SRT mini AIS modules, & trouble from the East?

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.

14 Responses

  1. George Ray says:

    Thanks for keeping us apprised of such an important issue.

  2. anonymous says:

    I am a unclear from your writing. You describe new AIS products from a company called SRT while also expressing concerns over the safety of AIS approvals. Are you implying that SRT AIS modules are among those products whose approvals are a concern? If not, then it is entirely inappropriate to associate two entirely separate things in one text.
    I am also unclear whether your reference to the “mature” age of SRT developers is intended as a slight (i.e. old and past it) or a positive (i.e many years of experience)?

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t think it’s that unclear, anonymous. In the second part I named four companies that have purportedly received AIS approvals in the Far East for equipment that has failed US and EU testing. SRT is certainly not one of them. I also linked to the SRT testing documents at the FCC as an example of what proper testing looks like.
    Yes, the entry covers two AIS topics, as indicated by its title. Sorry that confuses you.
    No, I was not slighting the SRT developers for their age. I’m 63 years old myself, and a fan of SRT’s technical achievements.

  4. John says:

    This does not surprise me with equipment from outside the US, Canada, and Europe. I would think that any transmitter that is sold here in the US must meet certain FCC standards to reduce the chances of interference with other radio services. It’s unfortunate that this stuff comes out of Asia where there are usually less stringent standards as far as acceptable interference. But hey we’re all supposed to be one big global community.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I have all sorts of marine and consumer electronics that were built in the Far East and work very well. But, yes, my phones and VHF radios did have to pass FCC-mandated tests. AIS is different in two ways. Its core technology is the constant, automatic sharing of frequencies for short bursts of data from many sources, which is tricky. There is some redundancy and other protective measures built in, but apparently one rude transponder can mess things up in its transmission range.
    And while there is a strict international standard for how AIS transponders should work, the nation where it’s licensed and sold is responsible for making sure the details are right, even though the transponder sold may then go anywhere.

  6. Hsu, Charlie says:

    Correction notice from Alltek Marine
    AMEC Class B transponder, Camino-101, has been certified by BSH and Phoenix Lab, and gained CE. In USA, we have completed USCG review and been waiting for FCC approval now.

  7. del says:

    Ben – I suggest that you send an apology to Alltek – I have a copy of their BSH certificate in front of me.

  8. del says:

    BTW – we were monitoring the Portsmouth UK area a few weeks back and found at least one Class A unit that was intermittently transmitting half a slot out of time. The UK’s MCGA went and had a quiet word with them – it’s now been replaced!

  9. Todd says:

    I agree with the other post, that as I read this piece, it appears to imply that Smart Radio is of similar concern to you as the others mentioned. On apparent hearsay and by labeling it as “cheap” (rather than inexpensive), you have potentially sent it to it’s grave. Now it may very well be a POS, but I would expect clarification and proof as to why.
    Similarly, I am naturally skeptical anytime someone calls out companies by name without EXTENSIVE back-up. Using “I am told” as a foundation for casting such doubt on these manufactures is a bit suspect. This market is too small, and rumors/negativity spread like wildfire.
    However – I DO think professionals and consumers need to be aware of the importance of certification and the discrepancies that may exist between national testing institutes. Bringing that to everyones attention is a very good thing – but presenting it as you did is a bit like chatter you would expect around the water cooler at work.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I do apologize to Alltel, and offer Charlie congratulations on passing the BSH testing. And I will edit the text above as soon as I get to a real keyboard.
    Todd, Smart Radio has nothing to do with SRT.

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Todd (and others), what I wrote about the companies making suspect transponders may be hearsay, and maybe I didn’t write well, but the premise can be verified by anyone, at least to a certain degree. The equipment involved either is or is not tested and certified for sale in the EU and US. The manufacturer is certainly going to let consumers know if that is true.
    Now, I can not verify that the devices that lack EU and US certification actually failed the testing required to get it, but I think it’s safe to say that any company that makes AIS equipment would like to sell it in the EU and US. Draw your own conclusions. And please encourage boaters who are outside the EU and US to buy AIS transponders that have passed EU and/or US testing.
    And please note that this premise works two ways. My hearsay information turned out to be old regarding the Alltek Class B Camino transponder (for which I’m sorry). The unit has recently passed BSH testing, and received CE approval — I saw the certificates today — and should get FCC approval soon. That’s a tremendous endorsement, in my view, and will help Alltek to compete against manufacturers in the US and Europe, big time.
    As for the Smart Radio SR261, which claims it can be either a Class A or B transponder, let me repeat that Smart Radio has nothing whatsoever to do with SRT (which stands for Software Radio Technology). In fact, that information is in the SR261 link above, in which you’ll also learn that I briefly bench tested the device. My opinions about it are not hearsay:
    The Smart Radio SR261 is way out of the AIS specifications, has no certifications I know of, and the only reason some cruisers purchased it was because it’s cheap. I think those cruisers made a mistake, saving a few bucks in exchange for the chance of damaging a very valuable safety system. If I hastened the SR261 to its grave, I’m glad.

  12. John says:

    Good stuff Ben. I’m very interested in seeing what micro-technology is created using these new small boards! -John

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    The Amec Camino-101 Class B transponder received FCC approval last week, and becomes the first transponder I know of available with bluetooth output. Info here:

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    The Amec Camino 101 Class B is now for sale in the U.S., at under $500 with a GPS antenna, but apparently without the bluetooth option:

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