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Old 21-11-2020, 06:25   #1
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What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Greetings everyone,


I have always been interested in exploring the chemistry of computing technologies in the maritime sector. Specializing in IT, I have garnered a handful of technical knowledge and I have recently been wanting to apply this in the industry. After a few boat shows and such, I noticed there are hardware improvements made but I think there is still some leaps to take, especially on the software side.


I am interested in knowing how the marine electronics and technology scope is like from the perspective of boaters and sailors and what else can be improved. As for myself, I believe the way forward is embracing open technologies like OpenCPN and I also noticed the thread here regarding Starlink internet access and I also bet that will take off for maritime applications.
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Old 21-11-2020, 11:36   #2
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

In your meets and greets post you said you intended to "shake up" marine electronics: Can you share more about what you mean?

Are you already familiar with the "establishment" NMEA and various vendor-specific protocols, the grey area de facto (non-) standard of NMEA-0183-over-IP and our boat hacking culture (SignalK, openplotter, various other open source projects and taken a dive into the OpenCPN code?
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Old 21-11-2020, 11:46   #3
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

As this stage as a walk around METS will demonstrate , modern electronic systems on boats have reached faintly ludicrous levels , we have military derived radar , comprehensive ais , route generation , etc etc etc the average yacht has more comprehensive systems then a 1990s 747

The average yachtie couldn’t give a damm about open systems , they just want a system that works and the big four have largely done that
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Old 21-11-2020, 12:41   #4
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

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Originally Posted by muttnik View Post
Can you share more about what you mean?
By that I mean I am interested in doing business in the market. I certainly am aware of the "establishment" along with other vendor protocols (I've spoken with merchants and technicians) and honestly sure standardizing is everything but the implementation laid out by the "establishment" is more to serve as a mere hindrance for competing products entering the market space because of the licensing costs per unit implementation than say per component with other protocols. I am also familiar with the open source projects and do plan to get involved.

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The average yachtie couldn’t give a damm about open systems , they just want a system that works and the big four have largely done that
There's one thing open systems matter at: cost. For those getting started or in a budget who want the feature set of say a $1500 unit at half the cost or have an affordable secondary display. This is where the industry would need a Red Hat equivalent: have an open upstream project that is community focused and then downstream it to stable tried-and-tested builds to products with the support being the source of income. There's certainly nothing wrong with adding one more name in the market as it helps with the customer making a choice between brands versus a choice between too many different product lines of one.
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Old 21-11-2020, 13:20   #5
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JackNet View Post
By that I mean I am interested in doing business in the market. I certainly am aware of the "establishment" along with other vendor protocols (I've spoken with merchants and technicians) and honestly sure standardizing is everything but the implementation laid out by the "establishment" is more to serve as a mere hindrance for competing products entering the market space because of the licensing costs per unit implementation than say per component with other protocols. I am also familiar with the open source projects and do plan to get involved.
I'm not entirely sure I parsed all that and (apologies) still none the wiser what you're planning and hence how to answer your original question.

Are you talking software, hardware or protocols and which open source projects are you particularly looking at?
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Old 21-11-2020, 14:08   #6
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

I have experience with multiple brands of chart plotters as well as OpenCPN and a variety of laptop, tablet and phone apps for use on the boat and have quite a few miles under the keel using them. I'm not convinced there is some great hole needing filled in marine electronic software. OpenCPN has a pretty active developer community and fills the open source niche pretty well. I neither find a bunch of features on OpenCPN that are missing on the name brand chart plotters nor visa versa. Windows, MacOS and Linux all exist and persist. Similarly Raymarine, Garmin and OpenCPN

However running OpenCPN on my laptop is very different than using a chartplotter at the helm when it is raining sideways or we are rolling through condensing fog. It is for those situations that I am more than willing to pay for marine hardware. The marine market is relatively small so one expects to pay a premium. It is similar to buying a quality ruggedized laptop.
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Old 21-11-2020, 14:30   #7
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

All marine electronics give information to a central "intelligence" to take decisions based on this information in the light of the overall objectif and the limits imposed by the vessel constraints.

If there is a "big hole" in marine electronics is must be in this area.
There are already Vendee Globe boats equipped with sensors and systems to look for UFO’s (F for floating) and take immediate action because of the short range of detection and the very high speeds of modern foiling IMOCAS.

Just my 2 cts.
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Old 21-11-2020, 14:48   #8
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JackNet View Post
By that I mean I am interested in doing business in the market. I certainly am aware of the "establishment" along with other vendor protocols (I've spoken with merchants and technicians) and honestly sure standardizing is everything but the implementation laid out by the "establishment" is more to serve as a mere hindrance for competing products entering the market space because of the licensing costs per unit implementation than say per component with other protocols. I am also familiar with the open source projects and do plan to get involved.


There's one thing open systems matter at: cost. For those getting started or in a budget who want the feature set of say a $1500 unit at half the cost or have an affordable secondary display. This is where the industry would need a Red Hat equivalent: have an open upstream project that is community focused and then downstream it to stable tried-and-tested builds to products with the support being the source of income. There's certainly nothing wrong with adding one more name in the market as it helps with the customer making a choice between brands versus a choice between too many different product lines of one.
You are never going to have truly on systems because unlike IT , marine systems needs specialised hardware like radars , sounders, ais , plus the cartography by and large isn’t free either.

Hence why nmea 2000 remains essentially closed etc.

This means there are significant limits that can be achieved with open systems unless you are going to duplicate all the specialist hardware
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Old 21-11-2020, 14:49   #9
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

The marine recreational electronics industry has mostly pursued a 20th century proprietary business model. This has led to a small global market, barely $300M in revenue across all the major players. The industry can't survive on these meagre revenues.

The quality of software, updates, security and maintainability is quite poor. From incompatible connectors, to the use of very old flaky operating systems, to highly variable quality of potting; marine electronics are overpriced and have inbuilt obsolescence

In the last five years we've seen some great improvements in functionality, like doppler radar, better integration between systems and a gradual improvement in interoperability. Overlay of good radar, charts, AIS and forward looking sonar provides excellent situational awareness in good quality screens.

We did two major B&G upgrades in the last 8 years. While the functionality was good we had issues with bricked updates, occasional lockouts and restarts which is dissapointing. The industry lags other sectors like automotive and industrial automation.

We've since sold that boat. Our next boat will not be using much proprietary marine electronics. We are seeing some great advances in the move to open source marine electronics control systems. But the main players in the industry are resisting.

For their businesses to survive they need to focus on building hardware at much higher volumes and at much lower pricepoints. If they don't new entrants will decimate their market share using high volume hardware manufacturing with open source control systems.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackNet View Post
By that I mean I am interested in doing business in the market. I certainly am aware of the "establishment" along with other vendor protocols (I've spoken with merchants and technicians) and honestly sure standardizing is everything but the implementation laid out by the "establishment" is more to serve as a mere hindrance for competing products entering the market space because of the licensing costs per unit implementation than say per component with other protocols. I am also familiar with the open source projects and do plan to get involved.


There's one thing open systems matter at: cost. For those getting started or in a budget who want the feature set of say a $1500 unit at half the cost or have an affordable secondary display. This is where the industry would need a Red Hat equivalent: have an open upstream project that is community focused and then downstream it to stable tried-and-tested builds to products with the support being the source of income. There's certainly nothing wrong with adding one more name in the market as it helps with the customer making a choice between brands versus a choice between too many different product lines of one.
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Old 21-11-2020, 14:55   #10
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailormed View Post
All marine electronics give information to a central "intelligence" to take decisions based on this information in the light of the overall objectif and the limits imposed by the vessel constraints.



If there is a "big hole" in marine electronics is must be in this area.

There are already Vendee Globe boats equipped with sensors and systems to look for UFO’s (F for floating) and take immediate action because of the short range of detection and the very high speeds of modern foiling IMOCAS.



Just my 2 cts.
Well said.

If I may chime in as a user and buyer of hopefully good products, one part of electronified boat is a good auto pilot. There is a lack of pilots for boats 25-38 ft. Pretty much its a cheap wheel pilot or big bucks under deck to quadrant stuff...
Back in the 80s there were lots of options but all died on the vine. Some have had new blood pumped in from new guys on the market trying to revive what workd, thinking of CPT for example....
Those were stand alone units. IT interface to NMEA2000 would be cool.

As mentioned, these are but tools for navigation not to be relied on but to augment one's good Maritime skills....they will bugger out that time you need them, forcing you back to dead reckoning and good pilotage.
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Old 21-11-2020, 16:02   #11
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailormed View Post
All marine electronics give information to a central "intelligence" to take decisions based on this information in the light of the overall objectif and the limits imposed by the vessel constraints.

If there is a "big hole" in marine electronics is must be in this area.
...

Just my 2 cts.
Quote:
Originally Posted by svMarite View Post
Well said.

If I may chime in as a user and buyer of hopefully good products, one part of electronified boat is a good auto pilot. There is a lack of pilots for boats 25-38 ft. Pretty much its a cheap wheel pilot or big bucks under deck to quadrant stuff...
...
Those were stand alone units. IT interface to NMEA2000 would be cool.

Intelligence systems, while rather experimental, are an interesting avenue to explore. Definitely to improve autopilot systems. However, there is user privacy and security to consider so I would say this intelligence would best remain local. As for NMEA, they have released this "OneNet" ethernet standard lately, so IT interfacing with that alongside 2K would be nice to see.


Quote:
Originally Posted by leftbrainstuff View Post
The marine recreational electronics industry has mostly pursued a 20th century proprietary business model. This has led to a small global market, barely $300M in revenue across all the major players. The industry can't survive on these meagre revenues.

