Navico (Simrad, B&G and Lowrance) have just released the latest addition to their chartplotters and marine electronics systems. They have released a wireless connectivity module and a firmware update for their NSS range of chartplotters to allow them to pair with and be controlled by apps on iPads, iPhones and other devices.
It works across a wifi network – either via Simrad’s own WiFi access point box called the WiFi-1 or by any existing router and onboard wifi. The latter is a bit more difficult, but perfectly possible and allows a nice level of system integration and allows the same wifi network to be used for internet and navigation control.
How does it work?
Turn on your NSS plotter – Start the GoFree app -Connect to the plotter – Your iPad turns into a chart plotter. Thats it.
The iPad screen becomes a mirror of the chart plotter’s screen. Drag the chart on the iPad and the chart scrolls on the plotter. Access the menus and they appear simultaneously on both devices. Basically, the chart plotter’s screen is relayed to the iPad as a video stream, and any interaction is sent back to and mirrored on the plotter.
This gives you a portable plotter that you can use down below for passage planning, use to check the radar whilst sheltered under the sprayhood or just use a secondary screen from the chart table – everything the chart plotter can do you can do from the iPad (with 1 exception – see below)
How well does it work?
It works well. It is fast, easy to use and reliable. There is a momentary lag when scrolling as the signal is sent between the two devices, but nothing to cause any concerns.
For me, it is a great free addition to my system as it gives me full access to the plotter from anywhere on the boat. It means I don’t have any problems with not having a dedicated second plotter down below.
In practice I think it’ll be more useful on those long night passages allowing us to monitor AIS and radar targets without having to leave the warmth and shelter of the companionway. As a skipper it’ll also be nice to be able to keep an eye on things from down below.
A few notes:
- The iPhone app only allows viewing, as (according to Simrad) the screen would be too small to accurately control.
- The first time a device tries to connect to a plotter, authorisation is required, so someone can’t just hack into your control system!
- Currently the control of the autopilot is disabled from within the iPad app. This is for apparent legal reasons – as Simrad don’t want vessels steered blind from down below (legal and corporate responsibility).
- Connecting my NSS plotter to my ethernet network was quite simple. I could have bought a special cable, but since it runs off standard 8 core twisted pair ethernet cable, I just cut my existing NSS – Radar Controller cable, crimped on a couple of RJ45 plugs, and connected both into my router. The NSS and radar pick up network IP addresses in my DHCP range and everything talks together.
- Nmea 0183 data is also broadcast across the ethernet, so other apps (such as iNavX) can receive and use all navigation information.