Simrad, B&G, and Lowrance Link app working well with off-the-shelf WiFi router

This was a nice surprise. It used to be tricky to connect a Navico MFD Ethernet network with a consumer-style boat router — and it remains impossible with some MFD models I’m pretty sure. But that’s exactly what’s happening on Gizmo right now, even with older Simrad NSS evo2 MFDs, and the benefits are multifold. I’m also pleased with the latest version of the Navico Link app, which is seen running fine over the boat router above and which is also compatible with many B&G and Lowrance displays.

NSS evo2 network connected to boat router with Navico adapter cable

NSS evo2 network connected to boat router with Navico adapter cable

While the Netgear N600 WiFi router currently installed on Gizmo is nothing special, it does a lot of work. One of those gray Ethernet cables goes to the still-testing KVH LTE-1 cellular system, so all devices connected to the router are online most of the time. They range from my phone and iPad to the boat’s FloatHub monitoring system, which all connect to the router via WiFi. And so does Gizmo’s Vesper XB8000, which can thus provide AIS, GPS and other boat data to various iPad nav apps even when the router is not online.

Also cabled to the boat router is the Victron Venus power monitoring system I installed this winter and that’s why I used that Navico Ethernet adapter cable to join the router to Gizmo’s existing Simrad ethernet network — currently including an NSS16 evo2, NSS7 evo2, Halo24 radar, and a Navico hub, with the two displays also sharing the different sonar processing each is doing. I wasn’t at all confident that the combined network would work, but then the beta Victron MFD integration app popped up on the NSS evo2 Home screens.

I also noticed that NSS MFDs used the boat router’s Internet connection to automatically check for software updates and when I tried the Link app, it just worked, as seen in the top screen.

For years I used these NSS evo2 displays with a GoFree WiFi1 module and had to switch between Access Point mode to use the Link app or the Client mode to connect over WiFi to the boat router or my cell phone to get the system online for updates. With this new (and less expensive) method I’m getting the benefits of both modes at once, though I can not find any Simrad documentation that suggests it should.



Maybe that’s because this setup does not work with every off-the-shelf router and/or with every Navico Ethernet network, and so technical support understandably wants to avoid trouble-shooting non-Navico gear. In fact, I’ve heard of such router problems and that using the radar sometimes triggered the symptoms.

At any rate, I was pleased to see the Halo24 radar running fine and without causing any apparent problems on the Simrad network or with the other activities happening on the boat router, but I caution others not expect 100% success until they actually see it on their own boat system. (Also note how these two screenshots illustrate how Link lets you enable an NSS-like keypad with a small loss in MFD screen size.)

Navico Link on Android phone with boat router

Navico Link on Android phone with boat router

On the other hand, it was nice to see how well Link handled my Android phone when it did not automatically make the Simrad NSS7 connection on Gizmo’s router. It explained where to find the IP address on the NSS and then let me enter it into the same app page. So I was able to connect fairly easily, and also do utility chores like backing up my routes, but when I tried Remote Control the app realized how relatively small my phone screen is and I can’t argue with its conclusion (though I think it should mirror the screen without offering control).

Also impressive was being offered an interesting 18.3 software update that just came out on April 23 even though NSS evo3 MFDs have pretty much eclipsed the older models. And what you see on the righthand screen really tickled me. Pretty soon I’ll be returning most of the Simrad system I’ve been long testing and last fall I purchased a GO5 XSE to serve as one interface to Gizmo’s Simrad autopilot. So it was great that the Link app let me back up all the routes, waypoints, and tracks I’ve collected on the NSS system and “apply” them to the little GO5.

Navico Link direct to Simrad GO5

Navico Link direct to Simrad GO5

Running Link on a 9.7-inch iPad screen is also a nice alternative to the fine finger skills needed to run the 5-inch touch screen, and another reason that the otherwise surprisingly powerful GO5 XSE is a remarkable value (especially as Navico continues to include a U.S. C-Map Pro card). You’ll likely hear more about the GO5 once I’ve had some underway time with it.

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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.

