Transas iSailor app now powered by Pocket Mariner’s live AIS service

Pocket Mariner’s real time AIS data and photo API service has been selected by Transas , a global leader in marine navigation systems, to use with their iSailor iPhone and iPad app. The latest version 1.7.0 of their app  now provides a real time map view of ships around you with instant details including name, range and bearing together with a photo of the ship to help you recognise it.

You can get the latest version of  iSailor from the app store now

IMG_0022           Mikhail Andrianov, Product Manager at Transas says “We are really excited to provide our Transas iSailor users with live AIS data on their charts via the Internet. Pocket Mariner’s live AIS API, SDK and sample code made integration with our product easy and fast. This option makes it possible to show on charts the next AIS target types: AIS Class A, AIS Class B, AtoN (Aids-To-Navigation, virtual or real), Shore Base Stations. This functionality will be useful for users of different kinds: from sailors, boaters or water tourists, – who have no AIS Class B or receivers on board to ship owners, dockers and marine logistics personnel, who need to monitor vessel traffic in a given area. To use this functionality, you will have to have WiFi, 3G or 4G/LTE internet access on your Apple device.” Steve Bennett, Pocket Mariner’s CEO commented: “This is another great endorsement of Pocket Mariner’s “real time” AIS data service and API’s that we use to power our own Marine Navigation Apps and we look forward to providing additional AIS data services enabling Transas’ iSailor users to share their boat’s position and course in real time using our internet AIS transmit and track api’s”.   IMG_0052

Portsmouth Pilots choose Pocket Mariner’s AIS Live and Replay services

Pocket Mariner’s real time AIS data service, FleetWatch,  has been selected by the Pilots at Portsmouth International Port  to use with their Portable Pilot Units (PPUs) running SevenCs ORCA Pilot G2 solution.  The Pilots use Pocket Mariner’s real time AIS data feed to display live ship positions and courses on and around their client’s ship as they travel out to pilot it. Ben McInnes, Deputy Harbour Master and Portsmouth Pilot said: “The real time internet AIS feed allows us to “virtually board” the ship and assess the situation before we even get there.” Portsmouth have also selected Pocket Mariner’s AIS Replay service to review and playback incidents and for training purposes.
Steve Bennett, Pocket Mariner’s CEO commented: “This is a great endorsement of Pocket Mariner’s “real time” AIS data service that we use to power our own Marine Navigation Apps and we look forward to them using our additional AIS data services including geo-fence event triggering and instant history replay capabilities “.
Please contact us at business@pocketmariner.com to learn more about how our FleetWatch and PortWatch service can help you.
Here is a screenshot of live ship traffic around Portsmouth using the Pocket Mariner AIS service and SeaNav charting app:-
IMG_0284
To learn more about Pocket Mariner’s AIS data services, SDK and API’s please email us at business@pocketmariner.com

Boat Beacon now supports AIS and GPS from a VHF AIS receiver.

Boat Beacon now allows you to use AIS and GPS NMEA data directly from an AIS receiver and GPS on-board your boat via WiFi (over UDP or TCP) or Serial(USB). Boat Beacon seamlessly combines this with the AIS information it receives over the internet. If  you travel outside mobile internet coverage or in an area where we don’t have good coverage from a local shore station, Boat Beacon can now continue to work displaying live ship data, calculating Closest Point of Approach (CPA) with alarms etc. from your VHF AIS receiver or AIS enabled VHF radio. On Android you can connect  the  NMEA  serial  or usb output from an AIS receiver or connect via WiFi. On iPhone you need to use WiFi. Here are some of the AIS receivers we have tested with  Lowrance, Simrad, B&G, Digital Yacht, Comar NMEA-w2-Wifi, Weatherdock EasyAIS, Chetco Digital SeaSmart , Navico GoFree etc. More information on how to hook all this up is given below.

 iPhone and Android AIS and GPS over WiFi.

If you already have AIS data available over Wifi on board then just enter the UDP port number (or ip address and port number for TCP) for the source and Boat Beacon will start using the data. With Navico GoFree and iPhone/iPad this is even more simple as there is a “GoFree” connect button in settings – just press and go.  If you only have a usb or nmea output available you will also need a serial or usb to internet or Wifi adaptor. They range in price from $50 to $200. This is one example we have tested with at the $70 level – USR-TCP232-400 that we hook into our on-board WiFi hub.

