Digital Yacht iAIS, hello apps developers

Digital Yacht iAIS.jpg

I don’t have a good image yet, and some really interesting new products have revealed themselves in Newport, but I’ll bet a lot of readers will want to know about Digital Yacht’s iAIS, announced yesterday in the U.K.  It’s a high quality AIS receiver that can also take in a boat’s sensor data — like GPS, depth, wind, etc. — via a NMEA 0183 port, multiplex it into the AIS target data, and send it all out over WiFi to the crew’s iPhones, iPads, Androids, etc.  It will cost about $450, ship in October, and here’s hoping it’s just the beginning of things to come…

First of all, iNavX is the only app I know of that will be able to use the iAIS right off the bat (except that DY will offer a free AIS viewer).  So every charting app developer on the planet — and there are lots — should consider putting support of 0183 data over WiFi on their road map.  But getting much 0183 data into the iAIS is going to take a separate multiplexer (though maybe the Actisense N2K-to-0183 gateway will play well with iAIS).  So hopefully DY or someone is working on a device like this that works with NMEA 2000, or just a simple N2K-to-WiFi appliance, or better yet an N2K-to-WiFi gadget that includes the Third Party Gateway protocols so that commands can be sent back into the boat’s N2K network. And which MFD or PC charting developer will be first to offer an easy but powerful two-way connection to smart phones, pads, etc.?  I’ve heard that one has already demoed a prototype system that automatically loads a route planned with a charting app onto an MFD.  There are many ways to skin this cat.  Let’s discuss (though I need to play show judge all day…)

PS 9/20.  This diagram illustrates some iAIS detail, like USB output, I’ve just become aware of:


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.

41 Responses

  1. Sparky says:

    Should be pretty straight forward to adapt any IOS or Android nav app to accept NMEA 0183 over Wifi/TCP/IP. Would also like to see this done via Bluetooth (for the power constrained sailors).
    A pure 0183 (serial) to Wifi/TCP/IP converter can be done for about $100.

  2. Alex Nislick says:

    Ben, I have an iPad with INavX on it and I also have a free version of the app called Ship Finder, which uses AIS information to show you ships broadcasting AIS info. It seems to be full featured and I used it this summer in Portland, Me. and Portsmouth, N.H. harborsAnother great app is called Buoy Data, which gives you the weather information for the nearest, or any buoy, also it has a “forecast” button which gives you the NOAA Marine 7 day forecast for that area.

  3. Kenyon says:

    I’ve been looking at this for a while and have been surprised that nobody has provided a solution. I am a software developer and had considered starting a project based on one of the very popular open source router projects like DD-WRT with an Actixense N2K gateway.
    Basically, the router runs Linux and becomes a server for N2K data on top of all of it’s normal functionality. I have spoken with Actisense and the Linux drivers for the NGT-1 should be available soon. Everyone needs a router running anyway, and this would save you from having to have another device. Also, routers are cheap enough that you could have a backup or two.
    This could easily be turned into an open source project specifically for marine uses and provide other functionality as well. I doubt the marine industry is going to like that very much, but they need to get with the 21st century even if we have to drag them kicking and screaming. If they wanted to manufacture a marinized version running the open source software, they could turn it into a product easily as the hardware is available cheaply from manufacturers in China. There are other solutions using off the shelf hardware, this is just one.
    If we can get away from the black boxed closed environment, the possibilities are endless…

  4. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I’m sure you will report any price breaks on receivers and transcievers.
    Shouldn’t we be seeing Class B AIS’s based on the pack-of-cards-sized board previewed a bit ago? The specs looked like it was pretty much a complete unit looking for a pretty label.

  5. Nick says:

    There is a lot of charting software that can receive instrument data over tcp or udp.

  6. Kyle says:

    Honestly, how many more AIS receivers do we need?
    At this point it seems like there are as many different receiver models out there as total transceivers.
    How many people are buying all these receivers not knowing they’re completely invisible?

  7. Sparky says:

    Kenyon, please contact me direct at [email protected]. Cheers

  8. Patrick - sv Deep Playa says:

    Whenever you say something connects to the N2K network, can you also mention whether it is POWERED off the N2K network or if it has a separate power supply.

