Boat Security Systems | Boating Magazine

Boat Security Systems

Protect your boat with the right security system.

IZon View
Service fee: free

A little larger than a lipstick tube, the ­camera’s concave bottom fits magnetically to a convex base. Fasten it to an overhang or set it on a flat surface. The motion-activated camera shoots full color in daylight and infrared images at night. The image can be flipped for upside-down mounting. You get free video storage for up to 100 events and up to 25 event ­notifications daily.

Our Experience
We downloaded the iZon app and plugged in the camera. The handy QR code activation process didn’t work on our camera — and this was the second experience like that. No matter, following manual setup, we had it up and running in three minutes. We immediately got emails and text messages when it activated and then more when it detected noises above the sound threshold we’d set. Birds chirping would set it off, so we deactivated sound activation. The motion detection window is easy to customize in the app by pinching the translucent window over the camera image. We set ours to avoid capturing stray cats. Careful positioning avoids false alarms while keeping the camera at sentry watching only the area you need to protect. Images were surprisingly crisp and night vision was remarkable. Notifications of intrusion with video links were nearly instantaneous.

Power Demands: 120 to 240 volts
An App for That?: IOS and Android apps give full connectivity to the cameras for real-time viewing and to display security breach videos.
Wishes: We wish it were weatherproof.
Tech Support Notes: We didn’t need tech support but called as a test.
Time to Tech Support: We left a message and got a call back in 17 minutes.
Geofence Test: It notifies of motion in the view frame, letting us know someone entered or pulled the boat away.

Satellite, Cellular or Wi-Fi: 2/3
Tech Support Access: 3/3
Easy Setup: 3/3
An App for That: 3/3
Geofence Updates: 1/3
Total: 12/15

Spot Trace
Service fee: $99.99 to $199.98

This satellite system is the size of a Zippo lighter, so it can be hidden anywhere in the boat as long as only a layer of fiberglass or plastic comes between it and the stars. Its snap-on bracket can be glued or screwed in place. An accelerometer detects motion and notifies the owner via email or text message. Several contacts can be set. Notifications can be set at intervals of 2½, five or even more minutes. When the asset stops, another message is sent. Standby battery times number into weeks, while monitoring and reporting battery life is measured in hours and days. Hard-wiring the device to the battery makes more sense — if you can hide the power cable. Battery power will take over when external power is removed. Spot will text and email you when power is low.

Our Experience
This was the easiest of all devices to set up and maintain, owing partly to its single-minded mission of telling you where your remote asset is. We put our test device in our boat, hitched up and immediately got a notification of motion. Then our progress to the dentist and finally the office was monitored and reported.

Power Demands: 12-volt battery or three AAA batteries
An App for That?: iOS and Android
Wishes: We wish the waterproof ­12-volt power cord were standard, not a $50 option.
Tech Support Notes: The tech staff was knowledgeable and easy to reach.
Time to Tech Support: Instant
Geofence Test: It activates on motion, not geofence, but the unit often failed to notify us of the moment that motion was begun. Yet it did apprise us of changing locations.

Satellite, Cellular or Wi-Fi: 2/3
Tech Support Access: 3/3
Easy Setup: 3/3
An App for That: 3/3
Geofence Updates: 1/3
Total: 12/15

GPLink GPLink
Service fee: $1,500 annually with concierge

This security system’s communication functions on cellular and satellite systems, opting for the cheaper connections when available. A concierge service helps monitor your vessel, following up with automated notifications in the most critical circumstances. The engine-monitoring system is most impressive, though we couldn’t test it directly, lacking diesel power with digital communications ports. It communicated rpm, speed, fuel flow and many other engine running variables and fault codes in near real time to the GPLink site for remote monitoring. Our test system monitored AC power and bilge water levels. Entryway and motion sensors are among the many available.

Our Experience
This was by far the easiest full-security system to assemble and activate. We powered it with a paperback-size lithium-ion battery starter pack for two hours as we set off cross-country with the device activated below the coffin-box hatch of our boat.

It clocked our progress in real time via cellular networks beginning when we left our geofence. When cellular connections failed in the more remote “toolies” of south-central Florida, it engaged satellite service to maintain full tracking until the battery died — and it sent us voltage warnings as voltage diminished. All these notifications and our position on a chart were visible on the GPLink tracking Web page. Each notification included a location link. Bilge water levels used a more reliable electronic, not mechanical, float switch. A customized time delay can be set to allow bilge water problems to self-correct. The AC power sensor is simply plugged into any outlet. All censors communicated with the system wirelessly.

