In recent history, the tablet and mobile phone (ok, I will say it; the iPad and iPhone) were coming on board under a bit of a misconception; that they were perfectly acceptable and capable replacements for the fixed mount marine electronics already onboard. With charting applications from recognized names and navigational Apps that showed the icon of my boat where it seemed like it should be, it was an easy leap to think that the new regime had arrived. Unfortunately, one didn't have to scratch the surface of use too hard to find that there were several limitations to these applications and that the $9 app was perhaps a bit misleading as a replacement. It was a bit of "the cart leading the horse" scenario. Here is this great consumer electronics product that was being forced into the marine environment, perhaps before its time. Limitations on data (is that a cell tower fix or GPS fix?) and incorrectly displayed data (GPS Course over Ground IS NOT the same as compass heading. And is that in True or Magnetic?) were just some of the issues we found during on the water trials. This past year, however, we have seen the tides turn and marine electronics manufacturers have begun integrating the tablet and smart phone (including Android) into their product line-ups. Rather than using the mobile device as a replacement, it is being used as both a repeater and a remote control to enhance their built-in displays. Manufacturers like Furuno and Raymarine are leading the charge with full integration, via built-in WiFi, between your mobile device and a plotter/display. Garmin and Simrad are also releasing products that will allow data exchange from their networks with an external WiFi antenna. Two other companies who are leading the charge are Digital Yacht and Fusion. Digital Yacht has a full line of devices that allow you to use your existing ships GPS, instrument, AIS or other data on mobile apps like Navionics or iNavX via WiFi and Bluetooth. Fusion's 700 series stereo now has an app that allows you to use your mobile device as a remote control. And coming this spring, you will see Fusion remote control options available on many Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) from several manufacturers. While the i Navigation movement is clearly upon us, Blue Frontier recommends you understand some of the limitations of the products and applications before relying on them solely for the safety of you, your vessel, and your passengers. Capt. Bill Hooper will be presenting a seminar at the 2013 New England
Boat Show on "i" Navigation. He will be discussing some of the many ways the mobile devices can be used aboard as well as some of the limitations. We invite you to attend. We also welcome feedback from you about your experiences with any mobile device and/or application. You can email us here.