AC on an iPad, Android coming too


Jeff Siegel of Active Captain (discussed here recently) is the first developer to submit a mock-up showing what his software might look like on an iPad (in response to my challenge), and it’s so intriguing it deserves a quickie entry.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that POIs could be neatly listed in the order a cruiser would encounter them along a given route.  They can be filtered, too; in this case only marinas offering special deals are showing.  I believe those deals are examples of the co-op advertising AC mentioned in their recent newsletter, and they look like a win-win thing to me.  Altogether, the Active Captain Companion app, which will likely be free, sure looks like a good use of the iPad’s portability, connectivity, screen size, and extra interface options.  Jeff plans something similar for Android phones and tablets using the Layar environment.  I’m hoping we’ll see more marine mock-ups for all these platforms.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

14 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Incidentally, Navionics won’t comment on plans for the iPad, but the new Marine apps I wrote about last week would certainly look good on one.

  2. Jeff says:

    Sell me an iPad type device but with a Pixel Qi screen, preferably on an open system and life will be just about perfect.

  3. Nick says:

    Almost as good as this product that was around in about 2001

  4. says:

    Hi Ben,
    I like the way AC works, but what troubles me (and others in the recent discussion on your other post about them) is that all community provided data is locked up. Do you know of any plans to provide XML/RSS-like interfaces so AC content can be used in other products and services? Google Earth-Maps, etc. It would be great if they would do that, in combination with the right CreativeCommons licenses. It would still allow them to build a nice business around the service, but having everything locked up prohibits me from contributing content.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Very good to hear from you, Yme (He’s the guy who founded Panbo), but I can’t answer your question. Maybe Jeff will. I believe Active Captain is interested in sharing data, but I don’t know about RSS feeds. Do sites like Yelp or Amazon feed their user generated data like that?

  6. says:

    Hi Ben,
    Definitely, they do. Amazon pioneered this (API-driven) model, they are a platform that others built upon. ActiveCaptain does not allow that at the moment.
    I just read an interesting thread over on Cruisers Forum in which Jeff participated as well. He mentioned an XML/JSON interface, but I’m not sure if it is or will be available to everyone. Unfortunately the discussion over there is a bit confusing, because things like open source and providing APIs are mixed and they are definitely not the same. I don’t think it (AC) has to be open source per se, Jeff correctly states why that could be difficult to succeed. But I do think AC needs open API’s (read & write) if it really wants to be ubiquitous and successful. He can still add certain (restrictive) licenses, but he needs to allow others to built great things on top of AC. And you need APIs for that. It will facilitate an ecosystem that will only make AC stronger. Look at Amazon, look at Facebook, etc. As you know I manage a (user generated) website with millions of users, we do exactly the same thing. And making money with it as well;-)

  7. Karen and I have worked full-time on ActiveCaptain for the last 3+ years. In the beginning, it was labeled as a scheme to steal boater’s email addresses. That never materialized. Now we’re accused of having some scheme to collect everyone else’s data for some huge money-making ploy. Enough of this already!
    We’re cruisers ourselves. We developed ActiveCaptain in 2006 because we felt there was no one doing the things that needed to be done – collecting data from others, verifying it, validating it, and making it available. We’ve made it free and freely available continuously since January 2007 when it was made public.
    There are a variety of issues with the data. It is contributed by a vast number of people. In addition, there are liability concerns with all of it. We get threatened with suits every month over it. The threats are foolish and show a complete lack of understanding about today’s world but it’s the reality that we live in. It’s one of the reasons we need to own and control the data ourselves for now. You might not agree with that but it’s the legal advice we’ve been given and it’s what we’re using for the time being. Remember that this is a very small vertical market and not something of interest to millions of people. That changes the view in a big way.
    Another common complaint is that because our data is not under a creative commons type of license, there’s no guarantee that we will keep it available. Instead, we’ll just sell it off and then the data goes away. You know, there’s a valid concern there. But here are the facts – we’ve been offered money already. We’ve been offered exclusive deals. We’ve turned them all down because the success of ActiveCaptain is having it available for everyone. We’ll likely adopt a CC license in the future when we can continue to receive benefits from it. Comparing us to Amazon is silly – sure Amazon keeps their information open because you end up being able to only buy the products from Amazon. Give us time to develop those types of infrastructures and capabilities. We have some really fresh ideas about how to do it in a way that will be appealing to our users.
    In terms of technical openness, we have a variety of service models including XML, custom models, and soon JSON – all available through normal URI accesses. We support both online access to the data as well as offline/synchronized access to the data. We have a model that even formats all of the detail data as an html block for trivial display of the 100+ fields. The first public display of that will happen this week as a major manufacturer shows support in their products at the Miami Boat Show. It’s the first – there are more in the works.
    There is no way to create any product that satisfies everyone all the time. All I ask is that you give us a chance. If you’re so incredibly offended by our licensing and requirements, then don’t contribute. You’re still welcome to use ActiveCaptain and benefit from it like I did when I used our own new Hazard marker last week to save me from a grounding. We’re trying to find our way in this changing world to keep expanding the capabilities and keep growing the usefulness. The original cries about email-stealing were wrong and the new cries about openness are wrong too. You’ll see.

  8. says:

    Dear Jeff,
    Not sure if you were referring to me as being offended, but if you did you probably misunderstood me. With data being locked up I do did not mean AC can’t ‘own’ and ‘commercially exploit’ the data. I’m just saying it could benefit you, and your users, if you’d make the data available for uses outside the AC user interface (with licenses that allow this, may be only for private non-commercial usage). Reading your comments I understand you have these webservices available, but are they also documented somehwere? I would love to play around with them. Being able to access (and even submit) this data programmatically would definitely encourage me to contribute to and promote AC.

  9. Hi Yme,
    Yes, the interfaces are documented and yes, other organizations have used them. Like I said, there’s a pretty big showing of this later in the week by a company outside of Active Corp. We definitely want others to use the data and have no intention of being the only user-interface available. But we also need to go slowly with it. Every new developer who uses our interfaces has suggestions and I learn from their implementations. For example, we have over 100 fields in each marina record and it becomes a burden for other organizations to format all of the data for display. From that feedback we learned to have a service that serves html data of all the marina data pre-formatted and ready to display.
    So for right now we’re walking with a few parties who are using the data. Soon we’ll be dancing with more and eventually it’ll be much more available to anyone.

  10. says:

    Great to read about the MaxSea integration, I was already planning use TimeZero this season. Makes it an even easier choice…

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I came across more enthusiasm about the iPad in Miami and elsewhere, and will have post another neat iPad app soon. Meanwhile, my Cruising World article on iPhone apps is now online:

  12. richardstephens says:

    The Memory-Map app mentioned in Ben’s Cruising World article is now available. Just search for Memory-Map in iTunes. There is a free trial version.

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Today Active Captain announced the co-op advertising plan for marinas foreshadowed in the screen shot above, and it sure sounds attractive for all parties:
    I also hear that more partnerships like the MaxSea one are in the works:

  14. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    After using my android phone for a week now, I am loosing patience with my 3 month old iTouch.
    I have been using this iTouch since Christmas, have gotten savy with about 10 applications, and use the bluetooth feature with a wireless Nokia headset to listen to music.
    After using the Verizon DROID phone for a week, I am suddenly finding the iTouch’s interface stronly annoying in that you can’t have more than one application running at the same time.
    I think this will only be a bigger problem with the iPad, where you have a screen large enough to expect a couple of applications to run side by side.

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