Technology

Putting Depths to Scale by Trevor

XKCD is a very intelligent comic, and pretty much every post has something to do with science. Every so often there is a large format comic explaining some macro scientific concept. Today's is talking about depths, likely brought about by James Cameron's recent dive. It does a pretty good job explaining how massive the ocean is. Be sure to click the image for an expanded version, and read all the fun facts (a few are jokes, but some good trivia in there!).

Keeping Track of the Big Boats - Kill Time Online! by Trevor

I was checking all my nautical sites, and while on gcaptain.com (I did not recommend because it is slightly technical and focuses more on freighters and cargo ships) andI stumbled across an online AIS mapping system. Wikipedia explains AIS:

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automated tracking system used on ships and by Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and VTS stations. AIS information supplements marine radar, which continues to be the primary method of collision avoidance for water transport.

Information provided by AIS equipment, such as unique identification, position, course, and speed, can be displayed on a screen or an ECDIS. AIS is intended to assist a vessel's watchstanding officers and allow maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements. AIS integrates a standardized VHF transceiver with a positioning system such as a LORAN-C or GPS receiver, with other electronic navigation sensors, such as a gyrocompass or rate of turn indicator. Ships outside AIS radio range can be tracked with the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system with less frequent transmission.

This site gives a bit of information about vessel movement, and MarineTraffic.com is about what I imagine an air traffic controller looks at all day (when they are awake!). Not only are you able to browse the entire world for AIS reporting ships, but you can view by type of ship, and a few other parameters. Obviously tracking the big yachts is going to be my primary use for this! Just taking a look at some of the yards in Florida, I was able to quickly find Johnny Depp's Boat, VaJoLiRoJa. Fun fact about his boat, if you say the name fast enough, it sounds like "The Jolly Roger", which would make you think of the pirate movies that paid for the boat, but it is actually the first names of all in his family, VAlerie, JOhnnie, LIly-ROse, and JAck.

As you can see on the left side of the screen, I have filtered out everything but the yachts. Also, notice the ad for an iPhone app! That would be a great time killer on the road!

Looks like the Beaver Island ferry, the EMERALD ISLE is a little late for it's 4:30 projected ETA. If you like big boat, or fancy yourself a diehard yacht spotter, this may be the site for you. These closeups only show a few areas in the US, with a lot of commercial boats filtered out, but there are a lot of boats on this site. Be sure to check out some of the destinations around Europe (Med, Monaco, Cannes, etc) to see some of the big boys! Zooming out still gives you a tiling of green squares with the number of reporting vessels in each area, so you can quickly find the hot spots.

I highly recommend you poke around, and if you find any interesting boats, say something in the comments!

For all the diving lovers out there - How to hold your breath like David Blaine by Ryan

If you are like many boaters, diving around to check out fish, ship wrecks, and other underwater curiosities probably gets you excited. If you are looking to shave a couple of bucks off of your boating budget but don't want to sacrifice the underwater scenery, you can try ditching the expensive scuba gear for some serious free diving!

Read More

Editorial: Technology and Boat Washing by admin

Trevor recently attended YachtWorks Brokerage University (you can see his write up here), and they obviously were trying to convey how important technology is important in todays marketplace.  It is important to sellers and potential buyers, there is no doubt about that.  At the end of the day it comes down to how easy information quality information can be accessed.  We can debate all day about how important being on Facebook is, if Twitter is here to stay, or who first came up with the idea of "social media" integration into their website.  There is a much larger force at work here behind the scenes, and it is called signalling.

How do you signal that you "get it" to potential customers?  How can they easily obtain quality information about the type of people they are about to conduct significant transactions with?  Word of mouth is great, and is going no where, but sometimes it is not enough to set you apart.  Being an early adopter of new technologies and communications mediums is not always easy.  It requires work, effort, learning, and paying a premium for some cutting edge products.  However, it is precisely these qualities customers are looking for.  How do your potential clients know you are up to date on all the current trends or willing to go the extra mile?  All the current electronic packages in boats?  You can signal this by using Twitter, posting YouTube videos, writing blog posts, and communicating with customers in their medium of choice (email, texting, cell phone, voicemail, video chat, twitter, facebook, etc).  Even if you adopt technologies which fade away and are fads, it signals you are unlikely to leave any stone unturned for your clients.  Using these tools you can set yourself apart from desk jockeys and any yacht broker who paid $30 for a box of business cards, you have invested yourself in being up to date with the business world.

What does technology have to do with boat washing?  Very little.  When we write about Navionics for the iPhone or Android, not only are we interested in the technology, but we are hoping to communicate to our customers that we "get it".   If we can talk with you about the bleeding edge of the marine industry, there is a good chance we know a lot about our primary job, washing boats.  How else will our customers know we have a passion for what we do?

Ethanol Decision Looms? by admin

BoatUS was kind enough to drop us this email today:

Dear BoatU.S. Member,

We need your help. If you believe in "science first," now is the time to urge President Obama to require the federal EPA to understand the effects of higher blends of ethanol before allowing it into our country's gasoline supply.

Time is critical. Last year, a record number of boaters asked EPA to test marine engines before allowing up to 15% (E15) ethanol in gasoline. This testing has not been completed. Now, in late September or early October, EPA is getting ready to announce their decision. We expect they will allow E15 for some engines and not others. This will create different fuels with different availability, prices, and a lot of consumer confusion.

BoatU.S. appreciates and embraces the need to diversify our country's fuel and energy sources. However, we are concerned that EPA may put the "cart before the horse" by granting increased ethanol before we know what it will do in our marine engines. Many boaters, having suffered through the last ethanol transition, agree that we should learn from this recent history, and completely understand what the new fuel will do before approving its use in boats. It may turn out to be harmless, but what if it's not? Shouldn't we wait for the facts before making the decision?

Please help today. Click here http://www.followthescience.org/take-action/ and let President Obama know your concerns about ethanol and ask him to get the science first, before giving EPA the approval for more ethanol in your gasoline.

Our thoughts?  We wash and wax boats, we know a lot about that.  We do not know a lot about ethanol and how it will interact with marine engines.  Anecdotal evidence we hear suggests it is a bad idea due to how ethanol interacts with various materials used in the marine industry.  Our best guess is President Obama is less likely to know the answer to more/less ethanol than we,or other more knowledgeable people within the industry, do.  With companies (like Mochi!), coming out with "greener" technology and a variety of solutions, why not let the industry answer the question rather than guessing at what the right answer is?

Active Captain for the iPad/iPhone by admin

The goal is not to bring every app for the iPad/iPhone into the spot light, but Jeff Seigel does a great job of showing off a few features of Active Captain through a series of screen shots. If you are curious as to what value such a device could have, this is worth a look.

Here are some screen shots of the iPad application to be released in a few days that fully supports all of ActiveCaptain's data offline. No internet connection is needed to view all of the marinas, anchorages, bridges, locks, boat ramps, etc., along with all of the reviews. It works incredibly well and even rotates the chart as your boat is turning.

On a related note, the tablet game is starting to heat up (HP with WebOS, and Android tablets are popping up!). With a wide variety of price points, features, and operating systems, it will be interesting to see if another tablet will be better suited for marine use. How long before there is a weatherproof iPad case?

Sunseeker iPhone/iPad App by admin

If the Lake Michigan Fuel Price app did not fill your appetite for boating information on your favorite Apple device, perhaps the Sunseeker app will help out.  If this is any signal, it is only a matter of time before business specific apps become widespread and commonplace, akin to getting a website was 10 years ago.

  • View the entire range of New Sunseeker Motor Yachts in the palm of your hand.
  • Search our Brokerage Listings from anywhere in the world.
  • Save your favourite boats to your phone to create a shortlist to view anytime.
  • Request more information on any of our boats directly from within the application.
  • Email details of any of our colleagues from anywhere, anytime.
  • Contact your nearest Sunseeker Brokerage Dealer by using our locations page.

Lake Michigan Fuel Price App for iPhone/iPad by admin

Seafaring Solutions has just released a fuel price app in the iTunes store.  While this app will certainly pay for itself, it is only compatible with iOS4 or later.  So if you do plan on using this app, make sure you update your software first.  Also, be aware early adopters, the original iPhone will not be able to upgrade to iOS4, and the iPad upgrade will not be out until this fall!

Want to save money on fuel for your boat this season? With Seafaring Solution's "Lake Michigan Fuel Marine Fuel Prices", you can do just that.

iPad and iPhone - Put to the Test! by admin

Along from watching marine industry news and events, we also keep an eye on the mobile and tech landscape. For example, we have mentioned a few times, here and here, about the importance cross over products are already having in the marine industry. Mad Mariner (a great news source if you don't already follow them), has a quick review of using the iPad while out on the water.

Having said that, the iPad is not “must have” technology, and it will invariably raise questions about how many devices you need (and what each of them will do). Like all marine equipment, the value of the iPad will depend on its user, governed by factors such where you take your boat, the type of equipment you own already and how much you depend on a computer to run your life.

The BBC is reporting a lost vessel was able to be found the other day thanks to an iPhone app as well.

With no flares, flash lights or VHF radio onboard, the Wee Rascal was unable to signal its position to rescuers.

It was then that the Belfast Coastguard resorted to mobile phone technology a locator iPhone app was able to give rescuers the vital latitude and longitude they needed.

What does all of this mean?  In the short term, the iPad will probably not be replacing typical electronics en masse (and we are still rooting for Android devices!).  What the application of smartphones and tablets being used in this manner does suggest is how powerful gadgets can become when they are not bound to doing one specific action (only GPS, or only being a radio).  These multi use devices also signal simplicity and function often go hand in hand.  Akin to Volvo's IPS technology, anything which makes boating easier is an easy sell.

To push even further, imagine yacht designers and builders having to dedicate less and less room to dedicated controls and displays.  Perhaps a sleek display/control panel which is easily concealed, a remote control for the entire boat which can be run from the crew quarters.  Maybe some bluetooth devices which mimic phyical controls, essential allowing you to have a mobile helm station!  Far off?  Perhaps, but these ideas are less far fetched than ever.

Navionics on Android! by admin

While having Navionics on your iPhone or iPad is certainly appealing to many AT&T customers, what about the rest of us?! Navionics is rolling out their marine app to the Android platform!

Ideal for boaters, fishermen and water sport enthusiasts of all kinds. Track your navigation while on the water, capture geotagged pictures, and create a virtual travelogue to share with friends via email or facebook. The most comprehensive features available in version 3.2:

  • Record/Save tracks, routes
  • Capture geo-tagged pictures of your adventures
  • Access the largest database of specialty marine POIs available
  • Search marinas and specialty marine POI, with just one click to call
  • Check tides & currents, moon phase, sun/moon rise/set

Given the variety of devices out there for Android right now, on each of the big 4 carriers, this could be the compelling reason to go jump on board with Android. The EVO (just realized on Sprint) is a solid piece of amazing hardware supporting a 4.3" screen and could be perfect for those day trips.  There looks to be a lot of different hardware options in the pipeline too, including a new revamped version of The Droid on the Verizon network.

Now if someone would just make a bluetooth depth finder to pair with a phone (seriously)!  Not only could you make your smartphone of choice all the more like a Swiss Army knife, but I'm sure with enough aggregated data someone could provide better and more detailed charts.  High traffic areas would have almost real-time water depths.

Mobile phones are becoming more and more powerful, and iPhone remotes are quite common on superyachts for media and lighting controls. The next step may be an NMEA2000 bridge that would display relevant mechanical data on your device.