  9. Noel says:

    Kenyon, I successfully flashed a Linksys WRT54G with DD-WRT. Very straightforward. I think what is really needed now are N2K IP, and NMEA 0183 IP bridges. Then, all the routing/filtering/configuration could be done in the WRT. B&B has several which might fit the bill:
    I’d be interested in working on an open source project.
    [email protected]

  10. Furuno Tech says:

    FYI – Going Wireless
    Both the Furuno FA30 AIS Receiver and the FA50
    Class B AIS output standard NMEA0183 AIS Strings encapsulated in Ethernet UDP message packets.
    If you bring an NMEA0183 GPS Feed into the FA30, it will also combine GGA,VTG,ZDA…into the UDP strings as well. The FA50 does this automatically because it has an internal GPS.
    Simply hardwire the FA30/50 to a port in your existing wireless Ethernet router.
    Or course, Maxsea Time Zero already supports this wireless bridging and the next version of Nobeltec will support this capability as well.
    Furuno Tech

  11. sailoutbound says:

    Hey Noel,
    My thought was to choose a supported router with a USB port and use the Actisense NGT-1 USB N2K gateway. The data from the NGT-1 would just need to be sent over the network using a simple UDP server. A small web app could also be written to reside on the router with HTML pages of the N2K data. This way, you don’t even need client apps that support N2K over IP to just view the data. There is more that one way to skin this cat of course, this would just be a clean all-in-one solution that provides a ton of other value that we haven’t even discussed.
    For now, one could use the Actisense serial version and a serial server to get the data onto the network. They have a wireless version as well. This solution would work today with very no programming and very little in the way of configuration.
    I saw the post from the Furuno Tech, that their FA30 and FA50 AIS units provide some of this functionality. That is great, it sounds like a good product and I will look into it. It also costs $1,800 and you still have to have a router.
    If Actisense or Maretron is listening, there is obviously an opportunity for an ethernet/N2K gateway. Just data getting to one PC is so 2006, we want it on all our devices now…

  12. Noel says:

    I think your approach might work, but I’m not wild about the USB requirement for the router. A CanbusIP bridge ( ), along with a Digi Connect or Vlinx bridge ( ) keeps most of the programming on the router rather generic and focused on IP sockets which are both more simple and reliable than Canbus and 422.
    Of course, this approach is a bit of a kluge since (in my opinion) all the instruments and displays should be IP. But until that happens, there seems to be little choice but to build a bridge for each.
    In any event, the router should be the website for the vessel. Anyone (with credentials) should be able to log on and, using a generic browser, access and control the systems.

  13. Mark says:

    Currently iNavx supports TCP connections which is a point to point connection. While reliable and robust, TCP only supports one link to the data source at a time ( in this case NMEA data over wifi ). I have exchanged some emails with the developer of iNavx with the hope they might consider adding the capability of utilizing UDP, which is multicast and would allow for multiple listeners ( more than one iPhone or iPad running iNavx ) to make use of the data feed. UDP is used extensively in market data type feeds for trading floors.
    This would enable crew with iPhones or ipads to quickly check vitals in their bunks without having to make a trip to the chart plotter or topside.
    I have installed a WiBox from Latronix which has been working quite well.
    The DY unit looks promising, as it would eliminate the need to purchase a separate multiplexer as AIS data feeds are typically a different baud rate than standard NMEA 01832.

  14. Kenyon,
    I’m keen to contribute to an open source project to make it easier to interconnect marine systems.
    Please contact me [email protected]
    Marius Coomans

  15. Noel says:

    While UDP may well be preferred for one way data access, TCP can support as many paths to the data as you need through multiple sockets, and it also allows two way communication (steer the boat).

  16. sailoutbound says:

    Hi All,
    I think that the protocol depends on what you want to do, I would say a mix would be good. For apps that just consume and display instrument data, UDP multicast makes sense since it is much faster and you don’t really want to wait for packets that were dropped because it’s stale data anyway. If you want to put something back on the bus though, TCP would probably be more appropriate, although there are ways to make UDP more reliable.
    It seems that I have opened a can of worms here. I have been getting some responses on starting a project based on this discussion. It would probably be more efficient to move this to a forum topic instead of discussing it all here.
    Ben, are you cool with that? We could move it elsewhere if you like.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Totally cool with that, Kenyon. I think the NMEA 2000 category on the Forum will work, but if you guys really get going, I’m willing to create a new category for you (and can reclassify your earlier entries to it).