Here are some specific instructions for connecting Boat Beacon on Android to GoFree – http://www.pocketmariner.com/pm/?p=1538

Android AIS NMEA 0183 and GPS over USB or serial

Boat Beacon will automatically launch and use local AIS  data (and GPS if available)  when a USB cable is plugged in between the AIS receiver and your Android device. You can set the USB mode on or off in settings in Boat Beacon.

For an Android NMEA 0183 connection you will need the following:-

1. An Android device that supports USB host mode (typically OS3 or later)
2. If your receiver doesn’t have a USB output you can simply convert the NMEA 0183 2 wire  output to USB for a few dollars more using an RS232 to USB cable. Typically $7 or so.  The most common USB to RS232 cables use the Prolific 2303 driver which we support. The cable we tested with is this one :-
We also support many other serial usb drivers (see below).
3. You will also need an Android OTG micro usb adaptor which only cost a couple of dollars. Here are a couple of links to the type of OTG micro usb adapter you will need:-
and this one allows you to charge your device at the same time:-
20 cm Micro USB OTG Y-Cable + extra power supply http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EJP5XR2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_awdl_adfhtb0B8YQ4B via @amazon

More information.

You can get Boat Beacon from the iTunes or Android stores – Boat Beacon

If you have a problem connecting with Android over usb you can run this free simple serial usb tester program on your Android device once you have an OTG adaptor to report and test what driver is required and let us know :-
http://boatbeaconapp.com/ybw/app/usbtest.apk (just click on the link on your tablet to download the app).
Please email us if you have any questions or suggestions at support@pocketmariner.com
There is also a great article here about hooking up NMEA to serial :- http://cms.nobeltec.com/CMS/Files/Connecting%20instrument%20serially%20to%20the%20computer.pdf

 

 

SeaNav brings unique Augmented Reality Live View

Augmented Reality View

 

Our unique AR view mode allows you to view buoys, lights, ships, waypoints and track overlaid on your iPhone or iPad live camera view. With “AR LockOn” you can select a target on the chart and then be guided to it in the AR camera view.

  • Find that ship on the horizon and instantly see its name, range and bearing.

  • Spot the next marker buoy.

  • See your route and next waypoint

 

Tap the “eye” icon at the top left to switch AR mode on, then tilt your device up to see a live camera of the scene and boats around you. As you turn round and view buoys and ships, their name, range and bearing will popup when they are in the center of the view. You can also tap on them to get more information. Tilt back down to see the map view. Tapping the “eye” icon again turns AR mode off. You can pinch to zoom the map or camera views.

In AR mode our unique “AR Lock On” feature lets you select a ship or buoy on the map view and then easily locate it in the Camera view using a grey arrow to tell you which way to turn to spot it when its not directly in view. Your course (yellow line) and route to next waypoint (blue line) will also be visible overlayed on the camera view.

Ships are color coded based on their type e.g. Sailing boats are white, Pleasure Craft magenta, etc. See the Map Legend for full details. A vector points forward showing where each boat will be in 2 minutes time based on its current Speed and Course. Ships move in real time across the map and in the AR view. Tap on a ship or buoy to get more information and tap on the right arrow to get even more including speed, course, distance, bearing, picture etc. The horizon is set by the zoom scale of the chart view – e.g. zoom out on the chart view to see further out in the Augmented reality view.

AR photo from the Isle of Wight ferry.

Internet AIS Marine Navigation Collision Avoidance in action in CA

We had some great feedback from one of our users, Ken, in Southern California:-

I have now been using Boat Beacon in the southern California waters for the past few months and really enjoy the visibility it provides me. Just this past weekend, my Yacht Club had a large cruise over the 4th in Catalina and in my trip over, I had a cargo ship that, based on Boat Beacon CPA data, going to get really close. I called the ship, by name, on VHF Channel 16 and based on the conversation, he changed course, which again we had a conversation with him telling me what he had planned to do etc.

It is exactly that type of data that made my trip along with a lot of others.

My question is; I have an assigned MMSI and Transmitting from the iPad, I “see” the ships, do they “see” me on their shipboard system? I know I can be seen on ship finder, Marine Traffic, but not sure if they see me in real time on their system.

BTW; a number of my club members who were in transit had heard my call and discussion and came away impressed with what Boat Beacon can do. A number of them have already downloaded it onto their apple IOS and Android devices.

In answer to Ken’s question, if you are only transmitting your position using Boat Beacon then the ships will not be able to see you on their VHF AIS Systems. However many of the Coast Guard stations and Harbour/Port Authorities around the US, UK and Australia do now combine internet AIS feeds with their local VHF AIS data, so there is a good chance you will be showing up on their screens.

Boat Beacon – “Your app may have saved our lives”

 Captain Ian Engelbrecht and First Mate Ibolya Palko from Worldwide Yacht Deliveries  sent us a report today on how Boat Beacon helped them when they were caught in fog 4NM off the South African coast. They were sailing a Jaguar 36 Catamaran on a 900 mile, 12 day voyage from Cape Town to Durban, South Africa. There is a map showing their planned route to the right. They had just passed Hamburg on their route up the East South African coast when they lost visibility.  Their primary AIS system had failed.  They did the right thing and diverted in close to shore to find shallow waters and avoid any commercial shipping (see the  track map below). They were hoping there wouldn’t be  anything else so close in. They decided to power up Boat Beacon on their Android smartphone and leave it running to keep a look out.

Boat Beacon alerted them to a container ship, also close in, going in the opposite direction!  At a range of 21 NM ( well over the normal VHF AIS horizon) Boat Beacon gave them plenty of time to assess the situation and take the necessary avoiding action.


They also had some very useful feedback. Having no visibility and due to the specific courses involved, they weren’t too sure on how the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) would pan out. In other words what would the CPA be in relation to their vessel – port or starboard? That made it difficult to decide on the correct avoiding action to take. Captain Iain Engelbrecht asked if we could add a new feature to Boat Beacon to give the bearing of the closest point of approach with respect to one’s own boat (e.g. 0° is dead ahead, 90° to starboard, 270° is to port etc.).

Captain Engelbrecht was impressed by Boat Beacon’s real time performance – that may have saved their lives – and our immediate response to his suggestion.  We are now adding the new CPA Bearing feature, continuing Pocket Mariner’s commitment to providing useful, professional and affordable aids to navigation and safety.



The Boat Beacon Story – AIS Marine Navigation on an iPhone.

by Steve Bennett, Captain, Pocket Mariner.

I sail a 30 foot Catamaran in the Bristol Channel, one of the most challenging areas of water in the World due to its high tidal range, currents and sandbanks – see http://www.bcya.org.uk/content/sailing-bristol-channel .

As with sailing in any waters, you need to keep in mind ports of refuge (most harbours dry), keep an eye on the weather (the channel faces West or South West, the direction of the prevailing winds) and keep a careful eye open for the very large vessels that use Bristol, Milford, Cardiff and Swansea.


With a following tide of up to 8 knots these vessels can have a speed over ground (SOG) of over 25 knots (30 mph!) – 75,000 Tonnes approaching at 30mph! Judging their position versus yours as you approach the narrow Channel under the Severn Bridge is challenging even in good visibility – in poor it’s beyond scary! It’s vital you keep out of their way because they can’t turn or stop quickly! At 25 knots they can appear from over the horizon in less than 5 minutes. Survival depends on you spotting them and getting out of the way. Even if they could see you they probably couldn’t avoid you in time – you just “don’t want to mess with them”!

 

The International Maritime Organization‘s (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires AIS to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with gross tonnage (GT) of 300 or more tons, and all passenger ships regardless of size. AIS works a bit like radar, but better. Ships continuously transmit their details and position and can be displayed on a live map display.

A car container passing just south of me near Portishead (the white flecks on the left are Yachts!)

The Ship AIS units cost thousands of dollars. Small AIS receivers are available for around $400 which will allow you to show these boats on a computer screen including their course, speed and  their MMSI – Marine Telephone Number – so you can call them up on VHF radio. But, that requires a large outlay and a computer screen or an even more expensive dedicated unit or Chart Plotter.

 

 

 

Worse than that there is also the horizon problem. An AIS receiver can only see as far as the horizon. For an aerial mounted at deck height as many are, the horizon is about one nautical mile away  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon ). A ship with its AIS aerial at 10m above sea level has a horizon of about six miles. With an approach velocity of 28 knots it could be upon you from nowhere in 15 minutes. This is where the network of shore-based AIS systems come to the fore. As long as you are within GSM coverage and there are AIS shore stations in your area then you can pickup AIS via the Internet and not only see over the horizon but anywhere in the world.

There were already a couple of iPhone apps available which will receive internet AIS data and plot ships’ positions over a Google map. One such app, widely used by sailing fans (though not necessarily sailors themselves) love it for spotting, watching and learning about ships around the world from their desk or the harbour-side cafe. It has even been featured on CNN. I tried using it in the Bristol Channel and it was a decent app, but it’s clearly aimed at landlubbers and there were several key features that, as a Skipper, I needed from an AIS app that this kind of app doesn’t provide. Collision Detection in the background and being able to transmit and share my position on global AIS systems Being the two most important.

I wanted to be alerted if I was on a potential collision course with another boat that I might not even be able to see yet and I didn’t want to have to keep checking a screen every five minutes.

There have been several collisions between small boats and ships reported over the last year. Fortunately no one has been seriously injured in the recent one below in the Solent at Cowes


I have been developing apps for mobile devices for over 15 years and decided to put that experience to the task of creating an ideal app for sailors like me – with the result being Boat Beacon. Not only will Boat Beacon display ships and their information on a Google map, it continuously monitors all ships within a 60 mile radius, 5 to 10  times further than a conventional  AIS receiver on my boat could do, and calculates their Closest Point of Approach (CPA).

If any are going to be within 100m of me within the next 10 minutes, Boat Beacon alerts with an alarming Big Ship’s horn – plus a vibration and popup notification. We have tested it out in the Bristol Channel and on a misty day in the Solent and it has proved very reliable and accurate, with no false alarms and no missed alarms.

 

 

Here is a quote from our test boat skipper in the Solent:

“It was fairly foggy with low vis so app was very useful. All worked well, the alarm was activated in good time and no false alarms as I saw it. Only had three alarms to deal with…………..I can see a new game emerging where one has to induce the collision alarm!”

and another from Lake Erie in the US:

“We did an interesting experiment yesterday while helping a friend bring his 42′ sailboat through the south passage of Lake Erie. On board: Ship Finder Iphone app. a Raymarine AIS driven by E80 MFD and the Boat Beacon. The results within a 40 mi range were: the Ship Finder app had the least number of targets (2) Raymarine AIS had 4 and Boat Beacon had at least 6. Interesting. Additionally the Boat Beacon had more detail on the targets such as Ship names etc. The only rationale for the mid performance of Raymarine AIS could be that some of the targets were on the other side of Kelly’s Island.”

 

Boat Beacon compass view on an iPad around the Solent.

Boat Beacon also has a host of other additional “Sailing” related features that I wanted:

  • Its AIS transmit feature , my wife’s favorite feature, as she can now keep an eye on me and where I am out sailing in the Bristol Channel from a web page on her MacBook at home!
  • A fully gimballed compass and rangefinder overlaid on the map so you can sight ships and shore stations, know their bearing and how far away they are.
  • The ability to highlight other Boat Beacon boats around you so you can keep an eye on the race you are in or the flotilla you are sailing with and a boat to boat  messaging feature so you can chat with them.
  • Overlay your planned route on the map (Waypoints) and show your track history.
  • Anchor and theft alarm

 Potential Collision detected. Closest Point of Approach – 41 metres in 7.8 mins.

Obviously, Boat Beacon should only be used for basic navigation reference in Coastal areas where there is internet and shore-based station coverage. It should not be solely relied upon to determine precise locations, proximity, distance, or direction. There is no replacement for the Skippers’ and their crews’ eyes and the Skipper’s ultimate judgement.

There are some possible drawbacks with relying on an Internet-based AIS for Coastal Navigation. It relies on you having Internet coverage, however most popular coastal areas in the US have cellular data access extending 12 or more miles out to sea. The UK has nearly complete coastal coverage out to 12 miles. It relies on AIS shore stations covering your area. The network of stations Boat Beacon can access covers the majority of popular coastal and harbour areas. It typically has live data available on over 45,000 ships around the world and coverage is continually increasing. In the unlikely chance that there is no coverage in your area then club together, set up a shore station and join the network!

In some cases, shore-based receivers can be provided for free – see Cover my area for more information. Another reservation is that you won’t show up on the big ships’ AIS systems unless they have an Internet AIS feed too. However, as I mentioned earlier, even if they can see you they are unlikely to be able to do much to avoid you in time!

 

 

The tag line for Boat Beacon is “See and be seen on your boat in Coastal Sea areas with 60 mile Collision Avoidance using just your iPhone or Android device. Lets you keep a watch on boats near you and others keep a watch on you using Boat Beacon and Global AIS systems.”