23 Responses

  1. Grant Jenkins says:

    Ben,
    I’m impressed you got that to work – I spent I don’t know ow many hours trying the same thing 2 summers ago and got nowhere. Did you happen to come across this link?

    https://www.thehulltruth.com/marine-electronics-forum/500211-simrad-gofree-using-generic-wireless-router.html

    It’s an old post with more recent updates – seems like some have success, others not so much. I made up a cable according to the post – seems to have connectivity, but the issue appears to be the network getting flooded with sounder and/or radar data that obliterates normal data transfer. Simrad even had a 2-page guide online for awhile, which described workarounds for using off the shelf routers – but of course I can’t put my hands on it now.
    The whole idea was to avoid adding another Wi-Fi module to the system, when I already had a perfectly good Netgear router (similar to yours) in the system. I even had Steve from Sailbits troubleshoot the setup with some advanced diagnostic tools on his laptop, and he got nowhere either.
    Perhaps its the custom cable, or the specific model of Netgear router, but my results were the exact opposite of yours – very frustrating!

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Sorry to hear that, Grant, but maybe the real cause of our opposite results is the two-year time difference. Any chance you could try it again with the current version of NOS (Navico Operating System)?

      I’m guessing that the networking abilities of NOS have been improved and expanded as part of Information Display development. After all, ID is designed to work with many other systems much like that Victron app now pops on my NSS evo2 displays when they and the Victron Venus are on same the Ethernet network. I’m only guessing, and I too am surprised it’s working so well.

      Come to think of it, I’m seeing some really modern system integration running on fairly old MFDs and so far unadvertised by Simrad or Victron.

      http://staging.panbo.com/innovative-electronics-like-navico-id-hardly-mentioned-a-new-paradigm/

  2. Grant Jenkins says:

    Thanks Ben- I’m on the way to the boat today and will try it again! By the way, the Simrad document I referenced has apparently been taken down, but you can still download a copy of the PDF here:

    https://www.thehulltruth.com/marine-electronics-forum/667493-gofree-cheap-2.html#post9075004

    … under a post from “fixer01”.

    Did you have any issues with sounder/radar interference, as described in this bulletin?

    Maybe the new NOS automatically solves this, I’m optimistic given your results!

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, and good luck on the boat!

      I did try Halo24 radar without any noticeable effect, but the coast of Maine is still suffering from a horrid run of cold, wet weather I haven’t yet given the full NSS/boat router system a thorough workout.

  3. Leftbrain Stuff says:

    Thanks for another timely update. My biggest concerns remain around security and stability. Having had an AIS update from B&G brick an AIS device in 2017 I dug deeper into B&G’s software stack.

    As someone working in cloud tech I am constantly shocked at how fragile and insecure so many vendor products are. B&G use an old Linux kernel (NOSLinux from memory) and CANBus networking was never built with security in mind.

    Automatic software updates are also very risky for mission and safety critical systems due to latent defects and the little regression testing from the manufacturers. We do not connect our NMEA2000 system to the internet and updates are only applied when we have at least 4 – 6 weeks.

    I reached out to B&G to get some idea on what bug fixes and changes their latest updates apply. There was nothing on their update page. This is considered very bad practice in the tech sector.

    Perhaps you could have someone from the vendors (B&G, Raymarine, Furuno, etc) talk about this topic in more detail…

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      I guess I’m pretty blase about boat network security, but then again the test boat has several independent Ethernet systems and two NMEA 2000 networks. Also, I’m not aware of anyone intruding into any of those systems over the last decade.

      • Leftbrain Stuff says:

        While security by obscurity is a common defence the game is changing on a daily basis. I see unauthorized access attempts on any internet exposed service within 10 minutes. This is universal and automated at massive scale. At the moment most intrusion attempts are interested in finding compute resources for crypto mining.

        But as soon as you are subject to a targeted attack then it is trivial to disrupt any of these internet connected canbus systems. I see the pain on a daily basis. My concern with our marine networked systems is as follows:
        1) vendor updates are poorly documented and they publish little to no information for me to decide what and when to update. For mission critical and safety critical systems this is unacceptable for their customers and the marine community.
        2) I’m sure the vendors are aware and working to address these issues. For us consumers all we hear is deathly silence. Let’s hear from the vendors. What technology updates are coming and what is their advice? We need to stay informed and plan our upgrades with long lead times.
        3) If the vendors wont change and engage then their business will ultimately be disrupted. I see our next tech refresh cycle as eliminating all proprietary and poor quality hardware and software. I’ve worked with open source tech for more than 15 years. Every time we’ve disrupted an industry with open source, shared solutions and commodity hardware we’ve brought down the old guard. The marine sector is on our radar.
        4) Nation states are ramping up their disruption of GPS. We are currently wholly reliant on this great technology. It would be great to hear from the charting companies how they are planning to address this emerging threat.

