Another great trend in marine electronics is LED backlit screens, which offer better performance and longer life while using less power. The technology is particularly noticeable in the rash of new all-in-one color instruments, like Raymarine’s i70, Furuno’s RD33, Geonav’s MID 110 (geonavmarine.com) and B&G’s Triton (www.bandg.com). And don’t think that these instruments are just for sailors these days. Most can display engine gauge data, rudder angle, waypoint highway and much more, sometimes even including automated information system (AIS) targets or sea temperature graphs. In all cases they can free an MFD to show more chart, radar or fish finder, and in some they can bridge a boat’s existing NMEA 0183 or SeaTalk data to NMEA 2000.
The trend I like the most, though, is that all the trends I’ve alluded to above are taking marine electronics to a place where really neat surprises are quite possible. And I’m not just talking about a fixed VHF radio with a GPS built in to make digital selective calling (DSC) distress calls simple, though Standard Horizon will have such an innovation this year. I’m thinking instead of the Fish Gate 100 (scalesbeyondmeasure.com), which is a precision scale with an NMEA 2000 connection so that catches can be logged with position, depth and water temperature. The product also includes software for computing tournament best-five-fish statistics, and a communications link so this data can get ashore in real time. A tablet app that integrates the data with photos and notes can’t be far behind. Besides tournaments, imagine sharing catch info between friends.
Or how about an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) with an HD video camera that both displays on an iPad and is controlled by it? Check out the Aquabotix HydroView Sport ($2,995, aquabotix.com). Or consider Garmin’s GDL 40 cellular weather receiver. It does a nice job delivering XM-style weather overlays to Garmin MFDs for a reasonable daily fee. But it’s also a fast two-way connection between a boat’s NMEA 2000 network and shore. Imagine streaming live engine data to a mechanic instead of trying to explain that weird chukka-klunk sound you’re hearing. Another possibility is off-boat security. Garmin may be fixing to surprise us.
Mobile devices, industry standards and boat-specific technology improvements are coming together in unpredictable but exciting ways. My main advice about marine electronics these days is to prepare for change and expect better, more enjoyable technology.
As the senior marine electronics editor for the Bonnier Marine Group, Ben Ellison sometimes writes for Boating’s sister publications and also edits panbo.com, a blog about marine electronics.