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Old 04-10-2021, 18:47   #1
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B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It's an amazing concept, create a bluetooth integrated, solar powered, wireless instrument that you simply place up on the mast and then forget it. You need to pair it right next to the chart plotter, but after that, it's pretty simple. And that's exactly how it started out, but almost like magic, to the day the warranty ran out, and the system stopped functioning. And then you realize everything that it doesn't have, like a log or alert showing that it has battery issues. Or the fact that even though B&G integrates into a complete system, and the chartplotter (Vulcan) knows and records everything about the various sensors that are attached to it, it doesn't actually relay that information to the company. Or that the serial number recorded on the Chart Plotter isn't actually the serial number that B&G uses, so again, to call them up with any warranty issue, you need to go up your mast and read the serial number off the bottom of the unit. How do you troubleshoot the WS320? A LED, on the unit, which again you need to have in hand to troubleshoot. I mean, there wasn't even an alert that stated it couldn't connect to the WS320, instead I had to go through menu after menu trying to figure out why I wasn't seeing wind direction and speed anymore. It took me a very long time to realize it wasn't some fluke of the configuration, but actually the hardware, and even when I finally got to the area under "Network" that it listed the sensors, it showed the device as being "OK". I had to go into the data and see the data signal was 0 percent. But after all that time, can you go to a dealor like West Marine and order a replacement part? Not reallly, first, the B&G service people weren't even aware that there was a battery inside the unit, let alone the part number. It's not that they are simply unaware, they argue with you on it. When you ask them, "so, how does it work at night if it's solar powered and doesn't have a battery" they just grow silent. Their customer service support system didn't show it had a battery I guess and that was that. And finally after you get the one person who can find the part number, the part isn't stocked in North America, it has to be special ordered from Europe (the whole process took months). Prior to that, when talking to their support, they literally asked if we ever had a thunderstorm, because that was probably the issue. And could we show that the battery was fully charged before it went up the mast 18 months ago (even though there is no special charging process, it simply sits in the sun for a while, and it's been doing nothing but that for 18 months). Honestly, is their argument that if the boat was ever near a thunderstorm, then suddenly B&G is done troubleshooting, the warranty isn't honored? Regarding the battery, it's custom made (why not use one of the many standard batteries?), extremely expensive, I think the battery itself is over $100 (and this is my second one), and they seem to last exactly 2 years + 1 day till they fail. If it's going to fail anyway, why not have it be something that can at least be easily replaced? In the meantime, I would recommend bypassing this nice concept until B&G works out the long term bugs. Or maybe just find a different manufacturer. There is no excuse for a connected group of devices that costs thousands, is sophisticated enough to connect to wifi, register itself, update charts and firmware, but is not be able to send out error messages, or record error logs, or even just let the user know there is an error with the system and can't find the sensor anymore.
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Old 07-10-2021, 16:43   #2
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Scoonerdog, thank you for the write up. I was thinking about the B&G 320 sensor. This will definitely help me make the decision.


Once thing that caught my eye while I was reading the manual, If you need to pair the sensor with the Bluetooth receiver they have to be within .5 meters of each other.



That seems just crazy. What happens if it looses its pair during seasonal storage?
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Old 07-10-2021, 17:38   #3
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Schoonerdog, Like you I have had battery problems, it worked fined fine until you realise the Bluetooth unit isn't getting anything back from the masthead unit. Once I had the unit down I measured the battery voltage (which is supposed to be 2.4v if I recall) only to find the battery was measuring 0.6v.

I purchased a new battery online and whilst it measured 2.4v when I installed it and I was able to establish connectivity, it only lasted a few days before it stopped. It was in full Australian sun (apparently we share the sun with the northern hemisphere, but how can we when the world is flat!!)

Thankfully my unit is still under warranty and the B&G staff in Australia were helpful, it is now in a box back to the service division for assessment.

Sailing season starts tomorrow, great timing.....
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Old 07-10-2021, 18:06   #4
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Plus one for me. I like the write up too. My boat is a 2018 with all B&G electronics. I’m neutral with B&G so far, but throughout my frustrations trying to get it all figured out and understood.

I FINALLY understood what B&G stands for, it stands for BUY GARMIN. Ha!
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Old 18-10-2021, 08:15   #5
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I just removed the 4 months new WS320 wind sensor from our mast top and stored it inside the boat (without any sunlight for 4 days, so it has been transmitting the data without any charging). The measured battery voltage was 2,75V then. It has been working flawlessy from the day one allthough it sits at the top of our mast (21m) and the receiver sits inside in a cabin locker under the teakdeck.

I think its a way better product than my previous Airmar WX220 which just died after 3 years of normal use during a normal firmware update.
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Old 18-10-2021, 08:56   #6
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We bought this same unit in May - I just now got it out and found the battery dead. Called their customer support and they sent me a new one no questions. My only problem is that I couldn't find the battery anywhere online, but the only thing special about it appears to be the connector - you could probably cut the shrink wrap off and put two generic nimh batteries in.
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Old 18-10-2021, 12:27   #7
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I just updated to all B&G, Vulcan, Wind Sensor, Sonar/Speed and two Triton screens. Reading the reviews of the wireless, I went (special order) all Wired. There are always problems with the wireless equipment on the water, especially in harbors. Have not had a problem with the B&G wired equipment yet, but its only the first season.
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Old 19-10-2021, 13:41   #8
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

schoonerdog. Paragraphs please

I bet if you posted some pictures of the battery one of us many electrical engineers could find a replacement. I would wager its a standard lithium ion battery 100-500mAH.

