There's an App for That

It seems like only a few years ago, we started to see chartplotters incorporating WiFi or Bluetooth.  Now, all major marine equipment manufacturers have embraced interconnectivity enabling smartphones or tablets to view and control their devices.  For navigation, this has been a game-changer as it allows boaters not only to see but control any chartplotter on the boat with a smart device.  Instantly adding a mobile second helm or allowing crew members away from the helm to follow along on the trip.  Apps are also allowing boaters to control cameras, remotely monitor systems, connect with friends, and even change channels.

This month we are going to look at what some manufacturers have been up to in the app department.

Furuno NavNet TZtouch2 works with both an iOS and Android app to provide real-time weather data and software updates.  The NavNet Remote app allows you to remotely operate and view your system with your smart devices when connected to the local wireless network.  The NavNet Viewer App allows you to view instruments as well as the fish finder of your NavNet TZtouch2 on your smart device.  You can also access critical navigational information such as depth, temperature, wind, COG and even engine information (if available).  The NavNet Controller App allows you to wirelessly control the NavNet TZtouch 2 MFD with touch controls.

Garmin ActiveCaptain is a free all-in-one app that provides a powerful connection to your Garmin chartplotter, charts, maps, and the ActiveCaptain community.  Wherever you are, you will have unlimited access to your cartography, be able to purchase new maps and charts and have access to the Garmin Quickdraw™ Contours Community. Connect to the ActiveCaptain community for up-to-date feedback on marinas and other points of interest. Smart notifications on your chartplotter screen keep you connected with everyone else. Easily plan a route on your iPad on the back deck, and ActiveCaptain will automatically sync with your chartplotter. Even view and control your chartplotter from your smartphone or tablet while you are on the water.  (Note: this app is not intended to be a standalone navigational app and is not recommended for non-Garmin chartplotter owners.  The included basemap is not usable without purchasing additional charts/maps).

The Raymarine RayControl App transforms your tablet into a full-function Raymarine MFD. Remotely control and view electronic charting, sonar, radar, and even thermal night vision, right from your tablet.  RayControl emulates Raymarine MFD’s with touch screen interaction and a virtual slide-out MFD keyboard. The slide-out virtual keyboard gives you control of all MFD functions, and the virtual uni-controller allows you to rotate through menus and adjustments effortlessly.  The RayView App will enable you to view your Raymarine ES, and Axiom Multi-Functional Display via your smartphone or tablet. 

The FLIR Tools Mobile App lets you stream live video to your smart device from any FLIR thermal camera with local WiFi connectivity, allowing you to see what your boat FLIR camera sees.  You can stream live video, playback voice annotations and control your FLIR camera remotely.

The Navico Link App gives you remote control of Wi-Fi-enabled Simrad, Lowrance, or B&G multifunction displays from your smartphone or tablet. Link lets you select any Wi-Fi enabled display on board, and duplicates the screen in real-time on your mobile device.  The App works with your charts, sonar, radar, on-board entertainment system, and even allows you to view data from connected engines and instruments. Link also gives you the ability to wirelessly back-up and restore waypoints, routes, tracks, and display settings directly to your mobile device. This makes it easier than ever to protect your valuable boating data against loss or theft, and to keep your backups up-to-date with zero hassle.

The Link app is compatible with the newer Simrad , Lowrance  and B&G chartplotters. Displays without built-in Wi-Fi require an additional WiFi-1 module. A free software update may be needed to enable the Link App for your display. 

Whether you are connected with Bluetooth or WiFi, the Fusion-Link App allows you to search all music sources, albums, artists and playlists from your smart device while controlling the sound.  (Note: Only the WiFi version will enable you to display album art on your screen). Depending on the Fusion stereo you have, you can use the app to control music in multi-zones to play the same or different tunes.

The KVH TracVision App for TracVision provides easy access from your mobile device to your KVH TracVision satellite TV antenna system.  The first bonus feature is that you access the setup wizard for easy installation.  This also allows you to update the system software, including updates to the satellite library.  You can view antenna status, signal strength, and the satellites being tracked and even perform system diagnostics that are sent directly to KVH Technical Support for fast troubleshooting. Works with the newer series, check your model for compatibility.

Maretron’s N2KView Mobile software allows you to monitor and control your vessel’s systems from your smartphone or tablet device. Whether it’s onboard via WiFi or ashore via an Internet connection, you can see what is happening aboard your vessel and even control things like your watermaker, lights, pumps, and more.  The unique feature of this software is the ability to configure your screens. You have complete control of the number of screens, the layout of each screen, and the size and type of each parameter you wish to display. You can customize each display precisely the way you want it. You can even use N2KView on a computer to design the screens, and then download them to your smartphone or tablet device.

There is even a product that was developed just for an App.  The Furuno 1st Watch Wireless Radar is easy to use and can be accessed by two iOS devices simultaneously. You simply mount the antenna, plug in the power cord and download the app.  It is an excellent alternative if you aren't ready for a full radar installation or if you are changing boats.  However, be aware that this wireless radar cannot be connected wirelssly to your Furuno display, it only works wth a smart device.

The most significant advantage of these Apps is still safety.  All of these Wi-Fi and Bluetooth navigation tools are aimed at helping with navigationand situational awareness. An interconnected boat ensures that essential data is not “stuck” in one place only, it is shared and available throughout the boat to the whole crew.  

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: