The latest on computer and instrument networking

Discussion in 'OnBoard Electronics & Controls' started by RayThackeray, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. Tim B
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    Tim B Senior Member

    Our approach to environmental hardening seems to be somewhat bipolar. I am of the opinion that it is better (cheaper and more reliable) to ensure that the units (which may be a PC, or a monitor, or whatever) are well sealed and appropriately cooled. The very last thing you want is a risk of failure. Replacing it is no great problem, a PC, a few screens and some instruments might be $12k, but that's cheap isn't it?

    The problem comes when it fails EXACTLY when you need it most. That is why I suggest "over-engineering" it.

    Anyway, for the original poster's question. Yes, it's possible, but how hard it is depends on the features.

    Tim B.
     
  2. RayThackeray
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Wow, looks like this conversation is getting into the realms of megayacht engineering!

    Simply put, I'm going to have my laptop and iPad and a couple of smartphones on board anyway. Bugger whether they'll die in a couple of years in the marine environment - I replace them all every couple of years anyway so no biggie. Either way, all I'm asking is to be able to monitor my instruments on an iPad or laptop PC over WiFi.

    Surely some marine instrument company already allows this, or perhaps there's "An App for that"?

    How hard can it be?
     
  3. RayThackeray
    Joined: Apr 2011
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Wireless instruments data

    Now this is what I'm talking about! Now all I need to do is get the same data from wind instruments, speed log, radar screen, chart plotter etc. into an iPad and I'm a happy camper...

    iAIS
    Digital Yacht has developed a new, low cost navigation device for use with Apple's popular range of mobile products. Called iAIS, it wirelessly links a boat's navigation data to the Apple iPhone, iPad or iTouch. It also incorporates a highly sophisticated, dual channel Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver allowing compatible “apps” access to NMEA instrument, GPS and AIS data. Users simply turn on their device to wirelessly connect to the iAIS hot spot. No connection to the internet is needed and there are no cumbersome cables to connect. The AIS data (which brings information such as position, name, call sign, MMSI number, course and speed of other ships) then becomes available for any compatible application.
     
  4. yipster
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    yipster designer

  5. RayThackeray
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Yipster, indeed so. I can understand why the boat electronics people wouldn't want to provide it, but the only logical way forward is to make all instrument data (and even control) available via WiFi and a browser. Almost everyone on almost every boat is going to be carrying a device that can display via these media, whether a smartphone, tablet or PC (or even other more dedicated devices). I will NEVER buy extra secondary displays or controllers again. The first manufacturer (for example RayMarine) who can enable this will win big time, it'll take a commitment to becoming more "open" but it's the way things are inevitably going. The infrastructure of WiFi and browser is now so solid, long-term and ubiquitous.

    Hard wiring equipment and obscure, proprietary interfaces are DEAD. If you don't obsolete your own products - someone else will obsolete them for you.
     
  6. Lt. Kludge
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    Lt. Kludge Junior Member

    Monitoring is one thing. Controlling Throttle Position, Rudder, Pumps etc. is something else. There are not many fixed installations running Real Time Controls over wireless. And atleast in a water treatment plant there is some control over interfering transceivers. 50 WiFI Hotspots won't be coming in for Harborfest.

    Typical WiFI isn't concerned with the implication of a 50mSec delay in Comms. You can actually have interruptions in the second(s) range under what is considered "normal operations". Where Real Time Controls are into an Emergency Shutdown Procedure within a few hundreds of milliseconds.

    There is a world of difference in the EMC and Environemental Test Levels and Performance expectations between a consumer product like a Phone and a Control System especially if designed to meet Class Society specs.
     
  7. RayThackeray
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Jeez, we're talking about a secondary control station here! If you want fine control, you go to the pilothouse - WiFi is good enough for my boat. I'm not designing an aircraft carrier!
     
  8. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    I don't know if I can support this, especially the last paragraph.

    I'm a huge proponent of open standards, but there is no sign that proprietary technology or closed standards are getting any weaker. For example, modern cars use networking of the various computers in the car, but they don't use any open standard. They use something brewed up especially for automotive use, and while that might be a pain in the rear there is also good reason to do so.

    As far as providing an image of your instruments, or digital values on a web page, that is no big deal. Go ahead and mount that web cam or something.

    On the other hand, even for a relatively small boat I would want significant assurance of reliability for any control systems. WIFI is extremely convenient but anything in the back-end needs to be extremely reliable, and have a very good design that knows what to do if your WIFI goes down. You need time to get to the pilot house, and a badly designed control application could be catastrophic.
     
  9. RayThackeray
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Web cam?

    The webcam idea is a non-starter. Low res, would need automated panning and zooming, things would get in between the camera etc., a total nonsense.

