Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 23, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
First of all, Gemeco's iNstall app is free if you already have an iPhone or iPad. Second, though aimed at professional marine electronics installers, some of its tools are valuable to do-it-yourself types and even just regular boaters...
iNstall includes an ABYC-based wire sizer. Dial in wire length, maximum expected current flow and pow, there's the minimum gauge you need for the job. There are several of these out there as standalone apps or online widgets, but this one seems to be full featured -- except perhaps for a help file explaining nuances like "allowable voltage drop" -- and it's just one of many applets in the bundle.
There's also a calculator that estimates the bottom coverage of a particular transducer or of any transducer with a known beam width at a particular depth. This is a feature that I've always appreciated seeing on fishfinders or MFDs (always from Raymarine?) because it helps me understand what I'm seeing on the sonar screen. A big fish or rock that looks like it's right under the boat could, in fact, be anywhere in the sonar cone (or multiple cones for multiple frequencies and/or even somewhat flattened cones in some cases).
You may already have a tilt/heel measuring app, but iNstall's is nicely dampened and especially calibrated to help you determine which tilted element transducer to install at a specific hull location. And if you're catching on that iNstall is especially focused on transducers, you won't be surprised that the wholesale marine electronics distributor, Gemeco, in South Carolina is a subsidiary of Airmar Technology in New Hampshire.
But since Airmar manufactures at least some of the transducers offered by or for every marine electronics brand (I think), the app's depth of information in this area is substantial. You can search for wiring diagrams by name and plug image and then tap to download the PDF if your iThing is online. You can also search for appropriate mix and match transducers (PDF poster here) by plug type, legacy electronics definitely included, or search the whole Airmar transducer catalog by several criteria faster than you can on the company's own website.
The iNstall applets get more arcane with details of testing thermistors and the reference tables a tech uses with an EDI transducer tester. These serve mainly to remind me how complex even one corner of the marine electronics installer world can get. And also to remind me of the several installers who've recently told me that they feel like they're "caught between a rock and a hard place," or more specifically between big manufacturers who want to sell through every channel possible and customers who always want more for less. Now, imagine an iNstall app that also dealt with the subtleties of marine antennas, ethernet cabling, boat cams, etc., etc. Respect thy installer!
The good news is that Gemeco is looking for ideas about more useful applets to add to iNstall, and they distribute many more products than Airmar's. In fact, their thick catalog offers more lines of NMEA 2000 sensors and sub systems than I've ever seen in one place, along with a lot of other goodies that are often hard to source or even know about. And the catalog is all online for your perusal. Consumers cannot buy directly from Gemeco, but they're happy to direct you to a dealer/installer who can. I was reminded of that -- and frankly of the app, which debuted in September -- when the Gemeco phone number showed up on an Actisense advert here this week. If you do download iNstall, please tell us what you like and what you think should be added.