Integration: New Ways Every Day
Every marine-electronics manufacturer is in the integration business, and that goes doubly for MFD and monitor makers. The open-standard NMEA 2000 communications protocol has finally gained traction, opening up new possibilities for adding sensor readouts to our displays. Wireless components and iPad apps achieve integration in different ways. New products come to market every day.
A common example of system expansion is the addition of a second or third station. MFD makers have devised clever ways to achieve that just by adding a monitor. Simrad, for example, lets you add displays, while actually operating the systems by remote control in sync with the central MFD. Add a dual-touch Windows 7 Touch monitor to a Furuno TZtouch system and the monitor is a fully functioning second station, using swipes and taps identical to those of the TZtouch MFD. Raymarine, Furuno, and others have just unveiled apps for Android and iOS that let you control any navigation system within wireless range. (For more information on Wi-Fi aboard, check out “Riding the Waves”)
The marine-monitor industry, meanwhile, sees its future in customization. KEP Marine, Nauticomp, and VEI Systems don’t just sell displays. They sell the controllers, switching gear, NMEA 2000 gateways, and marinized PCs to achieve any possible combination. Unlike the MFD people, who want mariners to join them in techno-matrimony and be loyal customers with single-brand helm arrays, the monitor folks advocate the big love of multibrand goodness.
Says Mike Bader, COO of VEI systems: “With our system you can use any one of three different manufacturers’ cameras. You can choose the company that makes the best radar [or] the company that makes the best PC charting. You can have eight different companies—the ones that do the best job in each category—and it’s all integrated through our equipment. You can see it at the helm and throughout the boat.”