October 20th

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 20, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

NMEA_2015_Signal_K_cPanbo.jpgWhile the big manufacturers showed off some great stuff at the NMEA 2015 Conference, there was also a lot to get excited about in the seminars and expo hall. Discussion of the open source Signal K marine data protocol, for instance, was not just a NMEA first but drew a standing-room-only crowd, twice. Soon I hope to list some of the interesting small and medium-size developers who are adopting SK and also share some good news about how interested boaters can get involved in the first public gateway project.…

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October 6th

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

Posted by // October 6, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)


Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 6, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

NMEA Conference Schedule 9-27-15 cPanbo.jpgThose early morning Google Calender notifications above indicate my awesome Wednesday schedule during last week’s 2015 NMEA Conference. It’s tempting to presume that the back-to-back demo trips around Baltimore Harbor with the Big Four manufacturers mark peak intensity for my career as a marine electronics pundit, but actually the whole industry seems to be in good shape with the pace of innovation quickening…

NMEA2015_demo_boats_cPanbo.jpgMaybe Jim McGowan of FLIR Raymarine was smiling because this demo morning was relatively calm and dry during a very weathery week. If you click the photo bigger, you’ll see that Simrad and Garmin also had center consoles while Furuno, perhaps appropriately, had a larger cabin boat.…

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August 17th

Pilot Line autopilot, unfinished business

Posted by // August 17, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)


Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 17, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Pilot_Line_autopilot_patent_aPanbo.jpgI hesitate to write about a marine technology that isn’t an actual product yet, especially when I don’t understand it! However, there may be a story here worth telling. At the end of his career, a very experienced engineer came up with what he believes to be a superior autopilot technology, but it will never become available to boaters unless someone new carries the project forward…

Pilot_Line_autopilot_claims_aPanbo.jpgI first heard about Pilot Line a few years ago when Will Pease and his family hired a guy quite experienced in the current marine electronics industry to market Pease’s 2012 patent.…

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August 4th

Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 4, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Bliss_anchoring_in_Pulpit_Harbor_cPanbo.jpgBehold the 39-foot trawler Bliss about to anchor behind Gizmo in Pulpit Harbor. She’s a custom Jay Benford design (based on a Cascade sailboat hull) that already turns heads, but note the cabin top presence of both Inmarsat FB150 and Iridium Pilot antennas (the latter formerly known as OpenPort, and tested for Panbo on VOJ). The serious satellite communications — and there are more devices less visible — are because owner/operators Luis and Kim Soltero have spent much of their thirty year marriage creating a remarkable portfolio of satcom services and devices, and they’re still at it.…

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July 4th

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 4, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

FOGGY_at_BBY_6-2015_cPanbo.jpgMaine is rightfully well known for boatbuilding but the craft was largely dormant when I got here in the early 70’s, and it stayed that way for quite a while. In the late 80’s many of the talented builders I worked with at WoodenBoat School were doing repairs and restorations. A commission for most anything larger than a sailing skiff was a big deal. But wow, did that change. It’s been wonderful to witness remarkably crafted custom vessels launch at yards like Lyman Morse (now also in Camden!

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July 1st

SRT acquires Class B AIS patent, consequences uncertain

Posted by // July 1, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)


Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 1, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

SRT_Acquisition_of_Patent_release_clips_aPanbo.jpgFor me, this story began with a March 5th email titled “AIS patent wars – a tax on safety?” It referenced the SRT stock market announcement partially shown above and went on to say:

The whole point of using CSTDMA instead of SoTDMA in the original design of Class B was to avoid any problems with patents to ensure the successful uptake of the system by manufacturers. I see this as a tax on safety and a desperate attempt by SRT to force manufacturers to use their solutions rather than those from competitors and so create a pseudo-monopoly in the Class B world, which cannot be good for competition or the end user.

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June 25th

SOTDMA Class B AIS, the “new” middle way?

Posted by // June 25, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

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Written by Ben Ellison on Jun 25, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

SRT_5W_SOTDMA_AIS_Class_B_on_way_aPanbo.jpgIt may be a while before we see the first 5 Watt SOTDMA Class B AIS transceiver actually available for sale, but it certainly is interesting to see a prototype trumpeted in SRT’s Summer 2015 Pulse Newsletter (available here). Given SRT’s main role as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) we may first see this “new” AIS technology — perhaps with even more features — branded as Simrad, Raymarine, True Heading, Digital Yacht, Comar etc. (and/or marketed under SRT’s own Em-Trak label). Or maybe Furuno, AMEC, Vesper or another of the independent AIS manufacturers will be first out with SOTDMA Class B?…

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February 25th

Furuno TZtouch2 and FI-70, back in the game!

Posted by // February 25, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

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Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 25, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub


Sorry for the blown out screens, but the point of this photo is Furuno USA marketing manager Dean Kurutz, who co-delivered the NavNet TZtouch2 introduction with senior product manager Eric Kunz just like they did with the original NavNet in 2001 — when I was just getting into electronics writing — and every NavNet update since. The dynamic duo have been coming to Miami with the company since well into the last century and a lot of their colleagues have similar histories. If you go Furuno you get remarkable management consistency and institutional memory, but that doesn’t mean they’re old school…

Well, in some ways Furuno is old school: they distribute mainly through traditional dealer/installers; their famous customer service apparently stocks spares for decades-old equipment; and they’ve earned high esteem in tough niches like offshore commercial fishing and the US Coast Guard.…

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February 17th

MIBS 2015: Ocean Signal, ACR, C-Map, Garmin GNX, Lumitec and Veethree

Posted by // February 17, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)


Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 17, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

MIBS2015_Ocean_Signal_James_Flynn_cPanbo.jpgIt’s often hard to organize the news from a busy event like the Miami International Boat Show (MIBS), but this year a few of my photos stood out because they also portray the people behind the electronics. So say hello to Ocean Signal founder James Flynn, seen here showing off their latest ultra compact rescueME safety devices. The MOB1 personal AIS beacon with its added DSC alarm seems impressively simple to fit and use, and thanks to recent FCC approval, it’s now available here in the USA.…

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August 19th

Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 19, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub


Now we’re talking. Gizmo’s flybridge feels like the starship Enterprise now that the Simrad NSS16 evo2 is installed in its Seaview Power Pod and the Garmin 8212 has been moved closer to the helm since I first discussed the 2014 glass bridge install. Recent visitors tended to break into giddy laughter, but the marine electronics horsepower at my fingertips is truly phenomenal. In this scene, for instance, I’m exploring a dicey area of Camden outer harbor — hence the lack of moorings — using StructureScan and medium CHIRP sonar on the NSS16, CHIRP DownView and sonar on the gS125, and EchoPilot FLS via the Garmin’s video port.…

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