The quality of software, updates, security and maintainability is quite poor. From incompatible connectors, to the use of very old flaky operating systems, to highly variable quality of potting; marine electronics are overpriced and have inbuilt obsolescence
...
For their businesses to survive they need to focus on building hardware at much higher volumes and at much lower pricepoints. If they don't new entrants will decimate their market share using high volume hardware manufacturing with open source control systems.

The software in the current market is indeed flaky and an area in need of improvement. I remember one of the Garmin marine webinar videos on their YouTube channel mentioned how there were issues with software update SD cards and how 8GB is a suggested size, 32GB for ActiveCaptain features, though I presume that's because large SD cards would default to exFAT when formatted with Windows instead of FAT32.
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Old 21-11-2020, 23:22   #12
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Quote:
Originally Posted by leftbrainstuff View Post
The marine recreational electronics industry has mostly pursued a 20th century proprietary business model. This has led to a small global market, barely $300M in revenue across all the major players. The industry can't survive on these meagre revenues.

The quality of software, updates, security and maintainability is quite poor. From incompatible connectors, to the use of very old flaky operating systems, to highly variable quality of potting; marine electronics are overpriced and have inbuilt obsolescence

In the last five years we've seen some great improvements in functionality, like doppler radar, better integration between systems and a gradual improvement in interoperability. Overlay of good radar, charts, AIS and forward looking sonar provides excellent situational awareness in good quality screens.

We did two major B&G upgrades in the last 8 years. While the functionality was good we had issues with bricked updates, occasional lockouts and restarts which is dissapointing. The industry lags other sectors like automotive and industrial automation.

We've since sold that boat. Our next boat will not be using much proprietary marine electronics. We are seeing some great advances in the move to open source marine electronics control systems. But the main players in the industry are resisting.

For their businesses to survive they need to focus on building hardware at much higher volumes and at much lower pricepoints. If they don't new entrants will decimate their market share using high volume hardware manufacturing with open source control systems.


If like to see where you get your numbers. Garmin gets about 30% of its sales from recreational marine and its sales alone are over 1.2 billion in total

Given the boating market is small , even though this year it has experienced huge growth , there will never be opportunities to mass produce cheap marine orientated hardware and anyway making waterproof durable sunlight readable equipment is never mass market. It worth noting most of my recent ( ie last 15 years ) electronics upgrades have been me removing still working equipment

When the last time your hard disk in your cheap laptop was working 15 years later

(By the way I have worked in the software end of recreational marine electronics )

As I said you will never get a full open system because the need for specialised marine quality hardware will always result in proprietary solutions

Today there is tremendous value in modern MFDs for example , for well under 1000 dollars you can get a fully functional mfd , controls autopilots radar . Ais , media players , Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity , coupled with usually free iPhone or Android “ support “ apps for remote control /viewing

That’s good value ,you get sunlight readable displays ip68 ( typical ) waterproofing touch or hybrid controls etc.

price up an equivalent rugged waterproof SUNLIGHT readable laptop and watch the dollars climb ,

Or have people never looked at an iPad inside a waterproof enclosure in direct sunlight !!!!
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Old 22-11-2020, 00:34   #13
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Ill chime in on this.

In my view the biggest market in marine electronics will be to use the NMEA 2000 network to collect, display and control. More than just the standard suite of plotter, wind, DST, Radar and AP. Garmin and Navico own this business but are not rapidly moving into the Connected Home side of it. I would like to control everything (lights, HVAC, Entertainment, etc) from the Plotter and duplicated on a mobile tablet. I want to monitor the power systems (Batt, solar, hydrogenerator) from the same devices. Yacht Devices has engine monitors that connect to the NMEA 2000 and so do a few other companies so that is available now. Tank levels for fuel and water are also available.

Command and Control of everything from 1 or 2 devices.
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Old 22-11-2020, 00:39   #14
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What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

Having a boat under total nmea 2000 control , you better have a (a) big cheque book (b) a good electronics degree or (c) accept that you’re whole boat could be dead in the water without you having a clue how to fix it.

The last thing we need on “Ordinary “ boats is to go down the automotive route , it’s one thing to roll to the side of the road and call the Triple A , quite another to wonder why you can’t start a fully functioning engine or turn on a nav light because of a “ computer error “ . I will shudder the first time I see a whole boat “ yellow engine block “ warning light !!!!!

I write software for my boats systems ( I did it professionally too for a while) and develop electronic hardware for it too. But nothing goes on the boat I can’t either fix or have a work around for ( which is why I have redundant systems and a proper chart table with paper charts as well , I can do nav by sextant too but it’s getting rusty these days )
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Old 22-11-2020, 01:08   #15
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Re: What else can be improved in the marine electronics space?

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The average yachtie couldn’t give a damm about open systems , they just want a system that works and the big four have largely done that
Not sure I'd agree with this statement, go check the number of downloads of OpenCPN.

In addition there are a plethora of reasons folks take up boats and many of us achieve a good deal of gratification from DIY boating related projects. I enjoy having all the information my MFDs and dopler radar provide but I also enjoyed using OpenCPN on a number of low cost platforms prior to loosening the purse strings.
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