  4. Carl Michael says:

    Hmm. My NSS8 on the old 2014 firmware has always worked right out of the box with every router I’ve tried it with. The Link app, which I’m sure used to be called something else, never had a problem finding the MFD.

    It’s a shame Raymarine systems don’t work this way, as the Simrad devices can automatically send NMEA0183 over the network when they are connected up.

  5. Luis Soltero Luis Soltero says:

    Hi Ben,

    What happens if you start up the Simrad equipment before you power on the router? Does the app work then? My guess is that it will not and even worse if your router does not disable dhcp the you might end up with two dhcp servers on the same network handing out ip addresses on different subsets. This will really screw things up. This is what happened when I tried this same setup a few years ago. It may be that they have fixed things so that this now a none issue but it would be good to know if it is.

  6. Martin T Martin T says:

    Great news and information Ben!

    This is a key feature and something that I think all modern devices should do. I will definitly favor buying and recomending B&G/Navico products over competion just beacuse of this feature.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Martin, and I agree that this is a great feature on boats like mine (and probably yours) that have an independent Ethernet/WiFi network used for general connectivity and other boat systems.

      But be aware that Navico does not advertise this feature anywhere I can find, so I think it’s possible that it does not work in some circumstances, and very possible that Navico tech support will not help with trouble shooting.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I just realized that the current (April) NSS Evo2 update includes Dual Mode WiFi (even for the separate WiFi-1) and also data syncing with the C-Map Embark app, though the app needs an update to support it:

    ftp://software.simrad-yachting.com/nos/18.3/18.3_release_notes_simrad.pdf

    Also, I just tried Embark again and see that it now has half decent auto-routing.

  8. Michael Quint says:

    Hello, just purchasd a go5 xse and a 2018 ipad and I cannot get the remote screen to work. did you have to do anything special?

  9. Craig says:

    Evening Ben, Craig on Conepatus here,
    Just installed the Simrad NSS12 and it is great when compared to the old NSE12.

    Now getting the iPads and iPhones running it remotely with Link: Connect Your Boat. Seems to work well with the iPad Air (1st gen) and my iPhone 6, however cannot get the IPad Pro to connect. Error says it is not compatible.

    Have you tried this lash up yet. If so your thoughts on getting the iPad Pro to connect?

    Take care, be safe,

    Craig

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Craig, I have no idea why an iPad Pro wouldn’t work when your other iOS devices do. Did you get NSS evo2 or evo3? Connecting via direct WiFi to NSS, or to your own WiFi router with NSS connected via WiFi or Ethernet cable? By the way, the iPad in my bottom image above is a Pro.

      Also I checked out your inReach share map and Conepatus must be a blast in the New Jersey ICW. I know the AC anchorage you’re in well, but for many boats that’s about as far inland as they dare go.

      http://staging.panbo.com/conepatus-tricked-out-rosborough-cruising-rhib/

  10. Michael Quint says:

    Just heard back from Simrad Tech:

    Hi Michael, I apologize it took me time to get back to you. What happen was our senior technician is trying to replicate the issue on his end and we found out that the app itself is the issue.Our Senior Tech have already reported this to our software engineer. His suggestion is if possible to use the link app on a android device since he just tried it on his ipad.

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Thank you for choosing Navico products!

    Navico Technical Support

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      I really don’t understand, Michael. The Link app and its predecessors have been around for quite a while and I’d guess its running fine on many iPads. Just on Gizmo I’ve used it with multiple iPad models and multiple Simrad MFD generations.

      But one thought after watching your video. Link may have a hard time connecting if there is a dialog box (like IP address) open on the GO. That’s because the first time you connect, the GO has to open another dialog box so you can give permission for remote control to that particular mobile device (and it will keep doing that unless you then tell the GO to always give permission to that device, which it now knows).

      Also I did not have to enter the GO5’s IP address in Link, it just worked. And that includes how I’m using it now, which is via my own boat router instead of direct to GO5 WiFi. Which isn’t even an advertised feature as best I can tell. Right now Link on my iPad Pro 9.7 running iOS 12.3.1 can run either the Simrad NSS7 attached to boat router by Ethernet (as above) and the GO5 attached by WiFi.

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