NMEA Conference 2015, back-to-back good times with the Big Four

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

15 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Note that a whole other batch of boating writers chose Simrad Halo for an IBEX Innovation Award, pdf here:
    http://www.ibexshow.com/pdf/PR-IBEX-2015-innovation-awards.pdf
    Unlike us, they were allowed to award an Honorable Mention, which went to Medallion, a company you’ve probably never heard of. They build interesting boat electronics nearly completely apart from the world of NMEA and dealer/installers, like this:
    http://www.malibuboats.com/innovations/command-center.html
    It’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell. Good times!

  2. Bruce says:

    Nice summary of new tech at the NMEA confenence, Ben. (p.s. typo in your penultimate para: Dobbler – should be doppler?)

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Bruce! Actually it’s “Doppler” because Christian Doppler was a real person…
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Doppler
    …and I’m not even sure that my trusty copy editor (and favorite first mate) would have caught that if she had been around. Fixing it now.

  4. Gregory Yount says:

    On a personal note, how about asking the manufacturers about support for legacy products?

  5. Regarding that sexy new eS plotter from Ray – I see they still have the “Home” and “Menu” keys right above the rotary control, just like on my e95. I use the rotary control a lot, either because it’s lumpy/jumpy or because the screen is sopping wet – and I get really annoyed every time my fingertip brushes one of those keys and I end up someplace I don’t want to be..=8^O
    That said, we put a couple thousand miles on our Ray system (e95, AIS650, Evolution AP, i70 & digital radar) this summer, and most if not all of my complaints are really minor ones like the key placement issue. I am preparing longish messages to Ray and Navonics (and Charlie’s Charts) regarding our observations, too.
    We’re in San Diego now, getting ready for the Baja Ha-Ha and I’ve loaded the updated firmware and charts (including the BlueLatitude Mexico charts) and I’m installing another i70 in the Master stateroom so I don’t have to wonder about the depth, course or wind when something goes BUMP in the night..;-) I noted another improvement with Lighthouse 15 that wasn’t listed on their update memo – if you download the “master” update for the plotter, it appears to include the updates for most or all of the ancillary stuff, like the AP, i70, etc. – a much-appreciated simplification!

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Hartley, but your Ray button problem is a good example of how hard it is to please everyone. I’d vote for a larger Menu button because the one on the a9 at Gizmo’s lower helm is small and hard to hit because of the nearby raised bezel.
    As for the whole system updating in LH15, I did sort of mention it at the bottom, because Simrad has done similar. But then again I didn’t try to cover all the features in LH15. WiFi connections to marina or boat router is huge, for instance.
    Glad you’ve organized feedback for Raymarine. Now that the Big Four have their product lines and core firmware pretty squared away, I think they’re in the nice position of trying to figure out which of many new possible features to add next. So customer feedback may count more than ever.
    But I am a natural born optimist 😉

  7. abbor says:

    Ben, I went to the Malibu Boats pages to check out the product you linked to.
    There I found the following text: and each component meets IP60 water-intrusion standards.
    IP60 means no water protection whatsoever, the unit may be damaged by a few drops of water falling vertically. It could be that it’s IPx6 they mean. An IPx6 protected product can withstand powerful water jets from any direction.

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    It must be a typo, abbor. If you watch the video on that page, they claim IP67 protection and also show some serious environmental testing (toward the end). Besides, these (kinda crazy) high end ski and surf boats must get wet a lot.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ok.. I’ve read enough about the Halo and this “fancy” FPGA. FPGAs have been around for years and used in lots of consumer electronics. Please don’t fall for the marketing machine..
    I’m not sure who the FPGA vendor is, but I suspect it’s Altera or Xilinx and I would have thought they’d both be able to do this and have been for a while..
    https://www.altera.com/en_US/pdfs/literature/wp/wp-01156-dsp-radar.pdf

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Anon, Simrad doesn’t claim that Halo is the first solid-state compression pulse radar. But they do claim that it’s the first to have dual range and the first able to be competitive in recreational marine radar. They also say it has the most powerful FPGA in {recreational} marine electronics, and I asked one of the engineering team to elaborate on that:
    “Yes, dedicated FPGAs are common, but as you might guess, the bigger size you go with the most gates the cost increases dramatically, as yield goes down. Since Halo uses 16 bit 115 Mhz A-D sampling speed for the radar video signal, you can imagine the amount of data stored and processed. To do dual range properly, we actually double the amount of data in the pipeline.
    Many consumer FPGAs actually embed a CPU inside – usually an ARM version. Pulse Compression Radar signal processing cannot work with an ARM CPU – simply too slow. The gateware filter chain just to generate the shaped FM Chirps with the proper bandwidth and to modulate the Tx pulse for minimal range sidelobes is amazing. I can tell you the number of filter taps used, but I won’t. You know why. We need the large size for more future features that will be loved even more by Halo customers.
    Halo has a very powerful main CPU. In fact, Halo has a small custom FPGA for brushless motor control also.”

  11. Anonymous says:

    Looking at the size of FPGA its not the most complex in marine electronics (powerful in recreation terms) however a furuno radar commercial radar has a faster fpga than the halo.
    let along taking into account Furunos solid state TX or Kelvin Hughes SharpEye both of these have 3 FPGA’s for processing

  12. Sparky says:

    Hey Ben
    “Now that the Big Four have their product lines and core firmware pretty squared away, I think they’re in the nice position of trying to figure out which of many new possible features to add next”
    Excuse me while I spit my coffee through my nostrils 😉
    I’ve got long running issues with Navico route management and navigation. Despite providing detailed reporting of the issues and sporadic contact from Navico … little joy to be had re: resolutions to the issues. All the more perplexing as they acquired some pretty good software from Northstar!
    Please get the basics right before more bells and whistles.

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Anon, I edited my comment to show Simrad’s actual claim of “most powerful FPGA in recreational marine electronics” as I accidentally inflate it. But, heck, doesn’t SharpEye cost something like $100,000, twenty times what Halo does?
    Sparky, I too wish that Simrad (and others) would improve what seems like basics. Why the heck can’t I push routes easily from PC software like Coastal Explorer to Simrad NSS and/or other MFD’s over N2K, or even NMEA 0183 (like Northstar used to support)?
    But what I meant by having their core firmware squared away is each of major manufacturers seems to have all, or nearly all, their current nav devices running on a single modern platform, which is a big improvement over where most of them were a few years ago. They don’t have to waste time fixing multiple firmware versions as much, and improvements and new features distribute widely and easily.

  14. Sparky says:

    Hi Ben. A couple of points …
    1. Moving waypoint/route/track data between product A and B often just does not work. My particular need is to manage all that “user data” off vessel then import into the vessel mounted MFD. I’ve tried several planners that simply won’t do it. And Navico does not correctly support the GPX format.
    IMO NMEA should consider a GPX certification effort.
    2. I do agree that the vendor’s sw practises have come a long way. But the Navico route management and navigation functions seem designed by someone clueless to the reality of how the functions are used. And Navico ignored the experience of the Northstar products implementation.

  15. IM says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who fights with the mostly horribly broken Route/WP navigation features on the Simrad NSS. That said, I’ve never tested it on an evo2 afloat. Anyone know if they’ve gotten around to fixing it?

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