What’s New in Electronics: NMEA 2016

NMEA 2016

New technologies impress record-setting attendance.

October’s 2016 National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA 2016) conference in Naples, Florida, featured more than 50 exhibitors debuting many new products, as well as a fleet of demo boats. Even if you’re not a tech geek, you’ll want to check out these highlights from the conference’s best new picks of NMEA 2016.

Simrad’s GO9 XSE Multi-Function Display
Not everyone owns a boat large enough to squeeze in multiple multi-function displays. For those with compact sport boats, Simrad’s new GO9 is filling the niche. Like larger multi-function displays, the GO9 XSE Series features a touchscreen-based system with GoFree Wi-Fi and built-in 10 Hz GPS receiver, two micro SD card slots, full NMEA 2000 capability, and support for Broadband 3G/4G and Halo radars. For fishermen, the built-in sounder module uses standard CHIRP, Simrad’s ForwardScan, StructureScan imaging, and TotalScan transducers.

Unlike the larger Navico systems, the GO9 has standalone construction and comes standard with a mounting bracket providing a broader range of positioning options, and it can be flush mounted if desired. There are seven GO9 bundles starting at just a bit over $1,000 for a base system, and prices ranging up to $2,700 for a system that includes radar and TotalScan transducers. Simrad’s new multi-function display provides a lot of bang for the buck. simrad-yachting.com 

Garmin’s VIRB Ultra 30
It’s hard to believe that so many features are inside the tiny package that is Garmin’s VIRB Ultra 30. Hands-free capability with voice control easily allows the user to start and stop the recording. The voice command list isn’t too expansive, although it does come in handy when you’re trying to land a marlin. The VIRB Ultra 30 also comes with manual buttons if voice control isn’t for you. It’ll shoot Ultra HD 4K/30fps footage, takes photos at 12 megapixels and comes with image stabilization. There’s also mobile and desktop editing software, and the VIRB can live-stream to YouTube via an iOS mobile device or a compatible Garmin multi-function display.

The touchscreen can easily be used in tandem with the VIRB’s waterproof case, and it comes with many forms of control option for both photos and video. It includes noise-reduction capabilities for windy days, built-in high-sensitivity 10 Hz GPS, accelerometer gyroscope, altimeter, and compass with the data usable for image overlays. Video and photos are stored on 64GB SD cards. The VIRB Ultra 30 comes out of the box with a waterproof case (40m depths), USB charging cable, battery (up to 2-hour life), two flexible mounts, and weighs only 3.1 ounces with the battery installed. An optional ship’s power cable allows for extended use. The Garmin VIRB Ultra retails for around $400. garmin.com

Yacht Device’s Voyage Recorder
Yacht Device’s first appearance at an NMEA conference garnered lots of attention, and for good reason. Their new Voyage Recorder is a small cylinder that plugs directly into a typical NMEA 2000 tee. There are two versions available: one plugs into the standard N2K device net tee, and the other works with Raymarine’s NMEA 2000 equivalent (SeatalkHS) network. The other end has a micro SD card slot and a status LED. It’s a plug-and-play device that’s ready to go without any extra setup needed to start recording data.

The recorder is directly attached to the network allowing it to read and store data on the SD card. A 16GB card holds about 100 days’ worth of boat travel information. The data options include engine information, fuel consumption, AIS vessels, waypoints used, depths, tank levels, and whatever else is on the network.

When you’re back at the dock, just plug your SD card into a computer. A free downloadable program allows the loading of data into a spreadsheet-style package to compare any plot trends in the data. For instance, you can compare fuel consumption to RPM, or take your waypoints and tracks and plot them using Google Earth. Waypoint data is stored using the GPX format making it compatible with many chart plotters. The PC software can also convert Voyage Recorder data to OpenSkipper, CanBoat and Signal K formats. The device is simple to use, easy to install and retails for $190. yachtd.com 

Furuno’s Solid-State
Doppler Radar
Furuno’s new DRS4D-NXT pulse-compression Doppler dome radar is the winner of NMEA’s prestigious 2016 Technology Award. It uses its Target Analyzer software to sort radar signal returns and color-codes them for easy tracking. Stationary objects and targets moving away from you are green, while approaching vessels become red targets to help quickly identify potential hazards. Furuno’s impressively fast ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) comes standard by default, and up to 100 targets can be automatically tracked if they’re traveling in your direction with a heading vector. Furuno has included RezBoost technology that allows the beam to be sharpened to the equivalent of 2 degrees. This allows targets as small as kayaks to be easily seen, all with reduced screen clutter. The DRS4D-NXT solid-state radar is compatible with Furuno’s TZT and TZT2 multi-function displays, and it only uses 25 watts of power (2.5 amps). The DRS4D-NXT radar retails at $1,900. furuno.com 

NeptuLink by MVG
MVG’s newly redesigned and sleek-looking NeptuLink transceiver system is designed for coastal cruisers. It receives and amplifies cellphone LTE, 4G, 3G, and 2G signals up to 20 nautical miles from shore. The system uses a Wi-Fi router on board to enable access for ship computers, smart phones and tablets. Download speeds can be as fast as to 100 Mbps and upload speeds up to 50 Mbps. Simple system programming is available with the use of a smart phone. The SIM card-based NeptuLink makes it easy to change cell carriers as you travel. The system can also utilize Wi-Fi when available in port to save on cellular data costs. MVG’s unique antenna configuration uses several internal antennas to reduce signal reflection from the water, which accommodates the rolling motion of a vessel. The NeptuLink system meets IP66 standards and comes with mounting hardware and LAN interconnection cable. The system retails for $2,800. mvg-world.com

— By Bill Bishop, Southern Boating Magazine December 2016