SimNet network testing, & more NSE goodies
Years ago I gave Simrad grief for developing its own NMEA 2000 cable and connector system, called SimNet, instead of going with the DeviceNet standard as NMEA wanted. When NMEA 2000 was just getting started, SimNet confused end users and installers alike, as would Raymarine’s SeaTalkNG, and Lowrance’s first version of LowranceNet, etc. I remain leery about proprietary cabling but I’ve never heard of performance issues with SimNet, and I’ve never had any trouble integrating SimNet devices into standard N2K networks, using male versions of the adapter cable seen above. Until this week, however, I’d never tried it the other way around, building a SimNet network and adding in other manufacturer’s N2K devices as desired. No problems so far…
The thin cables certainly are easy to snake around a boat and the connectors aren’t even threaded (though they plug together with reassuring snugness). I was also pleased to learn that Simrad has those inline connectors seen above (red with termination built in, yellow without), which nicely increase lay out possibilities. There’s no such thing as SimNet field attachable connectors, mind you, and the cable really isn’t designed to be cut (as you can see here), but that’s not a bad limitation if you can run pre-made cables wherever you need them. And if you check out the manual available at Simrad’s SimNet page, you’ll see that the rules about daisy chaining and even termination are pretty loose. I know such looseness vexes NMEA, and I understand their desire to protect the standard, but has anyone heard of a SimNet install that failed to network data and power successfully?
If there have been SimNet failures, and we might hear about them in comments, I’ll bet they involve extra large networks in which the nuances of N2K — like voltage drops and impedance distortiions — can get critical. As you can see below on the NSE12 device list, Gizmo’s SimNet is pretty simple so far, but I intend to challenge it in the months ahead. Simrad is suppossedly going to let me try a AP28 autopilot system, whose head unit, compass, rudder sensor, and processor are all SimNet. Plus I’ve set up Gizmo so I can fairly easily replumb any device from the standard N2K backbone to SimNet, as I did below with the Garmin AIS600 and Maretron DST100.
There are reasons why even a vessel with a lot of Simrad equipment might choose to go with standard NMEA 2000 cabling. If Simrad’s SimNet parts inventory is low, as seems to be the case these days, there are no alternatives. And if a boat’s network grows to extra large size, I suspect that NMEA 2000 certified cable and connectors — especially split power taps and MID size cable — are going to serve better. The cost of SimNet pieces seems a little mysterious, too, as indicated on this West Marine page, which shows three different prices for the same seven pin multiport, ranging from terrific deal to nearly outrageous! Personally, I might try to, say, use a 10m section of SimNet cable in an otherwise standard backbone because it made fishing the mast much easier, but I’d treat it as experimental (in fact, I will experiment with that). Of course the main reason someone would choose SimNet is because they are going with an all (or mainly) Simrad system, which is becoming a compelling choice…
One pleasant surprise I got when I fired up the Simrad gear on Gizmo’s rebuilt flying bridge dash was how the IS20 and NSE12 share data source configuration. When I put the former into auto select mode, the latter came along for the ride (as you can see below), and changing a specific source (when I added in another heading device) on one unit changed it everywhere. I think that you can bypass common sourcing, if desired, using SimNet “groups” but haven’t tried that yet. (I also think that this integration would work fine over standard N2K cabling, because the devices can’t tell the difference, but, interestingly, that is not necessarily true of Raymarine SeaTalkNG, which contains a sixth wire that Ray devices can apparently use to determine cable type.)
