Garmin triple wow: thermal cameras, iPad app, and Interphase FLS!


I’d already gotten some details on the several interesting new products Garmin is announcing today — and was excited about sharing them — but it wasn’t until late last night that I had any inkling about Garmin’s acquisition of Interphase Technologies, a pioneer in phase array forward looking sonar (FLS). Wow!  The deal means that Garmin will soon have a new and unique arrow in its quiver of MFD network sensors and that FLS for fishing and navigation will get some of the attention I think it’s always deserved. It’s not just that Garmin will market the Interphase technology better, but that the technology will no doubt be easier to use and to afford when integrated with Garmin displays. It will probably work better too…

Note in the Interphase press release that company founder Charles Hicks and his team will continue to work on sonar from their base in California, only now with Garmin helping with engineering and taking care of non-engineering business. It’s the same model Garmin used when it acquired autopilot innovator Nautimatic, and that sure worked out well (as we’ll get more evidence of later this week).
   Now, how about those three compact navigation cameras seen above? Yes indeed, Garmin is introducing three pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) thermal and low-light cameras and I see lots of interesting detail in that press release. For one thing the cameras seem to be completely controlled by Garmin 4000/5000/6000/7000 multifunction displays, and why not, given that you need the MFD screen to see the streaming cam video anyway. They also use NMEA 2000 as the control network, which may simplify installations in some cases, and possibly lead to other synergies. What really gets my attention, though, is the promised tracking features…


A Garmin user with the new high-res GCT 30 thermal cam — seen above looking over what might otherwise be pitch black scene — will be able to pick a point on his chart, including moving MARPA or AIS targets, and have the camera pan/tilt to view it, and keep tracking it. That sort of integration greatly increases the usefulness of the camera, I think. And it’s worth noting that Raymarine still doesn’t have this feature — sometimes called cue and slew — for its FLIR thermal cameras, though I’m sure it will eventually (and Furuno/MaxSea already does).
   But that’s not all. Apparently the GCT 30 and GCT 20 thermal cams can also do hot spot tracking. That’s for when you spot something on the thermal screen and want to keep an eye on it, so the camera locks onto its heat signature and controls its pan and tilt to follow. I’ve only seen this feature on a very high end thermal system. And whereas Garmin’s are fully integrated with the plotter, I wonder if the heat-tracked object can be overlaid on a chart like a MARPA target?  Full integration of sensors like this, and hopefully FLS, leads to good stuff..


I also think it’s neat that Garmin is including a low-light camera option in this new line. In my experience a good PTZ low-light cam can be very useful in all but deep dark conditions, and actually better than thermal in rain. They’re also a lot less expensive and some, like Garmin’s GCL 20 have amazing zoom abilities. Like 28x optical and 12x digital, for a combined total of 336x zoom…and one heck of a spyglass. That’s the GCL 20 at work above, and these screen photos also show what look like pretty intuitive touch controls. I’m scheduled to get a look at these cameras in action Thursday night and I will certanly report back.

{Update: Garmin eventually decided not to ship these cameras — more detail in comments below — and as of Febuary, 2014, the Garmin 8000 Series MFDs can integrate nicely with FLIR M- and MD-Series thermal/lowlight navigation cameras.}

   There’s lots to do in the meantime but I can not finish this entry without at least a mention the BlueChart Mobile marine app for iPad and iPhone also announced this morning. The significant features — besides getting Garmin charts to your ithing — are support for Active Captain user generated content and a WiFi relationship with Garmin MFDs that will not only support syncing of routes but also put a boat GPS onto your mobile. I’m not sure when we’ll get to see this app, but I’ve always figured that when Garmin was ready with one it would be sweet.
   Of course you all may spot interesting details in all these press releases that I missed. Please speak up with those or with questions I should ask in Miami.


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.

