New Year’s wishes, of the marine electronics kind


Aside from Panbo’s able crew of regular commenters—some of whom I’ve gotten to know personally, and all of whom I appreciate—the sixty thousand plus unique monthly visitors here are a somewhat mysterious mishmash of marine electronics enthusiasts, product info searchers, and trades people. (Feel free to speak up your own self, and apologies in advance for the somewhat cranky comment system, which will be improved in 2009.) Actually I also personally know a lot of folks in the trade who read Panbo regularly, and have been told that several companies have a designated monitor tasked with passing along relevant entries and comments to management. How 2009/Web 2.0 cool is that? And it means that if you’d like to express your wishes for the marine electronics future, you will be heard. Russ Irwin, proprietor of the data mishmash above, gets the first word (and credit as instigator):

If I could send the manufacturer’s one message in 2009, it would be “open up”.  Dump the proprietary cabling, proprietary interfaces, proprietary data formats, etc.  Publish everything and encourage third party software developers to interact with the systems.  The vendor who does this most aggressively will be richly rewarded by seeing all the peripheral applications that they can not address being solved by third parties, increasing demand for the systems vendor’s core products.  All of the manufacturers will be cutting R&D this year so they won’t want to do this because a proper 3rd party program requires R&D resources and support which means they have to cut back internal product development even further.  But those that do will find that the get a lot more bang for their R&D buck by leveraging third party developers.”

I’ll add my own wishes in the comments section, hopefully along with yours (?).

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.

29 Responses

  1. CraigI says:


  2. regina43 says:

    I want my laptop as the main piece in the marine electronics system !!

  3. I wish you a happy new year from France ! I work for a french retailer in electronic marine. I follow your blog everyday with a lot of interest because you provide better informations than french offices manufacturers.
    Russ have right, may be an NMEA3000 under GNU licence one day ? đŸ˜‰

  4. Allan Seymour says:

    Read your comment on Open Up, Apple being closed architecture and the PC being open. Even tho I am typing this on a Mac, which type is the market leader today?

  5. fgstreet says:

    Russ and Ben — I’d just add that I wish vendors would utilize NMEA as a “clearing house” for all those pesky NMEA2K PGN’s that aren’t universally recognized. If all the vendors were able to update their devices to be able to decode everyone else’s sentences, the world (at least our little part of it…) would be a better place.
    Also, could NMEA please take an active role in trying to standardize the calibration of various manufacturers’ NMEA2K sensors and displays?
    Happy New Year (and AIS-B) to all!

  6. Sandy says:

    I wish NMEA could isolate the Standards side from Members’ commercial interests.

  7. John Ford says:

    For 2009, my wish is NMEA 2000 to finally take hold and as you said establish a standard. Look with RJ45 connectors and the IP standard have done for the computer industry. Before that everything was proprietery and hugely frustrating.
    Also, unlike the original poster I would really like my laptop to be a elegant and real backup to my Navnet 3d system just in case the worst happens. We really need to have the electronics companies thinking bluewater trips with redundancy.

  8. Drew Clark says:

    Ben, if you think about other successful “collaborative” development communities like LINUX you’ll see a pattern that can be emulated by marine electronics manufacturers. Contrary to what many will think, it will actually be less expensive to open up and develop to a a fresh “open standard” as you will be sharing the overall R&D burden and risk with dozens (or hundreds) of others also developing for these standards.
    What’s needed is for someone bold to step up (as Linus Torvalds did with Linux) to be the ‘czar’ who culls and coordinates the various component submissions into a coherent and cohesive whole and then re-distribute out to the community. Russ, are you game?

  9. Andy Murray says:

    Drop me an email (service [at] and we can discuss a bit more.

  10. Russ says:

    Drew: You’re going father than I had imagined and I think much farther than any marine mfgs will go on the next step. These guys won’t even adopt standard h/w interfaces like NMEA2000 (Furuno being an exception), they insist on proprietary connectors and cabling. Compared to the computer industry, they are in the stone age.
    Also, Linux is just an operating system, these vendors are delivering a complete solution from h/w through OS and application s/w. The closer analogy might be Open Office, but even that doesn’t incorporate h/w.
    I appreciate your suggestion, but my expectations are lower than yours. I’d be satisfied (in 2009) to see them take a first step and standardize on networking h/w, while concurently opening up their data formats (including charts) and APIs so we could see more third party solutions interacting with the core systems.
    These vendors are killing themselves by trying to be so vertically integrated. Hasn’t anyone at Garmin, Raymarine, Navico or Furuno studied the history of the computer industry? Particularly the networking and PC platform wars of the 80’s? Do we have to go through the entire lesson again?

  11. Russ says:

    Ben: While you’re fixing the “cranky” commenting system, how about using a more forum like technology?
    In my opinion, these threads tend to die off because 1) the technology is limited and awkward, and 2) your next Panbo entry starts a new subject. I think your blog and forums could co-exist quite nicely.
    Anyone else have an interest in more durable discussion threads?

  12. Kees says:

    Russ, I agree with you. In fact, I think Ben does so too and has even hinted at a forum earlier. If the search on Panbo would be a little better I could find the post where he stated that!

  13. ibsailn says:

    You can improve (cheat) the search function by using google’s advanced search options to search This way you can search comment text which seems to get ignored by the built in search function above.

  14. Microship says:

    or, as a search shortcut, just include in the google search terms window…

  15. Kees says:

    I personally don’t care btw about the manufacturers using proprietary cabling and connectors, as long as they get along nicely.
    My personal wish for 2009 is that Nobeltec will be able to use the new upcoming Navico Broadband radar scanner. If that happens I’m happy đŸ™‚

  16. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Amen Russ !!