Of course, the more important stuff is beyond the small data networking, assuming that works OK, and I’m sure liking what I’ve seen so far in NSE software 2.0, like the Insight chart improvements already discussed, plus the enhancements the BR24 Broadband Radar got with an easy-to-do update. (You can download an interesting Simrad PDF about all 2.0 improvements here.) I haven’t tried BR True Motion yet, but the 36 rpm mode definitely improves visual and MARPA tracking at close ranges…
I also like the crumb trail option for MARPA targets, seen below as the daysailing schooner Surprise transits the now infamous channel through Camden’s Outer Harbor. And I’m beginning to think that the NSE’s target acquisition algorithm helps a user pick moving targets in a field of stationary one’s like Camden’s mooring fields…or else I’m a very lucky target picker. The Garmin 7212 is also now fully installed on Gizmo, soon to be followed by Raymarine E Wide and Furuno NN3D MFD, and the real testing/cruising regime is slated to begin late next week. I’m hoping to uncover lots of pleasant surprises, but I’ll close with one more NSE tid bit…
In the screen below, the NSE is showing output from a Raymarine Cam100. I find the Menu Key and Rotary Knob control of all those options quite easy, and you’ll find similar context specific menus for every different screen or window. I particularly like that Mirror Image control, which is pretty unu
sual I think. This specific Cam100 — which I find quite sharp, and also has a limited low light mode — already outputs a mirror image so it can be used to look aft when you’re facing forward, like a car mirror. But I haven’t yet figured out how I prefer a camera to look aft, plus I’m looking for ways to flex mount the Cam100 so it can do different jobs in different situations. The NSE, and any other MFD that can flip video input, will help.
Keep these articles coming. I love to see positive news about device internetworking. I find it amazing how difficult it is just to get same manufacturer equipment talking together using older standards (0183).
I just spent 4 hours working on a cabling diagram of how I can get my Raymarine C-Series talking to my Raymarine ST60 equipment (SeaTalk between and hard wired to transducers) to my ST70/SPX10 autopilot (need both SeaTalk AND SeaTalkNG) talking to my ICOM 802 SSB (NMEA in/out for DSC/GPS) talking to my Uniden 625 (NMEA in/out for DSC/GPS) talking to my ST70 multidisplay (Seatalk and/or SeatalkNG) talking to my PC (Serial and/or USB). I also want to add an AIS unit in there which means 0183 or 2000 depending. I’d love to have NMEA to wireless 802.11 so I can use an iPod Touch too. While I have many of these things speaking to each other already, to get everything communicating the right way (isolated connections as opposed to the terminal block I’m using now, availability of data even when I turn the C-Series off, etc.) I need to add something like a MiniPlex USB-AIS for my inputs, a MiniPlex BUF for all of my outputs, a Digi-Connect Wi-SP for wireless and a do a ton of recabling.
I dream about adding on NMEA2000 units to bring my transducers onto a network and using a single (or possible dual) NMEA2000 backbone from bow to stern and getting rid of all of the homeruns to various pieces of equipment. Refresh/Sync rates between equipment would be much better too. I’ve also thought about buying a couple of NMEA2000-0183 bridges for each location that I have equipment (helm, nav station, master stateroom). I can’t wait for the day I get rid of all of the 0183 stuff and wireless is plug and play.
One disconcerting thing that I’ve seen thus far in the “legacy” marine industry is a complete cluelessness about device internetworking. While the guys who specialize in the midsized to larger vessels (50ft+) are getting a decent education on NMEA network design and interconnection, there are a huge number of small shops that work on the sub-50ft boat market. I’ve seen people who have trouble commissioning a new ST70/SPX autopilot system. I wouldn’t want to see these people design a new NMEA2000 network – especially one that incorporates multiple vendors. Having a computer network background (and NMEA2000 being so similar to the old Ethernet ThinNet standard) I’ve considered becoming a designer but I don’t think it makes much sense to enter the marine pleasureboat market today.
Anyway, keep these articles going, and some new ones that focus on technology that bridges 0183, 2000 and wireless would be wonderful to see too.
Great SimNet post. Last year we installed SimNet on 70′ motor yacht. Install was easy using published Simrad info. Network included Simrad and other N2K devices. Included….IS20 Graphic displays(5); AP28 autopilot with two additional AP24 control heads; Simrad AIS300; AirMar PB2000 weather station and Airmar DT800 transducer.
As prelim to install, we created schematic of routing, cable lengths, termination points, and drop points for each device on the network. The backbone is powered “mid point” and the calulations were done to confirm load distribution on the system.
The interconnect SimNet to N2k standard cabled devices (DT800 PB2000) was easy using the Simrad interface “conversion ” cable.
