Navico Hawks 2017: “Full boat integration into one display cluster”

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.

21 Responses

  1. Mike Elsworth says:

    Longtime reader thanks for the help.
    Quick question is this GoFree only available to tie into Navico brands like Simrad, B/G and Lowrance? Or is it a stand alone unit that can link up to my display? I’m only interested in Satellite. I have Raymarine A-series 12′ Also, where can you purchase the GoFree hardware? I called navico and the lady had no idea about Gofree or how/if it can tie into my Raymarine unit. She linked me up with a guy name Phil up there but have yet to hear back.
    Thanks again,

  2. The fully integrated vessel is a noble goal and is a marketing ambition for many in the marine industry.
    However there are a range of issues that need to be discussed including:
    1) A single integrated system is the only answer from some stakeholders. As the defence and aerospace industries have proven the loss of situational awareness from a single system is a huge issue. Both in terms of training good operators and for maintaining mission critical capability for degraded systems.
    2) Security needs to be the starting point. The current crop of marine electronics options are not built on hardened systems. This is not negotiable.
    3) Open source in terms of software, integrations and interfacing is the only way to scale. The current crop of closed solutions means we have to trust the vendors to do the right thing. Experience has shown this to be a flawed approach. It’s expensive for the consumer and results in us having to accept some pretty poor performing solutions
    4) The current crop of hardware (based on my recent upgrade using one of the big names) has highlighted the following issues. Poor performance, buggy displays, insufficient compute and IO capability exacerbated by non optimized code are just a few of the issues experience in the field.
    5) Documentation is dreadful. Lkely a consequence of the closed source approach adopted by all vendors
    6) Once users have an integrated system then liability rears its ugly head. Basically whoever has the capacity to pay will be the subject of litigation. Stoopid is stoopid whether technology is involved or not.
    7) Hardware vendors traditionally are not great at creating, building and supporting software. The industry needs to move from its current amateur base to a more professional software footing. Not withstanding the great work done by the current software leads innovating in the industry. I can’t see this happening under the current closed source model.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Mike, GoFree Track and Vessel are not tied to Navico MFD systems at all. I imagine that might happen in time, with some feature bonuses, but Track is designed as an independent monitoring and control system with standard I/O’s like NMEA 2000, J1939, serial and analog. It’s also scaled to many boat sizes. Navico has a large market in mind, and I believe that’s why GoFree is being moved to DMS, joining C-Map as a slightly distant relative to the B&G, Simrad, and Lowrance brands.
    Also, Track comes WiFi only or WiFi/Cellular with the Iridium satellite connection an add-on, and I don’t think it’s truly on the market yet, though I believe that several charter companies and testers like me are ready to go when the more advanced software materializes.
    By the way, a telling phenomenon I slowly realized in Miami is that about every monitoring company there — I’ll cover several new and interesting ones — had been visited by Garmin 😉

  4. John Proctor says:

    As a pokey old 37′ sailing catamaran owner all I can see is $$$$ going to the suppliers. While the total integration may be a nice feature for White Boat owners who have deep pockets the lowly cruiser is being forgotten I feel. I need an reliable MFD that has good chart capability, a reliable autopilot, AIS so the big boats can see me and I can see them. Total integration in the automotive market is about as proprietary as you can get. OBD II isn’t the answer if you can’t do anything with it unless you have the auto manufacturers dealer support system to make changes (Peugeot Planet anyone). Closed charting systems (are you listening Garmin) are not on. Raymarine has the right idea. Ever since FLIR took them over they have moved a long way from one of the most closed systems to one of the more open ones. I applaud this movement. So call me skeptical and I’ll stick with my little system. It gets me safely around the coastal regions of Australia.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    John and Leftbrain, a whole lot of people love their very closed automobile systems, not to mention their quite closed Apple ecologies of hard and soft ware. That’s just a fact.
    I find open source marine tech like SignalK and OpenCPN fascinating, but they remain a very small niche. Interestingly, Android was mentioned in one of the Navico “future” slides I left out, though not explained by the CEO, and in Miami I saw a new Android MFD from Si-Tex that looked quite powerful.

  6. HenryD says:

    Thank you for the posting on Navico. I have a keen interest in what Navico is doing because I replaced most of my electronics in 2014 with the Navico/Simrad NSO evo2 products.
    As I read your posts and replies to questions above, I am encouraged about the direction but am very concerned at the same time. My concerns are based on experience with Simrad over the past three years –
    1) The Simrad support is not up to supporting such an integrated system. I have had to remove my NSO evo2 processor and send it back to Navico for replacement. I had many thousands of dollars charged to my credit card for the unit shipped to me, until my unit was received by Navico. For a boat that is doing approx. 5,000 miles a year through 18 states, coordinating the shipping schedule was complicated.
    2) Simrad’s dealer network is not ready to support such a complicated service. I had my system installed by an authorized dealer to gain the additional warranty years. When I have had problems with the NSO evo2 box, or the Sonar Hub (replaced once) or the RS35 radio (replaced twice), the dealer’s only answer was – call Simrad 800 number. This winter, I have a several issues to resolve. I contacted a different dealer on the west coast of Florida, where I had purchased some equipment last year. Their response to my request for service was – let us contact Simrad, and then I received a call from Simrad Support. When I explained the issues between my NSO evo2 and autopilot, support advised me to contact a dealer. SO…I have called dealers who will be in the areas we will be traveling through in the next 4-6 weeks.
    3) If Navico wants to integrate all the boat systems, the user interfaces need improvement. The data bars configurations are very basic (example – wind speed as a current number vs Maretron’s N2KView wind speed graph). The data bar configurations are not saved so each time I do a software update or replace the processor, the settings are lost and must be recreated.
    4) The C-Map cartography model needs to catch up with the times – when I found several areas with chart errors, C-Map sent me new SD cards with updated data. To do that, they snail mailed me new cards and I had to mail my old cards back. Why can they not download the data like Navionics does with their updates? Especially with the GoFree network.
    5) Did you see any cellular data interfaces much like our cars have?

  7. Peter Daum says:

    This looks great, but indeed fills me with sheer horror. The design contains several critical components that down the boat if a single component fails. Nearly every component is connected to the same bus, and one rogue component brings communication down. The system is lacking redundancy. Getting there would come at a significant price point, and would run into the issue that the consumer components are not designed for that, as the M/V Tanglewood adventures show.
    I agree that the marine installers are unlikely prepared to service this system. But they are not the only one’s to blame. These devices come with barely any serviceability, no meaningful debug screens, diagnostic functions, nada. For this reason, trying to solve issues is essentially limited to replacing devices, as you never know whether you are facing a hardware issue, a software bug, an intentional but unknown behavior, or just a cabling problem. With limited tools installers have at hand and the fact that capex-wise they cannot stock all these toys, support is constrained to calling 1-800 and getting a new device, or hoping for the next update. Things are getting worse as technology evolves. Compare diagnosing RS422 (easy) to the (somewhat closed, but documented) CAN/N2K, to the completely closed Ethernet buses manufacturers move to.
    I am happy to accept this for ever cheaper consumer equipment like my TV. I am reluctantly willing to accept it for a car, which can stop anytime without threatening my safety and where the car mechanic can fix it in due course (with expensive, but excellent diagnostic equipment provided by manufacturer). I am not willing to accept it on a 7-digit asset like a boat, where failing tech puts my safety at risk.
    We should have a look at professional marine electronics. Decentralized to some degree, excellent diagnostic functions, etc. The dealers should push for this. It protects their value proposition and their bottom line. Why do they accept being degraded?