  17. regina43 says:

    My 2009 wish is a combined broadband / magnetron radar, so I can save power when I need it, but also have the possibilities to scan more than 10 n-miles. ( Radar with usb interface to my laptop )

  18. Kees says:

    The Navico Broadband radar -does- work at ranges over 10 miles, it’s just not any better than a magnetron. Also note that the quote “But he was clear that performance in the 10–24 nm max range is not particularly special, and that 4 kW arrays are definitely better at seeing weather and smaller targets at those distances.” talks about 4 kW _arrays_, not _radomes_.

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’m still thinking about my New Year’s M.E. wishes, but have no doubts on the subject of forums. YES!!! The wait has been a combination of procrastination and my hope that Movable Type—the particular Blog software that Panbo runs on—would develope forum software that integrated well.
    The wait is almost over. Next week, Panbo will be upgraded to MT 4.2, and soon thereafter you’ll see a forums tab at the top of the home screen. User registration and commenting on either blog entries or forum threads should improve greatly.
    I’ll soon post an entry soliciting advice on forum categories and desirable features. Please think on it. We’re going to do some “social networking” and life will be good.
    Info on MT 4.2:

  20. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Forum Threads:
    NMEA-0183 Protocol
    NMEA-2000 Protocol
    NEXT Procotol
    ME-Safety & Security

  21. JonnyBoats says:

    I would love to see a forum topic on “open” (i.e. non-proprietary) systems, standards and software.

  22. Dan (b393capt) says:

    1. “NEXT Protocol”, rename as “OPEN Protocols”
    2. ME-Member Boats
    3. ME-Vote Exotic or Fraud Technology
    (I am thinking Wizard here)

  23. Mike says:

    Hopes for 2009:
    (1) declassify NMEA2000 and publish *all* the documents openly, just like the Internet standards. only then can NMEA2000 really be called an “open standard”. (same goes for 0183)
    (2) standardize both native Ethernet and native IP encapsulations of NMEA2000 frames so the NMEA2000 *payload protocol* can transcend the slow link-layer and the expensive cabling to which it currently wed. This will also make it easier to provide much-needed isolation between safety-critical real-time functions and other vessel systems without sacrificing the integration advantages of NMEA2000.
    These two major changes in world-view by NMEA would unleash a torrent of innovation, some of which will result in new product opportunities for “the usual suspects”.

  24. Riccardo says:

    Hi guys,
    what do you think about a open source navigation system where different users can exchange their own applications?

  25. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Honestly … an open source navigation system dosn’t turn me on.
    For users exchanging their own applications … it would be very cool if one of the mobile phone platforms were somehow integrated into a chartplotter or instrument display.
    Imagine if your chartplotter or Raymarine ST70 instrument display could, just like a cell phone, accept and run mobile apps like those described in the many very good articles written by Jeff Siegel, published on Mad Mariner). Imagine, in combination with open, non-proprietary data formats, those apps could get boat telemetry right from the instrument that is hosting the application as well ? And imagine, that as long as you leave your cellphone connected to the instrument, the app can not only be downloaded off the cell network, but stay connected with access to remote databases, etc. as long as your in cell phone range.
    That is my idea of a platform were users could exchange their own apps.

  26. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Sorry Karen
    I ammend the above … those would be articles written by Karen and Jeff Siegel

  27. alanspicertelecom says:

    Maybe more things will go to Ethernet (RJ-45 connectors) and IP (where needed) for networking devices. It seems to be happening a lot elsewhere. And just about anyone can terminate RJ-45 connectors. There just needs to be some kind of strain relief where some RJ-45 connectors on equipment would get pulled on. Some of the WiFi systems have strain relief + water proof screw on couplings to protect the RJ-45 and provide some strain relief on it.
    Nobeltec Radar – I came across one time – uses this concept. But it seemed to use a lot of network bandwidth. I was wanting to keep it seperate from the Internet/boat Computer Network.
    Some Audio/Visual (AV) stuff is going this way. Makes me happy I know how to deal with Ethernet and IP. IPv6 will be a challenge because of much larger MAC Address style IP numbers though.
    For my wish … less expensive satellite Internet systems – with less cost per use. Can I dream about it getting anywhere near Broadband Satellite costs on land?
    Meanwhile we’ll keep putting in satellite + wifi + cellular broadband systems to help curb the costs of being on (almost?) all of the time.

    Alan Spicer

  28. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Oh yea … and among my wishes for 2009 are STANDARD RJ-45 CONNECTORS on ethernet based marine electronics products !!!!!!
    There should be a special place in hell for the engineer that designed the ethernet sockets and strain relief cables so that your forced to buy 5 meter ethernet cable at $110/ea to connect with their marine products, but can still fit one of the strain relief cable ends into a standard PC or hub if you desire (strain relief feature of course won’t work)
    I am perfectly fine if a vendor wants to sell me strain relief versions of RJ-45 cables, but leave me the option to decide the standard cable is fine for my application rather than the $110 5 meter strain relief cable.

  29. Billlentz says:

    Well Garmin’s network uses reverse CAT5 style cables with nice sealed RJ45 connectors. Now my wish is Brunswick would open up Smart Craft or a third party would make a conversion box for Smart Craft to NEMA2000. Perhaps one exists but I have never seen one only heard rumors and they don’t count. Happy New Year all.

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