  18. Noel says:

    I’m not at all against UDP, just wanted to point out TCP also supports multiple users.
    That is a generous offer. While I can’t speak for others, the main thrust of all my arguments is that Ethernet is a superset, not a subset of NMEA 2000/0183. It would not seem inappropriate for this discussion to have it’s own title. Thanks,

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    How about an “Ethernet & WiFi” category, or maybe “Open Source Projects”?

  20. Noel says:

    Ethernet & WiFi sounds right to me.

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Done! (Though you may need to refresh your browser to see the new category.)

  22. sailoutbound says:

    I just posted it under NMEA
    Ben, can you move it?

  23. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    This morning I received more detail on the DY iAIS, some of which you can see in the diagram I just added to the entry. Important points:
    * Besides WiFi, the iAIS receiver also outputs 38,400 baud NMEA 0183 via standard two wire connection for plotters and USB for PCs. All three outputs can be used simultaneously.
    * The iAIS can be powered with 12 or 24 volts, and “typically consumes 1-2W maximum”…nice!
    * The included WiFi access point has a 100m range in “free air conditions” and will present itself to WiFi receivers as “Wifly-GSX-dd” where dd is the last two digits of a unique MAC address. Only one WiFi receiver can be connected at any one time.
    I think I’ll get to see a working iAIS at the NMEA Conference in Seattle a little over a week from now.

  24. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Marine apps for iPads etc. are going connect to boats in so many ways! Learned just last night:
    * Brookhouse is just about to introduce a NMEA 0183 multiplexer with WiFi built in.
    * In the meantime, Brookhouse has put together detailed instructions on how to use a down below navigation PC to feed an iPad:
    * Figaro racers in France are using iPads running the $10 app Air Display to make them a second monitor to their nav PCs:

  25. Ray says:

    This discussion is funny in the most fundamental premise: the iPad has dependable wifi. Perhaps you should start reading Apple’s discussion boards.
    I’ve been out for almost three months now. Mostly land, some water. I have a 3G iPad. Wifi connectivity on these things stinks. Constant drops, signal strength that varies all over the map and a very poor antenna (worse than the iPhone or iPod Touch, both of which I also own). Routers don’t mean anything. I have three Apple routers (all 2 years old or less). Two of them are identical and share the same config. iPad works with one, not on the other. With non-Apple routers, I’d say at least half the routers I’ve logged into have problems. Also, with wifi connected full time, you might have 5 hours of battery life, you will have a few crashes.
    Plan on Apple improving the situation. We’ve been waiting over 6 months now and nothing has been done. But I’m sure we will see a camera and other “essentials” in the near future.
    I’ve used mine on the boat. On the couch, same as at home. To use it, you need to lock it’s orientation (no issue), lock it down with a decent bracket (big, look at RAM’s), be able to easily change it’s orientation (i.e. a large articulating arm) to deflect the sun and keep it plugged in. You now have an object larger than the MacBook Air I keep at the lower helm and a fraction of the functionality.

  26. Ray says:

    And the thought of using an iPad as an external display. Try it and watch your network slow to a crawl. Then take a look at your network stats. You will find literally gigabytes of data flow keeping that screen refreshed.

  27. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Ray, here’s the article about French racers using iPads as remote displays:
    Google Translate is pretty funny about deciphering the tech language, but it looks like at least six top racers have equipped themselves this way.
    I’ll get to fool with this stuff myself very soon, as I finally gave in and bought an iPad. Here’s hoping that Apple’s WiFi radio is half as good as its delivery process. I ordered the iPad late on Wed. with standard shipping. It left Shenzhen, China, early Thursday morning and is now at FedEx’s Portland, Maine, distribution hub!

  28. GPSNavX says:

    The free plotter app for the DigitalYacht iAIS receiver is now available in the app store. Just search for iAIS. Of course having an iAIS receiver makes the app far more useful.

  29. Patrick W says:

    Brookhouse has now introduced their “iMux” – a multiplexer with WiFi.
    It is not yet on their price list but I have just had an email from Wout letting me know that the price is $325 (more for the ST model) and they have a wait list but should have some units available in 3 weeks.
    This looks to be an extremely versatile product at a competitive price and an interesting alternative to the DigitalYacht iAIS receiver if one already has AIS.