  8. Xavier Itzmann says:

    We have a B&G Zeus2 and a B&G Zeus on board.
    Navico deserves praise for their brave attempt to bring at least some of their devices (Zeus2) online. For instance, the ability to send a “report” to customer service is much appreciated and very useful. I sent in a report last year and another just today. The experience with the guy on the other side being able to see my system was priceless and led to much better service than usual.
    Just today, I configured PredictWind on the Zeus 2 and it works! However, not all is perfect:
    1. Last year the GoFree Shop was not working in November. At all. As customer service confirmed. Today the Shop comes up, but it does not let me purchase nor download anything. I would have liked to throw $235 bucks to the Shop today, to be able to have a Navionics chart on the Zeus2 so that Navionics Chartplotter Sync would work on my system (a Navionics chart on the Zeus2 is required for this functionality to start up on both the “Navionics iPad app” and the Zeus2).
    2. It is nifty to use PredictWind (PW) on the Zeus2, but it is unlikely we’ll ever use it from the Zeus2. The PW app’s user interface is 1000% easier to use than in the clunky Zeus2.
    Looking forward to a Zeus3 sometime down the road, to see if it addresses the general clunkiness of using web services on the Zeus2 !

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Xavier. I agree that Navico has some work to do with system WiFi and the GoFree store, but obviously the pressure is on. To me PW weather routing looked easy on the Zeus2, and isn’t it a nice bonus to built the routes on the plotter? Also, I’d love to hear how well Navionics Plotter Sync works if you get there.
    Peter Daum, I really hope that you look into the Navico NASA diagnostic reporting Xavier just endorsed:
    And I simply do not understand how modern systems fill you with “sheer horror”? Exactly which “critical components” can down a boat if a single component fails?
    In my experience most modern installs have some redundancy built in and more is easy to add. If a GPS receiver fails on many boats these days, another one will automatically take its place, or can be chosen from a list available on most MFDs and instruments. If an MFD fails completely, there’s often another that can do all the same functions. If, say, a radar was plugged into that completely failed MFD, the operator only has to move the plug elsewhere, and in most cases the system will reconfigure itself no problem.
    Installing completely separate NMEA 2000 and Ethernet networks on a boat — as required on some commercial vessels — is not that hard, but then again I have not heard of many complete network failures.

  10. Anonymous says:

    WOW!! Lets go! Great Stuff Ben! Very exciting times in marine electronics product development again!! Perhaps we are going to see a market increase in recreational revenue over the next few years since it seems continued integration is the plan. Meaning continued integration with other consumer electronics off the boat=increased revenue per sale plus increased services etc.
    The open source community and the 3rd party developers programs may he a very appropriate vehicles to helping Navico fuel and increase this as you reported. When Goldman Sachs gets in you know an increase of liquidity in the industry is occurring or may be about to. !! Look forward to seeing and learning more on this great unfolding story Ben!!
    Thanks so much.
    John Neyland Jr.

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    That’s the spirit, John! It’s a much, much smaller world but there are parallels with the gigantic battle taking place between Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.
    Navico, Garmin, FLIR etc. can similarly see whole ecologies of boat components and services that they could own with the right development, partnerships, and acquisitions.
    As for Goldman Sachs, the name may make many people shutter, but I don’t know that the reputation has anything to do with the specific investment in Navico. Apparently some GS partners have a real interest in marine electronics and are helping out.
    I remember the fears when Navico was first owned by the Altor equity funds — it would be “parted out” or somehow damaged for short term gain — but that is not at all what happened here in the real world.

  12. HenryD says:

    Is the GoFree Track hardware available to be purchased?

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good question, HenryD. Mike — the first commenter in this thread — called Navico without results and I don’t see GoFree Track available anywhere online…so I’d say no, not yet really available. The hardware I received in November seems quite finished but so far the only service available is basic SD WiFi, so I guess that software is the hold up.

  14. Jeffrey S. Orling says:

    All this connectivity between instruments including transducers putting the data on a screen is fabulous. But I think for many not practical and to expensive. Even with a network… one needs to have compatible devices… and upgrading can get spendy. But I suppose one can do this in piecemeal. I oppose having all black box instruments with only access to data on one “MFD” or more if you can afford and have the real estate.
    As I get older I am having more and more difficulty operating hi tech devices which are loaded with features/software/apps etc with a couple of buttons to use to get at all that good stuff. Yet my 5 yr old grand daughter can pic up any “screen” device or use my windows pro to get to whatever she wants to see.
    Who knew?

