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NMEA 2011 Award Winners & Technology for Tomorrow’s Bridge Systems

John Konrad
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October 17, 2011

With the release of the new Apple iPhone comes features like new high definition cameras, dual-core processors and Siri, a voice-based personal assistant. Each has been marketed heavily on billboards, in the news, and in television commercials. Apart from a handful of nautical iPhone apps however, few mariners will make use of the new Apple features at sea.

There’s no question however that today’s cutting edge technology, such as that found in the new iPhone, will be standard features on the integrated bridge systems of tomorrow.  The adaptation of these features, however, will be subject to V.D.A.T., the Vessel Displacement And Technology rule which states; the speed of new technology adaptation is inversely proportionate to a vessel’s size and tonnage. Put simply; the biggest vessels are slowest to change.

With this rule in mind it’s important to look at small vessel technology to get a preview of what’s coming to large ships down the road. With this in mind here’s a quick look at the winners of this year’s National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) awards held at the association’s annual conference last month.

Furuno Navnet 30 MFD12 – Best Multi-Function Display

Furuno Navnet 3dBoaters today have access to multi-function displays which would look foreign to most professional mariners with 3-dimension reliefs of the ocean floor, AIS overlays that show realistic images of vessel types and, some like the Raymarine e7 multifunction display, fully integrate with handheld devices pushing navigation data to the Captain’s iPhone and relaying commands back to the ship.  To make all this happen you need a good, simple, user interface and rock-solid design. The combination of all this makes Furuno’s navnet system NMEA’s top pick.

What this means to professional mariners: More features will combine into the user friendly ECDIS systems of tomorrow.

Furuno NAVNET 3D DRS – Best Radar:

Furuno HD Radar Radars aboard ships haven’t changed much in decades. Sure the displays are now integrated with ECIDS systems and offer advanced features but apart from the removal of wave-guides, the simple process of creating and receiving electromagnetic wave signals for processing hasn’t changed much. The NMEA winner this year, Furuno’s NAVNET 3D DRS, integrates many of these features, but took home the grand prize for it’s display of new Ultra High Definition (UHD) Digital Radar images which offer crystal clear, noise-free target presentation. These solid state radars transmits at a fraction of the power of typical pulse radars emitting less energy than an average cell phone and negating the need for a magnetron altogether.

What this means to professional mariners: Solid State HD radar offering a crisper picture with better target separation improving your ability to navigate congested waters. The technology will also improve integration with other devices such as AIS.

Standard Matrix AIS+ GX2150 – Best Communication Device

Standard GX2150_Black_AIS Compass Display Radio Communications on the modern ship requires the knowledge of antiquated technology like telefax and the myriad of dials, buttons and functions contained in even the most user friendly GMDSS console. And each feature is connected to a separate device or antenna via a rats nest of wires snaking around the bridge. Not Standard Horizon. Combining VHF, Digital Selective Calling, foghorn, PA and AIS, the Matrix AIS+ line of products certainly has a lot of features but all combine into just a single high-speed wire. Even the AIS feature doesn’t require a separate antenna, rather it shares one with the VHF brining the total hook-up to just three wires: Antenna, Data and power.

What this means to professional mariners: Repairing electronics is beyond the scope of most mariners, even those who have taken GMDSS maintenance training. It’s far easier to carry spares and swap them out at sea but, even this, can become a difficult task considering the numer of wires involved. The future will hold less wires making the task of replacing components simple enough for nearly everyone. And the GX2150 even has a use today as a simple and easy way to bring AIS tracking to your fast-rescue-boat.

Digital Yacht Boatranet – Best Product Of The Year

Boatranet DeviceToday a ship captain needs to visit the bridge to view the ECDIS, Radar and other navigation system data, but wouldn’t it be easier to open up the web browser on their PC or iPhone? Boatranet does just that. By simply plugging the ugly black box (shown above) into their chart plotter boaters boaters can now view all enav displays from any internet equipped PC or device…. wirelessly!

What this means to professional mariners: Tomorrows Captain will become seemingly clairvoyant by having access to all ship information via an iPhone-like device. – A gCaptain Winner Cloud didn’t win a NMEA award this year, probably because it wasn’t eligible but, make no mistake, this is the device of the future. Why? Because it sin’t a device at all, rather it’s a cloud service.

Last week’s release of the new iPhone came with one powerful, but less publicized, feature; iCloud.The concept is simple. All documents, photos, address book contacts and email are uploaded to Apple’s servers without even needing to press a button. On the latest Apple apps, even the save button is gone, replaced with an automatic save/upload feature that continuously backs-up all your document revisions to both your hard drive and iCloud giving you access to both your latest documents and historical versions from any device anywhere in the world… automatically. works the same way but instead of storing emails and home videos the service stores information about your ship. The user friendly online yacht application is accessible from anywhere there’s an internet connection. You simply log in and start managing all your administrative and maintenance functions. It allows the user to effectively organize and maintain all your yachts tasks and issues, documents, planned maintenance, crew, vendors, jobs , inventory and spares, and ISM management all under one centralized and secure online yacht management system.

What this means to professional mariners: received a big boost in legitimacy last week with the support of Maritime Professional Training. The school, long the favorite of professional yacht captains worldwide, is also a top destination for masters, mates and engineers of large vessel. And you can bet that their support of the technology means it will be used aboard all large ships of the future.

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