22 Responses

  1. Ben,
    this is quote from press release:
    “Once on board, users can wirelessly transfer routes, waypoints and tracks created with BlueChart Mobile to a networked Garmin chartpotter. To wirelessly transfer information, users need to have a router installed and connected to a compatible Garmin chartplotter. Once underway, the iPad or iPhone can be used to “follow the boat” along its route by wirelessly sharing the GPS location from the Garmin marine network. This capability enables precise GPS positioning, even on iPads that don’t include GPS functionality.”
    Please do rise a question regarding this fresh wireless connectivity feature. Is there a list of data from Garmin network that can be shared with iThings on Garmin App like NMES2000 info (engine, wind, AIS)… etc…

  2. Sandy Daugherty says:

    Garmin also announced third quarter profits in marine electronics but a drop in automotive stuff.
    It looks like the Interphase Folks are getting a Win-Win deal.
    But I wonder; Can a Broadband Radar be far behind?

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    OceanView also just introduced a new line of thermal cams in this price range, bullet shaped too:

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good question, Petar. If they can get all the GPS PGNs to an iThing they can certainly bring along more N2K data if and when they want. Part B of the question is “will Garmin consider making the N2K data available to other apps?” Wouldn’t that be nice for their customers, not to mention the developers who could then get to work on sophisticated racing, fishing, weather, and who-knows-what apps. I’m also curious if they plan to build their own marine WiFi router, like Navico does.

  5. rogerhudson says:

    From where I look, there seems to be a lot of embargoed ‘strategic technology’ here. I can’t even get a Mossberg buttstock posted to Croatia, let alone a FLIR!

  6. Adam says:

    Ben, you wrote: “I wonder if the heat-tracked object can be overlaid on a chart like a MARPA target?”
    While the thermal/LL camera, properly installed, could report the azimuth of a hot spot target, without an integral rangefinder of some kind there would be no way to derive the target’s location along the azimuth line. So unless there is additional technology in the camera I don’t see how a hot-tracked object could be overlaid on the chart.

  7. Tim Hale says:

    I’d be interested how the new app relates to the existing HomePort app. I there integration from BlueChart Mobile and HomePort…or just via the Garmin plotters.

  8. Rob Bright says:

    Ben, are these the same cameras that Comnav has been selling for a year? Who makes them?

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Rob, I think that Iris Innovations is Garmin’s camera source, Comnav’s too. You can see strong similarities in the case design and thermal cores with existing Iris TESA cams:
    But they’re not the same cameras, unless the ones Comnav is selling are also controlled over NMEA 2000 with complete Garmin touchscreen integration.

  10. Caferacer says:

    These Camera seems identical with the New Astra from Ocean vei.

  11. Russ says:

    I played with the new Garmin/Active Captain app yesterday at the Miami International Boat show. Very nice interface. I am not sure this will link to the HomePort software at this time (I asked that question and had a soft reponse). Speaking with the Garmin engineer at the show, he hinted this is the first step to link more items in the future. While this takes advantage of a wifi router added to your Garmin network, they are also looking at the ‘wireless’ (non-wifi) capabilities that are already built into the Chartplotters (ie: if you have a Garmin wireless mouse take a look at the freq range). I think it was here on Panbo it was mentioned why not use the GDL-40 to download firmware updates (great idea) since that device already ‘talks’ to a Garmin server, so I also asked the Garmin engineer could the new Garmin/Active Captain app later allow you to ‘snyc’ firmware updates. The response was they are looking at a bunch of methods and need to prioritize their workload. I am sure profit margin and R&D dollars will drive priorities. I also asked since we can use ithingy’s can we send Adobe PDF files to the Chartplotter? I would love to be able to immediately pull up and view a manual if I needed to solve a problem on one of my plotters (or maybe read pdf files right from the SD card?). Anyway the Garmin engineer at the show had great comments about the new effort with the ithings that we might get to see in Spring and it was very easy to use.