**** luck though. This is why I'm always wary of wireless tech. At some point its going to need servicing. Hopefully it wasn't too expensive for you in the end.


Also FYI your website is dead.
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Old 19-10-2021, 16:55   #9
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We replaced the battery, everything synced up perfectly, then it died again. The battery is two triple a batteries with shrink wrap and a female plug. It’s not the battery it is the wind instrument can no longer charge. We took it apart and found no water intrusion, the connections seem fine. I’m guessing there is a component that charges the battery that is not very durable, despite the claims of extreme testing. The system is a few months out of warranty, so they will only sell a new one.

I was at party here at the annapolis boat show and I couldn’t find one person who had anything bad to say about garmin, but everyone had horror stories of b&g. One said their wired wind instrument failed around 26 months, another said his radar failed at 25 months and was full of water, and he is one of their sales reps!
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Old 19-10-2021, 17:03   #10
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

For those who measure voltage of the battery pack, how did you do it? The connector is female and microscopic.
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Old 19-10-2021, 17:29   #11
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Thanks all for this thread. I hate my Raymarine ST60+ but at least it mostly doesn’t require me to climb the mast.

I am constantly amazed what we are willing to accept and what must deal with. If your home appliances were as subject to failure you would have a fit. As a designer of custom machinery for auto makers for years there is almost none of this stuff I would ever put on a customer’s machine.
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Old 19-10-2021, 18:20   #12
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Quote:
Originally Posted by schoonerdog View Post
For those who measure voltage of the battery pack, how did you do it? The connector is female and microscopic.
There are two metal contacts on one side of the connector. Yes they are small, but I was able to get multimeter probes on them!
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Old 19-10-2021, 20:58   #13
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I am curious about wireless senors as I have developed very precise 3d printed wind sensors which cost a bit less, but they are wired. I am considering a wireless version, but I want to ensure I get the details right.

I have 2 big issues with wireless sensors:
1) latency/reliability
wireless links such as bluetooth/wifi can have randomly high latency due to drivers on the operating system receiving the packets as well as routing. Are these used with an autopilot? If so the pilot will probably do quite a bit of compass smoothing (using wind to slowly adjust steered compass course) to deal with the poor data quality, but this mean it cannot react to wind shifts, gusts, and leaves it vulnerable to magnetic distortions when in wind modes otherwise it should be immune. I think the only way to avoid this, is a dedicated receiver directly connected to the autopilot which receive the data in real time, and does not bounce the wind data along a network for a while firt to reach the autopilot.

What kind of output rate does the sensor produce? What is the quality of the data? How is the data routed to the pilot? Is there a dedicated bluetooth receiver?

2) power
How to keep the battery charged in overcast? It may not take much power for bluetooth at low rates, but for decent course following it should output wind speed and direction 10 updates per second with minimal latency. In winter overcast, the power available can be a tiny fraction (2-5%) of that available in typical summer days. How is this enough to power even a low bandwidth bluetooth link outputing packets 10 times a second? It seems the solar panel would need to be quite large (3 watt or more) but this is only if it is flat. It would need at least 3 watts to achieve this. Is at least 30 sq inches. The solar on this sensor looks nothing like that, but perhaps they are an order of magnitude more power efficient that I understand how to do. Or, their data output is not very good rate, or they assume you won't need this 24 hours a day for endless winter overcast day and if you tried it would eventually stop working or slow the output rate.

3) weight aloft
How much weight does the battery add? What size battery is used? A typical 18650 can perhaps supply 3000mAh. this can perhaps run the device for 200 hours, but more realistically 100 hours. If we consider it can degrade over life by half, 50 hours so may be sufficient and weights 42 grams. This is not terrible and the break even point for weight aloft about 15 meter. So shorter mast would do better with wired sensors.

Would it perhaps be better to run off the anchor light, and a 3 way switch can supply 0, 6 or 12 volts.
Only at 12 is enough to power the light, but 6 or 12 can power the wireless wind sensor. This would save the most weight and avoid issues with battery and solar recharging.
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Old 19-10-2021, 22:57   #14
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Re: B&G WS320 Bluetooth Wind Sensor The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The original battery is made of two AAA -sized NiMh cells wrapped together. I suppose the small solarpanel is giving more than enough power to the battery, as the measured voltage was 2,75VDC after it had been transmitting in the dark inside the boat already 4 days in my case when measured. The nominal voltage of this batterypack is 2,4VDC. And, surely most of You may know, that Finland isnít the the most sunniest place of the world at the autumnÖ So it works very well, exactly as planned. Iíve had no problems with it even in the most busiest ports here where several other similar products are near by. Also, a bt stereounit sits 20cm away from the ws320 receiver - no interference between these two. Our severeal iPads, iPhones with their bt turned on are typically located at the chart table some 80cm from the ws320 receiver.

I suppose the weakest link must be the (propably ultra simple) solarpanel charger inside the masthead unit as so many low battery cases has been described here?
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