  30. Michael Zapf says:

    Hi Folks,
    please check NMEAremote on iTunes.
    Michael (the devloper of this App)

  31. Arno Molenaar says:

    I was wondering is it possible to use the Actisense NGT-1 ISO(rs232)with a rs232 bluetooth converter to connect N2K bus wireless to a pc

  32. Benoit says:

    I have just received (and installed) the iAIS… I was originally looking for the iMux but after Three months of waiting, and no shipment date info, I had to finalize this project..
    Now, there is one significant difference between the iAIS and the iMux, besides the AIS support… It looks to me that the iMux has the capability to output the data at 4800 bauds, while the iAIS is “stuck” on 38400 bauds… This means in simple terms that you cannot use your iNavX program through the iAIS NMEA server to drive the autopilot if you use a Raymarine ST for instance (who needs a max speed of 4800 bds)… sounds like nothing, but worth thinking of before comitting those hundreds of pounds…

  33. GPSNavX says:

    Correct, the Brookhouse iMux can accept 4 NMEA inputs (one can be AIS) and can output NMEA up to the typical 4 NMEA compatible instruments (VHF, Autopilot).
    The benefits of the DigitalYacht iAIS are: It’s an AIS receiver, it can be connected to the USB port of a PC/Mac while still be used wirelessly to iPod/iPad/iPhone. It accepts one NMEA input (typically a GPS receiver).
    I spoke to Brookhouse recently and they said there is a 2-3 week time frame to get an iMux. They have been extremely popular. I like the iMux because it is very flexible. It can work with a PC/Mac over USB (Requires separate USB cable) and with iPod/iPad/iPhone over WiFi. Recently I combined an iMux with an Actisense NGW-ISO to support NMEA 2K operation. Worked perfectly.

  34. Benoit says:

    That’s what I ws afraid of, but the iAIS is not THAT limited…
    I have installed a Tacktick NMEA box (wind compass and Hull info) outputing on one yellow wire to the iAIS. I have added the signal of the GPS (a Garmin 276C) on the same entry and all of this is fed into the iAIS and appears great on the iPad… the only negative is the autopilot…
    Now there is the question of knowing if you want to use the iPad as a driving mechanism of the boat or as a super information tool… I frankly do not know for sure… I can imagine that while cruising, you want to read your mails… the whole system would then collapse…
    Food for thoughts….

  35. GPSNavX says:

    DigitalYacht have released a product similar to the iAIS, but without the AIS. It supports one NMEA-0183 input and one NMEA-0183 output. The output can be used to control an Autopilot..
    iNavX setup instructions updated..

  36. Llew says:

    I can’t get my tack tick interface to talk to my Isis. Did you just connect the one wire?

  37. Benoit says:

    You need to link the NMEA out of tacktick to the iAIS (2 wires, + and shield (-) ) It’s normally that simple YET, you need to get the iAIS to work. This means opening the connection from the iPad (you’ll see a lot of green messages going through in the small console window)
    I’m using now a iMux wich has the beauty of getting the AIS sentences from a AIS receiver (such as a Navicom RT650 AIS) from the iPad and still able to output it at a slow rate to the Pilot. The iAIS outputs at 38400bps which is too fast for a Raymarine Pilot.. not a big deal in absolute terms but annoying for tech crazy like me…
    The iAIS is cosmetically MUCH better than the iMux…

  38. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Benoit
    My iAIS talks to my iPad no problem, I get all theAIS data but no data from my tack tick system. Is there any way to test the tack tick interface?

  39. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I presume that you’re using the Tack Tick NMEA interface box. It outputs standard NMEA 0183 sentences which you should be able to check by wiring it to any multifunction display that accepts 0183 or to the serial port of a PC running a charting or utility program that understands 0183. NavMonPC is free and will do the job well:

  40. Llew says:

    Thanks, navmon looks just the job. I will give it a go when on board next weekend.

  41. Richard C says:

    I just don’t understand why any company would spend a penny of their development budget on anything that has to do with 0183. Why didn’t Digital Yacht start off making the iAIS a NMEA 2000 product? Nice idea, but already outdated because all the engineers on this blog seem to be trying to figure out how to get the N2K data into the brand new iAIS that only hears 0183.
    Personally, I have abandon 0183 and will not go back and will not buy anything that is using the primitive 0183 network. How does the Digital Yacht, iAIS deserve an award for using old technology? As a consumer of marine electronics I’m not about to buy something that immediately requires band-aids to get it to work with the rest of my up-to-date electronics.

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