  15. Naples (Italy) – FairWind: when marine electronics, open source and the University meet – NauticSud 2017 – Mostra d’Oltremare di Napoli
    Naples (Italy), 20/02/17 – FairWind, already awarded 1st in the category Apps and Videogames during the 3rd edition of the Italian science exhibition Futuro Remoto 2016, has been unveiled in its latest release at the University of Napoli Parthenope booth with the presentation titled “FairWind: when marine electronics, open source and the University meet”.
    The app was born and developed in the Department of Science and Technology, Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, and it is continuously upgraded by a cross-curricular and dedicated team. A working prototype running on UDOO QUAD ( was on demo during the event “NauticSud 2017”.
    “FairWind is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project where the diverse and different research lines currently running at the Department of Science and Technologies, already Faculty of Nautical Science of the Naval Institute of Napoli now UniParthenope – claimed Raffaele Montella, assistant professor in Computer Science and FairWind project leader. Moreover, FairWind features can be applied in many different areas of interest: from marine sector to environmental science and edutainment.”
    FairWind is an integrated multifunctional navigation software based on open technologies leveraging on an infrastructure built on mobile and web technologies. It is also defined as “Android-based Smart, Cloud-Enabled Navigation System for small Yachts with Boat Apps for never-ending custom improvements”. FairWind is an academic research-prototype project with the final aim to collect coastal marine data to be used for better understand and protect local ecosystems.
    FairWind collects board data from NMEA0183*, NMEA2000* and SeaTalk* data sources with open source/open hardware interfaces based on Futura Elettronica Fishino Mega ( or using high quality certified marine electronics as the Digial Yachts iKommunicate ( ). The collected data are stored and produced to other apps using the SignalK ( open marine data format. With FairWind you can use position data from the on-board GPS with nautical chart apps on an Android tablet. A demo application based on UDOO Neo and Vufine+ ( shows navigation data in an augmented reality environment. The FairWind application is available on the Google Play Store. In order to gather data from on-board electronics, a free license is needed.
    The team members currently are: Raffaele Montella, Team Leader; Diana Di Luccio, Data management; Carmine Ferraro, Developer; Federica Izzo, Social Media Marketing & Communication. For further information on FairWind and its applications:

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Chart integration: Navionics just acquired Wavey Line, the small company that’s been creating and maintaining charts from the northern Bahamas to the DR for many years:
    I don’t know how this may affect the other cartography companies that license Wavey Line data:

  17. Anonymous says:

    Just another lurk over the fence, I like the part when some captains give feedback and admit they are unable to get their bridge to full use and find the layout combersome and restrictive at times.
    Norwegian shipyard and design bureau Ulstein in my view builts the most beautiful offshore vessels of all sorts to date, extremely innovative and kick ass ships.
    There’s also a superyacht project in the makes, cruise ships and yachts are new to them.

  18. Maldwin says:

    Good Evening Ben,
    As i sit in a no wake zone in Hobe Sound FL, it occurred to me that m car GPS tells me what the speed limit is, but my boat does not. It might help people slow down, as ICW signs are often confusing. Do any manufacturers offer that feature?

  19. John Mc.. says:

    What’s the situation with patent conflict with Autorouting in the USA? Any idea if Navico is working out a license for the patent?
    So little discussion of the “not available in USA” for autorouting for Navico(B&G/Simrad/Lowrance) & Navionics products.
    JMc ~_/)~

  20. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi John, there are few people I know at these companies who are willing and/or able to talk about patent disputes. In fact, most don’t even want to focus on it themselves as there’s a fair amount of friendliness (and crossover) amongst the product, marketing and sales people.
    But that said, the conflict between Navico and Garmin does seem a bit more prominent, and apparently it’s Garmin that holds a US patent on at least some aspect of autorouting. I have heard that it expires soon, but beyond that rumor, it’s all a bit of mystery to me. Raymarine, Humminbird and maybe others seem able to support autorouting in U.S. waters from Navionics, C-Map, etc., but Navico does not, though, for instance, it has recently added other advanced Navionics features:

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Simrad VelocityTrack Doppler enhancement is out for Halo radars. Yes, it took a while, but it looks good and the Info PDF explains the technology better than I’ve seen before:

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