Marine Electronics Special: Hot Trends for 2016

Last year the big talk in marine electronics was sounders using CHIRP technology, this year it is radar. Both Simrad (Navico) and Raymarine debuted radar products featuring CHIRP technology. A few years back, Navico introduced broadband radar, which offered distinct features such as instant-on, amazing target acquisition in close quarters and lower power draw. Just recently, a boater chose what type of radar you wanted to use, broadband is well-suited to inshore cruising while pulse is good for long range or offshore cruising. Broadband radar sends out a continuous signal so it receives and transmits in the same instant but pulse units transmit a signal and then go through an internal change to receive the signal. These new CHIRP radar arrays use innovative technology to do both broadband (short) or pulse (long) radar. And, with the added benefit of broadband radar, these new systems have a very low power draw, start quickly and have almost zero dangerous emissions.

Smart Devices. Portable devices such as smart phones and tablets continue to compliment the marine navigation and entertainment space. While we have always maintained that a smart device is no replacement for properly installed marine-built electronics, smart devices are familiarizing more boaters with the benefits of electronics while on the water. One of the biggest advantages we have seen is that you can use your smart device to prepare for your trip when you aren’t on your boat. Programs like Navionics and Garmin BlueChart using ActiveCaptain, or iNavX, are examples of mobile software that allow you to chart your route, check the weather or tides. You are then able to access and upload the information to your multi-function display when you arrive at your boat. There is nothing like planning a trip on a rainy, Wednesday night in the comfort of your own home before heading out for the weekend.

WiFi Connectivity. Another great advancement in smart device technology is the ability to monitor your boat when you are not on board. With wifi, either onboard or via marine, or even cellular connectivity allows you to communicate with an unlimited amount of sensors such as high-water, battery level, interior temperature, or even GPS location. A number of monitoring systems also include two-way cameras so you can see what is happening on your boat and even communicate with a mechanic or family member if you can’t be there.

Advanced communications, radar, wireless, bluetooth, and smart device technology continue to be the themes for 2016. With that in mind, here are a few of our favourite products for upcoming boating season.

SuperHALO CA-VAT-10-R Cellular Booster Kit - New from Shakespeare, the SuperHALO cellular booster is the first five-band cell phone booster with 2G, 3G and 4G voice and data. This booster, designed for mid to large range vessels, combines PCS and Cellular dual-bands with LTE and AWS frequencies. As with most boosters, it includes automatic shutdown and uplink/downlink oscillation detection. The SuperHALO works well in areas with low cellular data and voice signal and will cover up to 10,000 square feet while providing five to 10 simultaneous users. It takes up much less space that a traditional cell booster, ships with a Wraith-5 cell phone amplifier, a five dB and 10 dB attenuator, AC power supply and mounting kit. We don't have any definitive price but have heard this will retail for around $1,500.

HawkEye Hand Held Depth Finder - The HawkEye H22PX is a portable digital sonar that tells you water depth (up to 60 metres), water temperature, air temperature as well as fish sonar echo readings. You can use it as a back-up depth sounder on your boat or use it to go fishing in your dinghy. You can even set it inside the hull and shoot through for depth and fish readings. It is completely waterproof and can be used as a range finder while you are diving or snorkelling. It retails for $100. 

VIRB XE Compact, Waterproof HD Action Camera - This is a really fun, new GoPro-type camera from Garmin that would be perfect for mounting on your bow to capture footage of our local Pacific white-sided dolphins. It shoots high definition video in 1440p30, 1080p60 and 720p120 with vivid detail. With a dedicated photo button, you have the ability to shoot wide-angle 12 megapixel photos at speeds up to 30 frames per second. The VIRB has built-in wifi so you can control it from your smartphone or compatible Garmin device or you can push your videos directly to the cloud. It also comes with Bluetooth-enabled HD audio, allowing you to be away from your camera and still add commentary. And just for mariners, you can capture water depth, boat speed, wind speed and angle in your shots. It is waterproof up to 50 metres, ships with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and retails for around $600.