    If you can't get an App or a browser URL from the instruments or a data consolidation, then it isn't a trivial problem and would require programming and systems integration.

    Whereas, if each instrument provider, of at least the high-end devices, would provide a website reflecting the display that could be picked up as an URL using WiFi, that's all that would be needed. I would wager good money that every one of 'em have it on the bench. In this day and age, I can't see why it isn't a standard. The arguments about security etc. are just fuddy-duddy reasons not to improve things.

    Even the military uses WiFi for mission-critical applications, so encryption etc. are all easily solvable.
     
  10. Lt. Kludge
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    Lt. Kludge Junior Member

    WebPage is easy once you have ethernet/WiFi access for the device. The real question is what information you choose to broadcast, and which parameters you allow an operator to change?

    Security camera's are available already set-up for use over Ethernet. WiFI or 100T.

    Mission Critical/Time Critical data is probably using a protocol a bit more specialized than typical Internet Protocol. The Ethernet Stack in a typical consumer product is not designed to push out the automatic retries and fault tolerance of more critical devices. Because the consequences of a visual image not loading is negligible. While the consequences of several tons of steel at 6 knots when a rudder becomes unresponsive to a hand-held transmitter can keep corporate attorneys awake nights. :)
     
  11. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    FWIW my webcam puts out a 1920x1080 signal, which is as high as any HDTV you can buy right now, and if the angles were right and the view unobstructed I could easily get a whole instrument panel for a smaller boat in the view and readable. Spend an extra $30 and you get better gear.

    There are electronic senders for just about everything, and an analog-to-digital converter will convert the signal to a digital value. A look-up table will convert that value to some sort of standard unit that makes sense to you. No big deal. It won't be a URL, it will just be a value. You need to have an application which can read those values and do something with them.

    As long as you're only trying to gather information to be published over the network I don't see any problem at all with what you're doing. The web cam would be on the order of $100, much more for something that reads electronic values and puts them on a web page.

    But the idea that controlling the boat is "no big deal" convinces me that you don't really understand how that type of gear works, or why it's so brutally expensive.

    Yes, it would be possible to hook up servos to control the engines and the rudders and just about anything else you want to control. You could go to your local hobby shop and get RC boat gear, amplify the signals and put it on some full sized gear if you like. As soon as the guy at the hobby shop knows what you're trying to do though, they'll stop helping. Because they know that while that tech is safe enough for its intended use, the idea of using it to power a boat with a bunch of people on it is ludicrous.

    I think the idea of an iPad-controlled boat is really neat for a small boat, where the driver can be in the seat in 30 seconds no matter where he's at. It's just not that easy.

    For example, how do you set it up so that when you're away the iPad controls are engaged, but once you're in the seat the controls automatically go back to manual? What if the software is locked up due to bad design? What if the servo controlling the throttle goes to full due to a software glitch, and the rudder slams over to the left?
     
  12. RayThackeray
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Let's not get caught up on the control aspect - the main requirement I've been espousing has been to be able to view the data. Webcam is no good, too many difficulties, inelegant and simply not what I want, especially with someone standing in the way of the camera.
     
  13. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    OK, I can live with that. I think the non-control part is the only one likely to be cheap enough for "a guy with a boat" to be able to justify anyway.

    If you don't like the webcam then you'll have to either pay extra cash for the stuff that works to a standard or you'll have to buy a bunch of extra equipment and hack it together yourself. As expensive as it would be to go with the better equipment, I think it will probably be more expensive to hack something together.

    Most systems that I've seen (all non-marine) which have electronic monitoring in addition to a dashboard have a system for the dash and a completely separate system for the electronics. That goes all the way back to include the sending unit. Boats may be different, I don't know.
     
  14. RayThackeray
    Joined: Apr 2011
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    RayThackeray Senior Member

    Finally getting down to finding products that will bring marine instrumentation kicking and screaming into the 20th century. Here are some that offer the exact products I was describing, they don't appear to have any problems figuring out how to make instrumentation visible on a smartphone. See:

    http://www.maretron.com/products/N2KView-Android.php
    http://www.maretron.com/products/ipg100.php
    http://www.seasmart.net/marine-wireless-networking-press.html
    http://www.seapc.com/press
    http://www.inavx.com/
    http://www.openskipper.com
    http://yachtelectronics.blogspot.com/search/label/canboat
    http://www.rovingnetworks.com/wifly-gsx.php
    http://openskipper.sourceforge.net/
     

  15. yipster
    Joined: Oct 2002
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    Location: netherlands

    yipster designer

    thats pretty much it, good finds, great stuff
    all those electronics are converging nowadays
    yet in practise its more fun in the drivers seat
    and a 300.- drone as video backup? ;)
     
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