Power Demands: 12 to 24 volts, low draw
An App for That?: Under development
Wishes: We wish it would talk to gasoline inboards and outboards and offer a security camera option.
Tech Support Notes: Not only were technicians knowledgeable, but they also knew us on subsequent calls.
Time to Tech Support: No waiting
Geofence Test: It’s easy to establish a geofence and customize it to allow ­in-port operation for fueling or maintenance without deactivating it.

Satellite, Cellular or Wi-Fi: 2/3
Tech Support Access: 3/3
Easy Setup: 3/3
An App for That: 2/3
Geofence Updates: 3/3
Total: 13/15

GOST NT-Evolution 2.0 SM/Watch HD
Service fee (monthly): $36/$30

Our satellite-based GOST (Global Ocean Security Technologies) NT-Evolution test system ($4,999) informs you of your boat’s status at all times. The Inmarsat M2M GPS monitors your boat’s position and provides online 24/7 tracking. Set the geofence to include only your slip or your full marina, should you wish to allow staff to move the boat for maintenance, fueling or pump-outs. A voltage sensor, a bilge water-level monitor and an entry-point sensor offered more protection. Should any of these triggers (or any of the many optional ones) be tripped, automatic email and text messages update you on the vessel’s status. An IP67 water-resistant housing protects the system.

Optional GOST Cloak, upon illegal egress, completely fills the vessel with an opaque, odorless, residue-free smoke to render intruders blind. Our test system also featured GOST Watch HD ($9,888) with two (of six max) security cameras that stream live from the vessel.

Our Experience
We assembled the components on a panel and powered them with a 12-volt ­jump-start battery for two to three hours. All the components were given their electronic “handshake” at the factory, so our job was just to plug them into the system and turn it on. In addition, we needed to log onto the website to designate emergency contacts, set the geofence and set preferences for alarm sensitivity.

We received notification when the system powered up and another when the battery was depleted. We were notified when a test hatch was opened and when our tester triggered the bilge float. When our boat drove away from home port, GOST tracked it in real time, so we could communicate with law enforcement on the vessel’s whereabouts.

Eyeball cameras transmitted color video to our laptop via the website. When the FLIR M-Series camera is online, the owner can rotate the camera 360 degrees and 180 degrees up or down to inspect the vessel remotely.

All these features require a robust communication system, and that is a power gobbler. Ample 12- or 24-volt power at about 6 amps is required to keep the system functioning, making this best suited for long-range cruisers.

Power Demands: 12 to 24 volts, ­moderate 6 amp
An App for That?: GOST Watch only
Wishes: We wish it were more compact and could function on less amperage.
Tech Support Notes: Not only were technicians knowledgeable, but each team member also knew about our customized system and our call history.
Time to Tech Support: No waiting
Geofence Test: A 500-meter (1,640-foot) zone is easy to customize to allow in-port operation for fueling or maintenance without deactivating the device.

Satellite, Cellular or Wi-Fi: 2/3
Tech Support Access: 3/3
Easy Setup: 3/3
An App for That: 3/3
Geofence Updates: 3/3
Total: 14/15

Boat owners are happiest on their boat and second happiest when they know it is safe. Over the past year, we’ve seen many products designed to help boaters know all is well with their vessels. These gizmos have ranged from ones as simple as a motion-activated lipstick-tube camera to satellite-communication systems monitoring entryways and bilge water, maintaining a geofence around the boat and, on some, even letting you peek on board if something has gone awry.

Here are a handful of contenders to consider and the process by which we evaluated them.

How We Tested
Satellite, Cellular or Wi-Fi?
Vessels capable of cruising overseas need satellite communication to be tracked offshore. Cellular range is most economical for inland vessels, and Wi-Fi is usually useful in the marina. The devices we tested used at least two of these communication bands to offer maximum security for our test vessel. We gave three points to the products that used all three bands and fewer points for those using fewer bands.
Wi-Fi, Satellite and Cellular: 3
Satellite and Cellular: 2
Wi-Fi Only: 1

Tech Support Access
Not one of these devices is exactly plug-and-play easy to install. The good news is that tech support was easily available for them all. Some answered their tech support line instantly, and some within a reasonable wait of a couple of minutes. We awarded points as follows:
Instant Access: 3
Short Wait: 2
Unreasonable Wait: 0

Easy Setup
Could the average, everyday, computer-savvy user set this up single-handedly?
Yes: 3
With Tech Support: 2

An App for That?
App and Online Access: 3
Fully Addressable in an App: 3
Online Only: 2

Geofence Updates
Email, Text with Location: 3
Email, Text When Geofence Is Breached: 2