (wind speed and direction, wired) that some have pressed into service as a masthead wind sensor. Other sensors, like speed thru water, or depth, have little use outside of boating, so you don't see any cheaper mass-market options. And of course you're aware of the ongoing development of PC-based charting apps and marine utilities.

I'm not aware of cheap off-the-shelf wireless sensors to go straight to PC, and the common lightweight wireless protocols like Bluetooth won't have the necessary range, but it's getting easier to slap such things together. Check out all the electronic building blocks here. Just about any conceivable functionality can be cobbled together. It's fun and cool. But is it robust enough to take you across the Atlantic?

I still prefer quality, wired sensors connected to either a dedicated marine display unit, or to an industrial grade central processor feeding any number of displays. It's great that consumer devices (tablets, laptops, smartphones) can be used as secondary displays or for off-line navigation, as long as there's something reliable aboard as the primary instrument.
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Old 24-10-2013, 08:54   #3
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

I'm with Lake-Effect on this. Reliability and robustness would be top of the list for most and a dedicated hard wire is less susceptible to interference or failure. If it's just eliminating wires, you would still need power wires to each device to power the wireless signals.
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Old 24-10-2013, 15:50   #4
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

I just hate it when things cost what they do because that is how much people are willing to pay because they have no other option. Things like dental work etc. Why does a 45 min appointment cost $750? Because you will be screwed without it and HAVE to pay because there are no options.

I think feeding the sensors with 12V will be fine as it is readily available throughout the whole hull of your boat. But the other wiring could be a PITA to install. Especially the mast head. I thought the masthead wind speed sensor could have a small 12V nicad recharged by the anchor/tri light.

I think wireless will be the way of the future on boats. Its already happened on land. Yes there could still be a system of usual displays at the helm for redundancy. I know that when I am passagemaking I am NOT standing at the helm 99% of the time. I am where ever I feel most comfortable. It would be great to have all the ships info available on my portable device where ever I feel like sitting or lying at the time.

I just crossed the pacific using my laptop for navigation, and I suggest the GPS is probably the most important instrument. I wont feel scared having the rest of the instruments come up on the laptop either. Most of these are just extras which are good to have but not essential. Pretty much only the depth sounder is really important. I dont NEED a wind instrument or log, my other boats did not have them.

Software needs to be designed to take care of all the inputs. Perhaps a opencpn plugin.
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Old 24-10-2013, 15:58   #5
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Originally Posted by dennisail View Post
I just hate it when things cost what they do because that is how much people are willing to pay because they have no other option. Things like dental work etc. Why does a 45 min appointment cost $750? Because you will be screwed without it and HAVE to pay because there are no options.

I think feeding the sensors with 12V will be fine as it is readily available throughout the whole hull of your boat. But the other wiring could be a PITA to install. Especially the mast head. I thought the masthead wind speed sensor could have a small 12V nicad recharged by the anchor/tri light.

I think wireless will be the way of the future on boats. Its already happened on land. Yes there could still be a system of usual displays at the helm for redundancy. I know that when I am passagemaking I am NOT standing at the helm 99% of the time. I am where ever I feel most comfortable. It would be great to have all the ships info available on my portable device where ever I feel like sitting or lying at the time.

I just crossed the pacific using my laptop for navigation, and I suggest the GPS is probably the most important instrument. I wont feel scared having the rest of the instruments come up on the laptop either. Most of these are just extras which are good to have but not essential. Pretty much only the depth sounder is really important. I dont NEED a wind instrument or log, my other boats did not have them.

Software needs to be designed to take care of all the inputs. Perhaps a opencpn plugin.
Electronics is very much a function of production volume , Marine electronics are relatively low volume devices hence there will always be a price premium. Secondly at present you have no standard for nmea2k over wireless , so no common agreement as to how to represent the data.

You already have proprietary wireless systems , see Tacktick.

I personally would question the use, as a primary device , of consumer electronics stuff like tablets etc. these are not in any way built for the marine environment. Furthermore for the price of a high end iPad , you can get a dedicated waterproof sunlight readable chart plotter /mfd from the likes of Garmin.

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Old 24-10-2013, 16:06   #6
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

But you already own an ipad/laptop and it does about 1000 things the chartplotter cant, so you will carry one or three along with the chartplotter anyway. And opencpn has far superior software than a Garmin chartplotter. The "primary" device is my paper charts which cost a fortune and are still unopened in their plastic wrappers, and I might add are even more reliable than your suggested garmin.

I am sure there were bad reactions when the electronic depth sounder replaced a rock tied to a string too.
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Old 24-10-2013, 16:12   #7
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But you already own an ipad/laptop and it does about 1000 things the chartplotter cant, so you will carry one or three along with the chartplotter anyway. And opencpn has far superior software than a Garmin chartplotter. The "primary" device is my paper charts which cost a fortune and are still unopened in their plastic wrappers. I can use them with one one of the 6 spare GPS on board.

I am sure there were bad reactions when the electronic depth sounder replaced a rock tied to a string too.
When computers were " new" we got excited by the fact they could do " 1000s" of things. Now there're cheap and ubiquitous. There's no need to have one device do everything. In fact far better to have several devices included dedicated Marine orientated devices.

The ability to use computers with on board sensors has been around for some time. It never made any serious inroads into the chart plotter market. I doubt a consumer tablet will either ( ps try reading it in sunlight, how'd that work out for you )

Furthermore would you trust autopilot control signals over Wifi from an iPad ???

Fewer and fewer people will carry paper charts anyway

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Old 24-10-2013, 16:31   #8
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

I would not trust the autopilot to be fully wireless. But I would like to make inputs to it wirelessly. I disagree that computers have not made any serious "inroads" to the market. Many people use open CPN as their primary chart plotter, and I bet most of them would LOVE a cost effective way to have the rest of their displays come up on the same screen and that is what this thread is about.

The fact things like opencpm exist is the reason WHY people no longer feel the need for paper charts. They have so many electronic redundancies on board these days. The average boat probably contains, 2 smart phones, plus 2 - 4 computers of some sort. That is enough redundancy without a required a stand alone chartplotter. Waterproof cases are available.

I have a garmin chartplotter, which garmin refused to sell me charts for. They said I had to buy a NEW chartplotter so I could use the charts which have not been updated in 20+ years other than the format changed. This is the sort of thing I was talking about where the manufactures FORCE yo to buy something at an extortionate price as there is no other option. So I said screw them and chose to use opencpn and could not have been happier.

If anyone has some garmin bluechart files they are willing to copy for me, please let me know. I tried to PAY for them but Garmin refused to sell them. So I don't see anything immoral being done by copying them.
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Old 24-10-2013, 16:43   #9
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Originally Posted by dennisail View Post
I would not trust the autopilot to be fully wireless. But I would like to make inputs to it wirelessly. I disagree that computers have not made any serious "inroads" to the market. Many people use open CPN as their primary chart plotter, and I bet most of them would LOVE a cost effective way to have the rest of their displays come up on the same screen and that is what this thread is about.

The fact things like opencpm exist is the reason WHY people no longer feel the need for paper charts. They have so many electronic redundancies on board these days. The average boat probably contains, 2 smart phones, plus 2 - 4 computers of some sort. That is enough redundancy without a required a stand alone chartplotter. Waterproof cases are available.

I have a garmin chartplotter, which garmin refused to sell me charts for. They said I had to buy a NEW chartplotter so I could use the charts which have not been updated in 20+ years other than the format changed. This is the sort of thing I was talking about where the manufactures FORCE yo to buy something at an extortionate price as there is no other option. So I said screw them and chose to use opencpn and could not have been happier.

If anyone has some garmin bluechart files they are willing to copy for me, please let me know. I tried to PAY for them but Garmin refused to sell them. So I don't see anything immoral being dome by copying them.
Garmin changed that policy and you can get datacards with newer updates. The cd product is gone however


I applaud opencpn. I've yet to see it used where I sail


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Old 24-10-2013, 16:51   #10
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

Where do you sail? I saw open cpn used across the Pacific and I showed friends from CA and now they are also using it. Apple seems to have some reasonably priced software as well, but opencpn does work on Apple I believe. I don't use apple as I hate their planned obsolesce business strategy as much as Garmins.

Garmin has lost me as a customer forever. Obviously they have admitted to making a mistake by trying to force people to buy a whole new chartplotter when all they needed was an existing piece of software. Did they really think the customer would by a Garmin product afer that?
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Old 24-10-2013, 17:24   #11
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While it may seem the holy grail to have all instrumentation fully integrated there is much hard evidence in both the maritime and aerospace fields that we humans are easily confused and easily lose our situational awareness. Costa Concordia, GFC, the recent San francisco air crash, etc. What I call 'not looking out the window stupid.'

That being said we use our smartphones and tablets for planning and then we use our dedicated marine instrumentation for navigation on our yacht.

I am also evaluating opencpn and writing apis to a range of instrumentation when time permits on our secondary navigation systems. Our primary nav systems are dedicated marine systems.

I engineer naval ship systems and am currently working on a tech startup dealing with complex decision making so I get to evaluate many ststems.

While it may seem more work with seperate instruments it will greatly improve your ability to cope when (not if) you experience instrumentation failure.
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Old 24-10-2013, 17:41   #12
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

You are correct of course. But for the rest of the time when the system is working (the vast majority of the time hopefully) the instruments are not in the correct position to be read when passage making cruising style.
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Old 25-10-2013, 15:58   #13
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Re: Wireless instrument sensors - straight to computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dennisail View Post
I just hate it when things cost what they do because that is how much people are willing to pay because they have no other option. Things like dental work etc. Why does a 45 min appointment cost $750? Because you will be screwed without it and HAVE to pay because there are no options.

I think feeding the sensors with 12V will be fine as it is readily available throughout the whole hull of your boat. But the other wiring could be a PITA to install. Especially the mast head. I thought the masthead wind speed sensor could have a small 12V nicad recharged by the anchor/tri light.

I think wireless will be the way of the future on boats. Its already happened on land. Yes there could still be a system of usual displays at the helm for redundancy. I know that when I am passagemaking I am NOT standing at the helm 99% of the time. I am where ever I feel most comfortable. It would be great to have all the ships info available on my portable device where ever I feel like sitting or lying at the time.

I just crossed the pacific using my laptop for navigation, and I suggest the GPS is probably the most important instrument. I wont feel scared having the rest of the instruments come up on the laptop either. Most of these are just extras which are good to have but not essential. Pretty much only the depth sounder is really important. I dont NEED a wind instrument or log, my other boats did not have them.

Software needs to be designed to take care of all the inputs. Perhaps a opencpn plugin.
I can't speak for dental options in Brisbane, but I live in a small town in the USA. I have at least ten dental offices within a ten minute drive. I had to get a filling that cost $115 total before insurance. That included regular visit, cleaning, small talk, hygienist laughing at my jokes, anesthesia, etc. I was there probably about an hour. Got a free toothbrush, floss & tothpaste on the way out. Of course caps, crowns, braces, etc are out of the park cost-wise, but basic services are pretty reasonable here.
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