  12. George says:

    This is great news on Interphase, I have the 180 and like it a lot, especially when travelling in areas with unreliable charts. It is a bit difficult to learn, though, so combining their technology with Garmin’s expertise in easy to use interfaces is will be a big win.
    I have been waiting to upgrade my forward looking sonar to the newer model with much faster referesh but maybe I should wait a bit. If they can interface it with my 5212 I will be in hog heaven…

  13. Labozza says:

    ROB!! Good to see you on here, chief. Been a while since I’ve seen you in Seattle.
    Regarding the ComNav thermal imagers, you mention they’ve been selling for a year, yet I’ve never seen one be delivered.
    As far as the Garmin unit goes, I would have to check with Bader to get the scoop if they were the brains behind the new Garmin Mass Produced Cream Filled Thermal Camera. It would be a major coup for Mike, as he has done an amazing job on getting OV Tech. out into the market. I still am strictly a FLIR fanatic, as I’ve had nothing but good experience with the product and the people who stand behind it. Enough to even invest my entire retirement portfolio into the company, and then some. Hey, they even rescued Raymarine.
    However, I would have a very difficult time selling a Garminized Infrared Camera considering the possibility I might have to call Olathe for any tech support. The last time I called was to find out meaning of ‘error code 6’ showing up on a 9 month old 5212 in reference to its GMR404 failure. After not being able to get an answer, myself suspecting a possible current spike, I asked the operating amperage draw of that particular gearbox. I was told, and I swear on the NY Jets, ‘Between 20 and 40 Amps.’ I immediately hung up the phone, and proceeded to hammer my left hand to my desk with some rusty nails in order to try and distract my brain from melting from the pain. Suffice to say, I haven’t called since. Being in this industry is painful enough.
    Regardless, I hope all is well with the family and yourself, and let me know when you plan on coming out to NYC anytime soon.

  14. Tim Hale says:

    Any ‘new news’ on the Garmin BlueChart Mobile app? Seems it has been very quiet since February. Any info on when app will be available? Any info on wifi networking requirements? (i assume existing plotter(s) need to be hooked to wifi router on board?)

  15. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Nothing I’ve picked up, Tim. Garmin does have a product page for BlueChart Mobile now, but listed availability remains a vague “Summer 2012” as announced in February:
    I imagine that there will be a firmware update for the MFDs that will enable the WiFi connection, just as there just was for Garmin’s new 10 hz GPS sensor, the 19x:

  16. Tim Hale says:

    Still nothing new from Garmin on BlueChart Mobile availability? (would have been nice to have in the Bahamas this summer)
    So much for ‘Summer 2012’…
    Frustrating when these guys announce a product in February and then don’t launch (or provide any incremental info) for 6+ months.

  17. Arch says:

    For the BlueChart Mobile app, under supported devices they skip right over the 5212. Is it really not supported or is this just a typo? Any thoughts on how we can find out?

  18. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Arch, I forwarded your question to Garmin’s media relations dept. and they think it’s just an oversight as the 5212 shares the protocols of other MFDs that are compatible.
    Plus I think we’ll get to find out for ourselves soon as the app is nearing release.

  19. Anonymous says:

    So what ever happened to Interphase and Garmin? The silence is deafening, and reeks of a disastrous acquisition.

  20. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I wouldn’t presume that. Remember Nautamtic. Garmin acquired them in March, 2007…
    …but didn’t ship the Garminized version of the autopilot until Q3, 2008:
    I believe that Garmin’s growing pilot line has been a big success and that the original rocket scientist (really) behind Nautamatic is still working at the R&D center Garmin set up for him in Oregon. I have no idea what’s going on at Interphase but the possible scenario is similar.

  21. Anonymous says:

    For Nautamatic, it looks like:
    Q1 2007, Acquisition announced
    Q3 2007, Garmin product plans announced
    Q3 2008, Garmin product released
    I just wish there were some visibility into their plans. I’m planning the electronics for a new boat build and will need to make a call on forward sonar in the next few months. It certainly won’t be Interphase since the legacy product line appears dead. They don’t even reply to inquiries. And I can’t leave the door open too much longer to see what Garmin comes out with.

  22. Sandy Daugherty says:

    The thermal cameras are now missing from
    Yhat’s dissappointing.
    Anonymous: You needn’t worry about FLS from Garmin. Just leave space for a hole in the hull and they will eventually have something to fill it. It will most likely involve an NTSC signal to the MFD like the other video inputs, with an intermediate red box for controls. I have the Interphase FLS on my older cat to reduce the number of times I run into things, not for fishing.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *