N2KView, PGNs get packetized
Check out the full size screen shot. I took it here at my desk while designing a custom screen for Maretron’s N2KView monitoring and control application. I was picturing myself the master of a high-end cruiser putting together the screen I’d like to have accessible anywhere on the boat—and off it—when anchored. Which is completely possible, given the concept at work here. In fact, the data you see is real stuff coming out the lab’s NMEA 2000 network, through a Maretron USB Gateway into the lab laptop where it’s being packetized and served into my home network, in this case via WiFi. Zounds!
That means that if and when I figure out how to access my network via Internet, and Maretron comes up with smart phone N2KView client software (promised, and seen in the prototype), I could have this data in my pocket. Some controls too, as N2K can be used for digital switching (and is used bigtime in the Octoplex distributed power system built by Maretron partner Carling). At any rate, with N2KView I could be, say, lounging in a Saint Tropez cafe, yet still able to mind my boat laying in that port’s exposed outside anchorage (hey, it’s Friday, an anniversary of that sweet junket, and a guy’s got to dream).
By the way, on that screen above I’m placing an outside temperature gauge just below the barometer. I’ve already chosen the data source and type of gauge and now I’m offered the chance to custom scale the colors used. Once done, it and all the other gauges are resizable and movable until I exit the screen design mode. Pretty slick, but N2KView is still more vision than reality, especially given its $3,000 price tag. It needs to learn more data types (how about that Set and Drift info I discovered in my network), gain more screen design flexibility, and, above all, get lots of routines for establishing alarms and logical controls. Plus I should note that Maretron is not the first to packetize N2K data and distribute it via Ethernet. Raymarine’s been doing that for a while, and Garmin has gotten started (Krill too).
But Maretron does not have charting software or networked displays to sell, and the principals there are true believers in NMEA 2000 as an interoperable standard. Actually they told me that they would be willing to work with NMEA to make their packetizing scheme part of the Standard. Which in retrospect should have happened in the first place! That train may have left the station, but there is some good news coming for developers just wanting to use N2K data in PC software without racking up big certification costs. It’s called Intelligent Gateway and I’ll write about it soon. (PS, media people should note that Maretron has announced a FLIBS N2KView press conference.)