The AMAZING thing was that when we powered-up the SimNet…it all worked perfectly. Setting up the IS20 displays and AP28 autopilot was routine
The only issue is that, with the IS20, using the AIS300 or GS15/GPS as the “position source” in user setup…. produces COG in True despite Magnetic having been selected. Interestingly, using the PB2000 as the “position source” produces the correct COG magnetic and varation display
Given the sucess of the SimNet install ( except for the COG glitch still unresolved with Simrad), we months later installed a GB40 system with the BR24 radar. Similar ease of installation on the SimNet after replacing faulty RI10 radar interface.
Ben – We have recently completed and tested a complete Simrad install on a 40′ sailboat. In addition to the NSE-8 as the main MFD we installed other Simrad equipment such as: Autopilot with two heads Ap/28 & Ap/24, Wind & Tack IS-20’s, two IS-20 Graphic and one IS-20 Combi instruments, 18″ 2kw HD Radar, NAIS 300, Navico BSM-1 sounder. To this network we added “Third Party” equipment such as the Airmar PB-200 ultrasonic wind instrument at the top of the mast, Airmar P-79 standard depth transducer, and P-79 for the broadband sounder, Airmar CS-4500 ultrasonic speed transducer…these interfaced via “black boxes” from Airmar/Gemeco. Also removed the Yanmar circa 1996 engine control panel and hooked the engine harness into a NMEA 2000 engine interface box from Mass Technologies… this translated engine data such as tach/oil/temp/volt to display on MFD’s. In place of the original engine control panel we installed a Lowrance HDS-7 with internal GPG antenna… this unit’s main function was to display the engine data and at the same time act as back up GPS chart plotter with its own antenna, it also uses the same Navionics chart/chip as the NSE MFD, and can display all the info on the network; radar, depth etc. So far after using this system the only issues we have are with the speed in water info from the Cs4500, the IS-20 display shows “0”. We have to check this out further. Not sure if this is from user error in the menu or what?
Overall, compared to other new systems we have installed on other vessels this one is by far the best we have used. We also liked the simple Simnet cabling and interface into the NMEA 2k backbone now in this boat. I find the NSE 8 to be very fast, bright and user friendly to use. Once you use the AP-28 autopilot you will never want to use another brand or type. I give Simrad credit for coming up with a very good system…NAVICO on the other hand never had cables in stock, some tech support staff did not have clue but all in all very satisfied with the hardware.
Jeffrey in Miami.
Hi Ben, This from On board MV Dana Louise as we approach Biddeford Pool heading east. I will echo your comments about simnet cable cost and availability but all working fine for now. The br24 does demand some new radar skills.
We will arrive Camden in a few days and will be there for awhile. I hope we can rendezvous and inspect respective installs. Best, Brian Strong
I had posted last October or so when I was designing Indigo’s new N2K network using Maretron’s N2K design tool, and you had posted the diagram and made some helpful comments. The network is a hybrid of Maretron “mid” cable backbone so it can take advantage of the power tap and low voltage drop throughout the entire network, as well as SimNet cable from backbone to the navpod at the helm, and Airmar’s cabling up the mast to the PB200. The instruments are an AP28 pilot, AC12 course computer, IS20 analog Wind, IS20 Graphic, DST800 triducer and the aforementioned Airmar PB200. The PB200 feeds N2K data directly into the network, and can be programmed by the Weathercaster software through an Actisense NGT-1 gateway. Position data (NMEA 0183) is fed from a Garmin GPSMap 162 through a ShipModul multiplexer to a Simrad AT10 for translation to N2K PGN’s.
I am happy to report that setup and commissioning of the various components was very smooth, and overall the sytem works very well. I would second Jeffery’s comments about the AP28, but I did turn up one minor bug in my testing that may not be apparent in many installations. I was noticing (and I emailed you about it, Ben) that neither the waypoint name or number was being displayed on any of the AP28 nor IS20 data screens where such information should have appeared. Simrad tech support suggested various places to check, and using a serial port monitor program, I could see that the correct 0183 sentences were indeed being sent to the AT10. The waypoints, however, would not display.
The problem is that the AT10 is not programmed to convert the waypoint identifier (name or number) from the 0183 sentence to the proper PGN for recognition by N2K instruments. Aboard Gizmo, you would not see the problem if your Simrad chartplotter outputs N2K PGN’s…since the only source of WPT identification on my system is the old Garmin GPS, outputting 0183 sentences, the WPT’s get lost at the AT10. Simrad tech support says they will have a mkodification for the AT10 now that the problem has been identified.
One other comment I would make about Simrd concerns documentation (manuals). The manual for the IS20 Graphic illustrates several data screens and how to customize them with various data displays, but then has no information about how the displays work. For instance, the manual tells that if you have integrated wind information available, a data screen can be configured to show “Header/Lift” information, but then neglects to tell a user how to use that display or what the display is meant to show. Another example is in the AP28 manual, where one of the data pages is “Shift”, to give, one supposes, information about wind shifts, but again no information is given on exactly how to manipulate that screen nor on what the screen is exactly intended to show.
All-in-all, I give good marks to Simrad for the instrumentation just described, and hopefully I am going to be able to get more information on the functions which are still a puzzle.
Island Packet ’37
As someone contemplating a Simrad system for my 32ft cat these comments are extremely helpful.
I am planning on multiple displays and black box sounders.(as well as radar)
I would like to run a Simrad broadband sounder on the network as well as a Lowrance structure scan blackbox.
Does Simrad allow me to select different sounders on the ethernet network from different displays or will I have to cable the Lowrance structure scan direct to one of the Simrad displays?
(sorry slightly off nmea2000 topic)
Peter, I don’t know the answer for sure as I only have one Simrad MFD (and haven’t looked at the manual ;-), but there are transducer/blackbox choice boxes for sonar and StructureScan on the NSE 12. The latter looks great with more pixels than an Lowrance HDS, but doesn’t yet have controls as good as the HDS. I dare say they’re working on it.
Brian, I’m in a mad dash to get projects done before cruising away on Thursday, but give me a shout if you get to Camden before then.
Chris, I will try to experiment more with 0183-2000 bridging, and wireless (as much as I dislike messing with those leetle 0183 wires). Jon, Jeffrey, and David, thanks for sharing your SimNet experiences. It will be interesting to see if anyone reports problems with it.
I must confess I have already downloaded the NSE12 manual and perused it,and there’s no info on running multiple network sounders that I could see.
It’s not a big issue as I would have one display dedicated to one sounder anyway for the most part.
But if there’s any Simrad techs out there reading feel free to elucidate.
I’m going to side with NMEA and get onto the soapbox about non-devicenet connectors and proprietary cabling standards. They stink!
I just completed yet another “mostly” Raymarine but with several other N2k gear pieces and designed the network so it was all Maretron N2k with a few devicenet to ST-NG (no good?) connectors. It would have been simpler to do ST-NG the whole way, but it would have been ugly, and I still would have needed to adapt to devicenet along the way. Doing a custom 100% devicenet network took a little more time, and cost my customer a little more money (not much) but it was worth it.
My biggest gripe is the lack of field-installable connectors for ST-NG and SimNet, because there are countless situations where the connector just won’t fit through the rigging tube, t-top support, etc etc and I need to install my own, or I want to bring another manufacturer’s unit onto the network, and that device has a non-compatible connector.
So we have two solutions: Raymarine and Navico abandon their proprietary connectors, or just offer us field-installable connectors. Garmin does it right, they use a devicenet-compatible connector from the factory.
Ben, We will be aboard Dana Louise in Camden Hbr thru late August so hope to rendezvous later. Have a great cruise. Brian
No problem to use NSE and Lowrance MFD with one structurescan, BSM and/or BR24.
I used my NSE together with a HDS 10 and BR24/LBS-1 and LSS-1.
I could use al the systems on both MFD’s.
StructureScan on the NSE12 is turning out to be a great tool for exploring some of Maine’s bony back waters. But it also helped get me to some spots that were beyond the edge in terms of WiFi and cellular. Hence the lack of entries. Sorry about that, but may be headed over the edge again later today.
David, thanks for your comment. Where you able to sort out the COG true versus magnetic issue?. I gather the GS15 just outputs true? What does the AT10 output as COG then? Thanks
Have not resolved the Simrad COG mag vs True. sent long memo to Simrad tech..no response yet. It is my understanding that GS15 puts out COG true and Mag. I believe the issue is IS20 software…..although, GB40 has same issue with “data pages” COG. Sure seems silly to spend $25000 on Simrad stuff and not be able to get answer or even having the problem in the first place…surely this could not be an issue for every user??? the PB200 “as source” on SimNet puts out correct COG magnetic
I have a very complete Simrad system see comment above “Posted by: Jeffrey at July 18, 2010 9:40 AM” the issue we have discovered this past weekend out is on the two IS20 wind and tack instruments if we try to get one to display Apparent Wind and the other True Wind they stop working. It seems that they both show the same either apparent or true but not both? Any ideas.
also we have the HDS 7 hooked up a back up and nearly all data on the NSE can be called up on the HDS, radar, depth sounder etc.
Thanks, I will keep looking at this and come back here if I find a solution
I am about to purchase a full Simrad system for my 32ft catamaran.
Any comments about Navico customer support for the NSE series?
I am not that concerned as I am a tech,but I am curious to see if they are acceptable in that regard now.
Peter – We have the complete Simrad NSE, and other support instruments on board… found that tech support overall does not know the product but goes to the manual…. Overall the equipment is tops and the service is poor…IMHO. if you need to learn what works and what we recently installed (we are mairne professionals) on my own boat, contact me off list. [email protected]
Thanks,Jeffrey,I will shoot you an e-mail.Peter
In my new boat under construction I want to connect a Raymarine C80 plotter to a Simrad Simnet network by using the raymarine Seatalk2 connection. I know that Seatalk2 is not completely compatible with nmea2000, but it seems sufficient for my purposes. Soldering my own cables is no problem.
Doe anyone have experience with this connection?
Thanks for your advice and/or comments.
I have a Furuno MFD8 (software v2.05) connected to a small Simnet network with IS20’s, a Simrad AP28 autopilot, and an AT10 (NMEA0183 to NMEA2000 bridge). The MFD8 recognizes through its N2K port all the Simrad instruments and all of the sensors (wind, depth,etc.), except GPS. All the other instruments display position properly.
The GPS (I’ve tried a Furuno and an Airmar PB200) is connected to the Simnet via the AT10. The MFD8 does recognize position when connected to one of its 0183 ports, either directly to the GPS output, or via the output of a second Simnet AT10.
In order to eliminate other potential network issues, I constructed a Simnet network consisting of only the MFD8, one AT10, and terminated power. Still no position on the MFD8.
It seems to me that either:
– the AT10 is sending mal-formed position PGN’s, or
– the MFD8 can’t recognize well-formed position PGN’s, or
However, since two AT10’s correctly bridge 0183 position sentences over Simnet (0183 -> Simnet PGN -> 0183), and the MFD8 suggests in its “NMEA2000port/Port Monitor/Receive PGN List” that position PGS’s are available. My best guess is that the MFD8 is the problem.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
It’s the AT10, Noel, I’m nearly certain of it. It does output some GPS PGNs but there are a lot of them, and I’ve only seen one N2K MFD that will recognize AT10 output as a valid GPS (and it couldn’t show things like satellite positions, because the AT10 doesn’t translate them):
I’ve had better luck going the other way, as in using an AT10 to deliver GPS to an NMEA 0183 VHF (like the Standard GX2100), which aren’t looking for satellite positions, accuracy figures, and other info that a plotter may insist on.
I believe that Actisense NGW-1 has a much larger library of 0183-to-2000 translations:
I also saw pretty good GPS results from Raymarine’s SeaTalk-to-STng converter, and the illustrations suggest how complex the translation is:
I just received an NGT-1, and I’ll see which PGN’s it says are available.
Make sure you update the NGT-1 software to the latest release, Actisense is actively adding PGNs (pun intended).
I used the NGT-1 on the Simnet net and found that a position PGN, 129025, is available and has correct Lat/Lon position information. So I called Furuno and described the problem to a tech. He promised to get back to me but I haven’t heard anything yet. He did mention something about an AT10 mode on their FI-50 instruments, but I can’t find anything mentioned in the manuals.
I tried sending NMEA 0183 position data to the Furuno MFD8 via an Actisense NGW-1, which sends both PGN 129025 and 129029. When I select the NGW-1 in the installation wizard, the MFD installation program crashes! The only way to recover from the crash is a power cycle.
Even if the NGW-1 is sending a mal-formed PGN, which I sincerely doubt, is it acceptable for the Furuno to crash?
Skip, I’ve seen Lowrance outboard N2K networks in action but don’t know the details of how they’re put together. Does your Suzuki provide power to the backbone? Termination for one end?
If you are confident that you understand where the power supply and termination is now, I think that there are two ways to extent the network to include the SimNet devices. I suspect that the best way is to add Lowrance or similar backbone cables and tees with adapter drops from the NSE, 4g, etc.
However, I think your network will work if you just use a Simnet adapter cable to transition from Lowrance backbone to SimNet backbone. I would not try splicing SimNet cable to anything as its “drain wire” is foil instead of wire and near impossible to splice successfully.
The Suzuki/LowranceNet Blue is a series of 5 Blue tee connectors plugged together with a 120ohm terminator on each end the drops from each tee are to: Suzuki engine interface, Fluid level sender 1, Fluid level sender 2, a Suzuki SMIS gauge, and the last drop is to power.
The Simnet has 2 7-way multi joiners. I have a power cable for the simnet that I can use if I need to remove the power from the N2K side. I also have terminators for the Simnet that I haven’t yet installed.
I was hoping that I could just remove one of the 120ohm terminators from the last LowranceBlue tee and run adapter cables (Blue to Micro C, Micro C to Sinmet) to a plug on the Simnet joiner. I am thinking that the Simnet will get it’s power from the LowranceBlue, and that all the Simrad components could then just plug into the open ports on the Simnet joiners with a Simnet terminator on the far end of the Simnet side.
If I was to add the older LowranceBlue components to the Simnet backbone, two adapter cable are required for each drop: i.e., gauge, engine interface, and each fuel sender.
Thoughts as to which would be best?
If I were you, Skip, I’d try your simpler plan first. I can’t guarantee anything of course, but I think it will work and that even if it doesn’t nothing will get damaged. What you should watch out for, though, is dropped messages that might be caused by the unusual impedances that are going to be in your particular N2K network. Good luck and please do report on how things work out.
OK, GREAT WEB.
Question Furuno Radar 1835 accepts NMEA0183 INPUTS.
Can I input the SIMNET data into the 1835 using the AT10 CONVERTER
Quite possible, Jeff, but first make sure that the AT10 translates the data that the Furuno radar is looking for. More info here:
Quick question — I have a Jeanneau 379 with a SIMRAD system. It has worked great for the past 3 years. Last week though, I started to have some issues. First, some data (traducer depth,speed,temp) would only show on the IS20 displays and not on the NSS-8. In fact, none of the sensors (AIS,triducer, masthead wind, etc would should up on the NSS-8. Today, I noticed that all data is blank on all IS20 and chartplotter screens. I checked the T-joiners and all have green LEDs lit, and all displays are powered, but without data. When looking at the sources on the IS20, it reads “source selection not possible”. I checked the impedance at the AC42 computer (white,blue wires) and get the desired 60 ohms. I can see the termination on the daisy chain at the AP24 gauge and I am sure it is also at the mast head wind indicator. So that is good. Additionally, the IS20 service page says Address claim FAIL, CAN bus on. The NSS-8 diagnostics page says bus state OFF. Any ideas? Also note: I have not added any new hardware to the system over the past 2 or so years. Also no NMEA-0183 components. This is baffling me!
Sounds like good troubleshooting so far, Don, but now I think you have to remove devices from the network hoping to find one that is causing SimNet/N2K trouble. I’m most suspicious of the masthead unit, especially if the mast just got put in the boat again.
If it is the masthead unit, I suspect that everything else will work OK without the masthead terminator, but the best way to test would be to put a new terminator in the network where the masthead lead normally connects.