Remote Boat Monitoring and Control Systems

Marine telematics can help monitor and protect your boat remotely with app-based systems. Learn more about what they offer.
Techs monitoring boats
Remote boat monitoring helps keep your boat safe. Courtesy BoatFix

A buzzword at the 2023 International Boat Builders Expo (IBEX) was “telematics.” Marine telematics refers to app-based systems that let you remotely monitor your boat’s location, speed, engine data, bilge-water depth, hatch positions, maintenance requirements and more, reporting them to you via Wi-Fi, cellular or satellite, wherever you are.

You also can control some systems remotely from anywhere on Earth. It’s the Internet of Things, as they say.

Major marine manufacturers such as Brunswick and Yamaha are developing their own systems to seamlessly integrate into new boats. Some systems are also available for do-it-yourselfers or dealers to install on existing boats. So, what can telematics do for boaters? With boat theft an issue, location services are a big part of what they do. When activated, some telematics systems can be programmed with a geofence that alerts you if the boat departs a selected electronic perimeter. Each of the following four manufacturers’ systems have their own priority functions and strategies for implementation. 

BoatFix app and monitor
BoatFix focuses on the boater, having a 24/7 concierge desk where somebody with skills is always available. Courtesy BoatFix

BoatFix

BoatFix provides boaters a concierge service of tech- and power-savvy personnel within an easy phone call should any system on board refuse to function properly, even on a Sunday morning. BoatFix partners with boat companies such as Sea Pro and Carefree Boat Rentals (with more to come) to provide factory-installed systems with three-year monitoring contracts. While some brands focus primarily on data collection and analysis, BoatFix focuses on the boater, having a 24/7 concierge desk where somebody with skills is always available. Normally offered as an OEM product, the system is free for up to three years to a new-boat owner, but it requires a subscription fee to continue the service after that time period. 

Hardware

BoatFix requires no hardware for the concierge. However, it makes three accessory devices to remotely monitor your vessel location and has certain systems in conjunction with concierge services.

BFQL 200: This is its most popular device designed to track your boat’s position and onboard voltage, and report it to you and your concierge once every hour with the ignition off and once every minute with the ignition on. It requires no peripheral devices to do this job.

BFQL 300: This device is enhanced from the BFQL 200 with the addition of reporting bilge-pump cycles to the system, keeping boaters informed of trouble. 

BFQL 100: This is a self-contained, self-powered device to monitor and report boat position once per day for three years on its internal battery.

BoatFix’s 24/7 concierge desk is staffed with propulsion and boat-systems experts who can help diagnose malfunctions and often offer a strategy to repair them on-site. The company guarantees that skilled personnel will be in place to answer the phone and help solve any onboard issues. Its monitoring systems range from a simple, discreet GPS tracking device (BFQL 100) to a networkable system that can report the boat’s position within and without a geofence, notify the owner when the ignition has been engaged, and report repetitive bilge-pump cycles, which could indicate a hull penetration.

The App

The BoatFix Pro app provides a view of your vessel’s location and geofence region, records trips, and helps set routes via web-based mapping. It also gives fast access to towing services, and assists in communicating with concierge services for on-location repairs when possible. It could be called peace of mind on your smartphone.

Subscription Fee

$99 annually after initial three-year period.

Radian IoT monitoring
Radian’s telematics capture an impressive amount of data about boat usage. Courtesy Radian

Radian IoT

Radian’s founders established their company to partner B2B2C systems to assist boaters, builders, dealers, and financiers in managing their sport and business. Telematics capture an impressive amount of data about boat usage. With it, maintenance decisions can be made, product weaknesses and resulting improvements can be identified, and security information is reported to keep builders, financiers, and dealers aware of inventory status. 

Boater usage data can also help builders and dealers make purchasing and marketing decisions based on regional boating trends. The benefit to the boat owner is having the ability to monitor a boat remotely for the vessel’s safety, security and practical maintenance. Suppose, for example, that your engine regularly exhibits high temps. The M3 notifies you and your dealer that a water pump might need service.

Hardware

The gateway to all this data is the factory-installed Radian M3 device, designed to give boaters an enormous advantage in operating and maintaining the boat and its security, and enabling a dealer concierge service to the consumer. Many of the monitoring capabilities are built into the M3, eliminating some sensors. The device monitors two battery banks, bilge-pump cycles, ambient temp, G-forces (up to 2 G), and if the battery is on or off. It notifies the dealer and the owner via text message and the Radian app if service is required. Radian M3 does not create a geofence, but Radian’s Safe Zone system notifies the owner via the app if horizontal motion activates G-force sensors or an ignition sequence begins.

Bluetooth Hub 

With the hub, tire pressure and temperature sensors can be monitored while trailering. 

The App

Radian IQ gives a visual report of vessel status, location, and surrounding weather conditions, and provides access to some user- or builder-selected accessories.

Subscription Fee

Subscriptions may run one to three years by the manufacturer. Thereafter, renewals are $108 per year.

Garmin OnDeck Hub telematic system
Garmin’s OnDeck Hub provides a broad array of vessel security and monitoring when connected to an NMEA 2000 ­network. Courtesy Garmin

Garmin OnDeck Hub

Garmin’s OnDeck Hub telematic system was introduced two years ago. Even without a Garmin navigation system, it provides a broad array of vessel security and monitoring when connected to an NMEA 2000 network. It can gather and report connected engine data, helping to keep track of maintenance needs. The system works through Garmin’s exclusive ActiveCaptain app and cellular connectivity, keeping an eye on your boat’s location, hatch security, bilge-pump activity, battery level and more, all reported through the app. In addition, all notifications that might come through the app can be texted or emailed directly. All engine-operating data is also read and processed, giving owners an eye on the health and maintenance requirements of their engine systems. Five optional device relays can be activated through the hub for turning devices on or off on board.

Hardware

The OnDeck Hub is easy to install and includes an NMEA 2000 backbone cable and Garmin network cables. Unlike competitors, the OnDeck Hub includes most of the sensors that a boater would likely desire. Sensors are hard-wired, and the system is Wi-Fi-capable, so updating firmware as needed is easy to do via an internet connection or cellular hotspot. Add up to four more DC relay switches to enable remote switching for devices on board. The hub operates up to 48 hours on its internal battery when external power is removed and notifies the owner of the change, ensuring timely action to secure the vessel. It reports on vessel location status every 15 to 30 minutes. The OnDeck Hub retails for $849.99.

Accessories

  • OnDeck security sensor
  • OnDeck temperature sensor
  • OnDeck shore-power sensor
  • OnDeck relay switch (12-volt DC)
  • In/out data cable (19-pin), sensor/relay output
  • Garmin Marine Network cable
  • NMEA 2000 drop cable
  • NMEA 2000 T-connector

The App

ActiveCaptain

Subscription Fee

$19.99 per month, or $12.99 per month with an annual contract, including three free months of service.

Read Next: How To Install A Boat Security System

Siren Marine 3 Pro Hub system
The Siren 3 Pro Hub system can monitor location, battery voltage, and engine parameters. Courtesy Siren Marine

Siren Marine

Siren Marine was recently acquired by Yamaha Marine. Yamaha’s goal is to develop the ultimate “connected boat” through its own brands and independent boat brands such as Grady-White, Regulator, G3, and Skeeter. The Siren 3 Pro Hub system can also be installed aftermarket on existing boats, including its many wired and wireless sensors. The hub itself monitors boat position and battery voltage. If the system is connected to the boat’s propulsion system via its proprietary network, it can transmit reports on all engine parameters. Siren 3 Pro connects you to your boat via a free app and cellular or satellite communications systems and cloud-based accessory switching. In the future, Yamaha plans to enable boaters to access maintenance services, engine firmware updates and more.

Hardware

This hub offers cellular and satellite communications and internal GPS with geofence capabilities. It also monitors vessel voltage in the main bank to ensure that bilge pumps are running. More than a dozen wired and wireless connected sensors (priced from $38 to $140) monitor boat systems, including the bilge-water level, ambient temperature, bilge-pump cycles, hatch closures and openings, motion, and more. The hub retails for $796.86.

Accessories

  • Magnetic hatch sensors
  • Battery/voltage sensor
  • Bilge-pump-cycles sensor
  • High-water sensor
  • Temperature sensor
  • 120 and 240 AC shore-power sensor
  • Motion sensor
  • Canvas-snap sensor
  • DC accessory relay switch to turn onboard devices on or off

The App

The Siren Marine app serves as the dashboard to monitor and, in some cases, control onboard systems. It configures settings, adds sensors, and creates a geofence area.

Subscription Fee

Cellular service ranges from $22 per month to $225 per year. The satellite plan costs $350 per year.