Furuno NavNet TZTouch2 - This sleek, edge-to-edge glass multi-function display features a refined user interface that is fully customizable and focuses on usability. The instrument panel is really helpful allowing you to organize gauges for navigation, engine monitoring, tank monitoring or autopilot control all on one screen. It is pre-loaded with an eGuide so you can study the different functions in detail and never have to worry about finding the manual. The TZTouch2 has a built-in fish finder using a proprietary new technology called RezBoost that utilizes Furuno’s exclusive digital signal processing protocol to produce images that are up to eight times sharper than a conventional fish finder. The TZTouch2 has built-in wifi and with internet access gives you unlimited access to worldwide weather forecasts 24 hours a day provided by NavCenter. New this year, the unit includes a BBWX3 third-generation SiriusXM satellite weather receiver (a subscription is required for this service). You can control and view your TZTouch2 through most smart devices using the NavNet Viewer or NavNet Controller App. The 12-inch display retails for $5,100 and the 15-inch display is $7,549.

Simrad Halo Radar - Simrad has combined traditional pulse and 4G broadband radar to create a great solution for both close and long range detection. It uses advanced signal processing to provide custom, harbour, offshore, weather and BIRD modes. It is available in a three-foot, four-foot and six-foot open array antenna and boasts low electromagnetic emissions and low power consumption. Beam sharpening technology means that the three-foot array has similar resolution to a four-foot array, and the four-foot is similar to the six-foot and the six-foot to an foot-foot. The Halo is compatible with the Simrad NSS and NSO evo2 multifunction displays. The Halo 4 retails for $7,000.

Simrad/B&G WR10 Wireless Remote - The WR10 works with Simrad autopilot systems to enable heading adjustments and autopilot control. The WR10 is compatible with the Simrad AC12, AC42 and NAC-1 autopilot, AP24 and AP28 head units and the NSS/NSO evo2 multifunction displays. The unit ships with a Bluetooth base station that connects to your boat's NMEA 2000 network with a plug-and-play micro connector. The WR10 has a mode button that allows you to switch from full autopilot to NoDrift steering to automatically maintain your current heading. Instead of a single on/off toggle switch, the WR10 has dedicated buttons so you will know if your autopilot is engaged or switched off. It is available through Simrad or B&G dealers and retails for $490.

Digital Yacht Aqua Wear - This is very cool, next generation, wearable navigation. The AquaWear WLN20 gateway connects to your on board instruments, GPS or AIS and wirelessly streams data to your smart device. You do not require internet service as the gateway provides a hotspot for boats up to 25 metres in length. The WLN20 features two NMEA 0183 data inputs to allow interfacing with all common marine electronic navigation and instrument systems. It comes with a splash proof, padded wrist case and retails for $450.

Vesper XB-8000 - The Vesper XB-8000 Class B AIS transponder with built-in wifi and NMEA 2000 gateway is the most full-featured “black box” and is the only AIS transponder that can be used as a GPS source for NMEA 2000 networks. The XB-8000 transmits your vessel position and details and also receives this data from other vessels equipped with AIS. The wifi router permits up to five devices to connect simultaneously allowing you to share GPS, AIS and NMEA instrument data. These devices can even talk to each other using the XB-8000 as their router. The NMEA 2000 gateway translates instrument data that can be displayed on the mobile app of your choice, it can even translate NMEA 0183 for older plotters. The XB-8000 ships with a 50-channel GPS receiver and an external antenna with a 10-metre cable. It retails for around $1,000.

Garmin EchoMap Chirp Series - Garmin recently introduced an affordable new line of chartplotter/sonar combination units with built-in CHIRP sonar and CHIRP Down Vü and Side Vü. The EchoMap Chirp comes pre-loaded with BlueChart g2 charts for inland waters and offers support for Garmin Panoptix transducers. It also comes standard with Garmin Quickdraw Contours, similar to Navionics SonarChart or Lowrance Insight Genesis, which allows you to create personalized sounding on your charts. Another great function of this device is the enhanced auto guidance, simply enter your destination and it instantly searches through the relevant charts to create a safe route including arrival times. The EchoMap Chirp is NMEA 2000 compatible and can receive information from a number of different sensors including engine and autopilots. The units are available in four, four, seven and nine-inch models and include a built-in five Hz GPS antenna. Prices start at $1,120.

Raymarine Quantum Radar - In January, FLIR announced Raymarine’s Quantum Wireless CHIRP marine radar, the industry’s first recreational marine radar dome featuring CHIRP pulse compression technology that provides superior imaging for long and short ranges. The Quantum includes wifi and connects wirelessly to Raymarine MFD’s running the LightHouse 2 operating system. It also has a very low power draw, 17 watts working, seven watts standby and two watts in sleep mode, and for boaters looking to upgrade the Quantum radar uses an identical mounting pattern to many traditional radars. Units start at $ 2,150.

Raymarine Flir T203 - The most recent addition to Raymarine’s premium marine thermal night vision cameras is the T203. The 320 X 240 resolution model features a wide-angle 13mm lens and 2X digital zoom. Not only does the camera provide situational awareness at night but it is just as effective through bright sun, glare and haze. It is easy to install, integrates with your existing Raymarine electronics and can be controlled from the IR camera application on the Raymarine cSeries, eSeries and gS Series. The T203 outputs standard analog video that can be displayed on almost any monitor. Prices start around $ 4,700.00.

Lowrance SonicHub - This product has been out for a while but for Lowrance users, it bears mentioning again. The SonicHub is a marine audio server for HDS that allows you to connect, wirelessly, from your smart device to control your music directly from your Lowrance HDS or Simrad NSE display. This black box style server contains a four-channel by 50-watt speaker amplifier, lineout to subwoofer, NMEA 2000 and numerous audio source inputs. This is a great solution for a ski or day boat as there is a waterproof dock for your iPod or iPhone to keep it out of the weather and waves while controlling all your playlists, songs, and so on, from your Lowrance Display. The SonicHub retails for $399 and the Uni-Dock is $179.

B&G Vulcan Chartplotter - A 2016 Pittman Innovation Award winner, this chartplotter is available in a five-inch or seven-inch model and includes multi-touch and pinch-to-zoom. It is really designed with sailors in mind, using the B&G SailSteer, SailSteer Overlay and Laylines boaters can track upwind/downwind, with tacking/gybe points further enhancing awareness of laylines and windshifts. The Vulcan has the widest choice of charts available for sailing, including C-Map, Navionics, Insight and NV Digital. It allows you to control your B&G autopilot, which provides auto steering functions and Smart Manoeuvre. The Vulcan has built-in wifi allowing you to connect via a marina or smartphone hotspot and access the GoFree Shop to download charts and software updates. You can also use your smart device to view and your smart tablet to view and control your chartplotter from anywhere on your boat.

Standard Horizon Handheld Radio HX 380 - The XH380 five-watt commercial grade submersible IPX-7 handheld VHF radio with LMR channels is the newest radio from Standard Horizon. It is designed for noisy environments and is equipped with an internal 700-mW speaker ensuring transmissions are crystal clear. Ten NOAA and Canadian weather channels are pre-programmed and can be selected using the dedicated WX key. It can also be set to monitor WX stations and provide an audible alert to inform of pending storm advisories. The HX380 ships with a 1600-mAh lithium-ion battery providing up to 13 hours operating time, a 110V wall charger, a 12V cigarette lighter charger and a charging cradle and a three-year waterproof warranty. It retails for $200.

C-Pod Security and Monitoring System - The C-Pod system allows you to survey a number of functions onboard your boat from your computer or smart device. Sensors will monitor bilge high water, battery levels, low cabin temperature, motion, door latch, smoke and even your boat’s position. The system permits up to 10 different alarm receivers to communicate alerts by email or text message. The communications, between you and your boat, are routed over C-Pod’s central servers, which gives them the ability to transfer information to the police or coast guard around the world. The hardware starts around $775 depending on the sensors plus an annual monitoring fee of $250.

About the author: Jeff Cote is the owner of Pacific Yacht Systems, a full service shop delivering marine electrical and navigation solutions for recreational boats. Visit their website and blog for info and articles on marine electrical systems, projects and more: