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AnotherSailor

AIS to iPad or other tablet

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I am at this point pretty convinced it would be a good idea to have an AIS transponder on board and I would like to use an Ipad (or other tablet) for both navigation and monitoring AIS. There is the solution of buying a > $700 AIS system with integrated wifi, but I am also considering some cheaper options. Just to be clear: I want a good working system even if that means spending a few extra $$$ but want to explore some alternative routes.

Here are some thoughts so far:

- I will get an iPad and something like iNavx, which seems to work well for many folks

- I will buy a cheap transponder such as the Matsutec HA-102 CLASS B AIS Transponder ($290) and hook it up to my existing VHF antenna. For this I will need a splitter, adding up to the cost and making me already doubt how "cheap" this cheap transponder is going to be. It would be nice to have AIS, splitter, and wifi (I will get to this in a minute) all in one integrated unit.

Now, how to get these systems to communicate? It seems the Matsutech unit comes with a serial output port, which could probably be connected to a lightning cable. From what I have read, this does not always work well and I am really not interested to adapt adapters switching cables and settings until I get a headache. The other disadvantage of a cable is that it is hanging out of the iPad, can get disconnected, and makes waterproofing more challenging.

The alternative is wifi. There are very cheap AIS receivers with wifi (as in less than $100), but for transponders it is a different story. I believe it is possible to add some kind of wifi stick into the transponder, but here I am running into my own ignorance regarding wifi signals, protocols, nmea, and what not.

Oh yeah, some good news: I do not plan to integrate any other devices, so it is only the iPad + navigation with AIS.

Has anyone done something like this successfully?

 

 

 

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I do it, but have a Raymarine plotter (below decks) and use their software to show AIS on the iPad above decks. This isn't that cheap of a solution, but it works well for us and the plotter is useful with the autopilot and other instruments.  It can be pretty cheap if you buy an older used unit (a65 or e7 for instance).

I don't know of any way to get AIS onto the iPad Navionics app, and prefer Navionics to iNavX (though I should re-evaluate that next time my charts expire).

 

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1 hour ago, Alex W said:

I do it, but have a Raymarine plotter (below decks) and use their software to show AIS on the iPad above decks. This isn't that cheap of a solution, but it works well for us and the plotter is useful with the autopilot and other instruments.  It can be pretty cheap if you buy an older used unit (a65 or e7 for instance).

I don't know of any way to get AIS onto the iPad Navionics app, and prefer Navionics to iNavX (though I should re-evaluate that next time my charts expire).

 

That would be another route I had not even considered. Not sure if I want to invest in a plotter while I do most navigation with good old paper charts and would use the iPad on the side.

Regarding iNavx: it has a lot more capacities than navionics. You actually do not need to buy charts, you can download the noaa charts, which are quite detailed and are kept up to date. Regarding AIS, this is what their FAQ's state:

Does iNavX support AIS receivers and transponders?
Yes via TCP/IP. Targets are plotted on the chart with real-world scaling. An AIS Transponder can be used to provide own position, speed and course to iNavX. SART and NavAids are supported.

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I mostly use charts in Canada, so NOAA charts don't help me.  I know the US waters around me well enough that I mostly use paper charts.  Canada doesn't give away their charts like NOAA and is in fact quite fond of them.  Navionics charts are a bargain in comparison (and I like them).

I've used AIS with iNavX just to try it out, but don't like the iNavX UX very much.  I did it using a homemade NMEA 2000 to WiFi gateway, but now you could probably do it with the Signal-K stack more easily. 

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On 8/19/2017 at 8:15 PM, Alex W said:

I mostly use charts in Canada, so NOAA charts don't help me.  I know the US waters around me well enough that I mostly use paper charts.  Canada doesn't give away their charts like NOAA and is in fact quite fond of them.  Navionics charts are a bargain in comparison (and I like them).

I've used AIS with iNavX just to try it out, but don't like the iNavX UX very much.  I did it using a homemade NMEA 2000 to WiFi gateway, but now you could probably do it with the Signal-K stack more easily. 

Oh yes, I saw Seattle and thought NOAA, but you are practically in Canada.

You lost me with the Signal-K - I had no idea what that is and after googling it I still have no idea how I could use that. It makes me realize I am sot so sure how Wifi works.

I might for now just go with a device that receives AIS ...

Gerard

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Certainly just receiving AIS is vastly cheaper and easier than an actual transponder. I just got a boat that has neither a plotter nor AIS; just an older low end VHF radio. This boat was lake sailed so none of that was needed, but I plan to cruise and race, so I wanted a plotter and AIS. The equipment came in just today so I'm still testing. I got a Garmin GPSMAP 942 and a Lowrance VHF transceiver with built in AIS. I also ordered a Garmin 210 AIS VHF transceiver. The Lowrance was less than half the price of the Garmin and as near as I can tell has more capability. The Lowrance can display AIS targets on it's own display and seems to have proximity alarms. The Garmin does not seem to, from reading its manual. 

It all connects with NMEA 2000, so if for some reason the Garmin plotter can't talk to the Lowrance I'll return it and install the Garmin.  I won't need a separate AIS transponder, which means I won't need a VHF antenna splitter. I do expect the Lowrance to work fine with the plotter, since GPS and AIS PGNs on N2K are all standard, not proprietary. 

So all this should give me AIS data on the plotter, and of course pass the GPS data to the VHF transceiver for distress DSC, without needing an antenna splitter. The plotter has a wifi hub built in and I can use my iPad as a remote display and control for the plotter. And, it has ANT so it will talk to my Fenix 5 watch.

I looked at getting a transponder, but I didn't want to pay so much and I didn't want to install an antenna splitter. I'll use the money I saved for a RADAR reflector.

 

 

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For a cheap wifi option how about NMEA0183 via RS232 to USB plugged into a raspberry pi running kplex with a wifi dongle plugged into it to get it onto NMEA over IP. 

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On 8/22/2017 at 0:06 AM, jarcher said:

 

I looked at getting a transponder, but I didn't want to pay so much and I didn't want to install an antenna splitter. I'll use the money I saved for a RADAR reflector.

 

 

 

things may have changed.., but the last test of radar reflectors that i saw said they were nearly worthless

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3 hours ago, AnotherSailor said:

Raspberry pi ... hmm sounds complicated

Yeah for that option, you need to know a good bit of technical stuff.

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1 hour ago, us7070 said:

 

things may have changed.., but the last test of radar reflectors that i saw said they were nearly worthless

Okay then, more money saved!

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4 hours ago, jarcher said:

Yeah for that option, you need to know a good bit of technical stuff.

It's not too bad. You can buy a RS232 to USB Ccoverter quite cheaply, just plug it in, run the pi off a 12v to USB socket, install kplex with 1 command, set up the dongle (admittedly more complex but lots of tutorials) and set kplex to run on startup. Maybe a couple of hours of following tutorials. 

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13 hours ago, Firebar said:

It's not too bad. You can buy a RS232 to USB Ccoverter quite cheaply, just plug it in, run the pi off a 12v to USB socket, install kplex with 1 command, set up the dongle (admittedly more complex but lots of tutorials) and set kplex to run on startup. Maybe a couple of hours of following tutorials. 

I am already lost....:o Seriously, I have no idea what kplex is and I am not sure how to set up a pi. And more honestly, I don't think I want to spend a few hours going over tutorials.

 

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Back to AIS and Navionics, this is the official from Navionics customer support: 

At this time we do not offer AIS integration within our mobile apps. It is definitely something that continues to be suggested to us and all suggestions are passed along to our developers for consideration with future updates. They are always up to new projects to make new features available that our users are asking for.
 
As to integration with our plotter cards, this would not actually be something that would be "compatible" with our cards, but a function of the unit itself (like the feature would need to be integrated with our app, but doesn't affect the mapping). If the plotter is compatible and connected to an AIS receiver, the information will display on the screen with or without a Navionics chart card.
 
They also added that  Navionics cannot,  InavX can, and you can buy Navionics charts through them.

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14 hours ago, Firebar said:

It's not too bad. You can buy a RS232 to USB Ccoverter quite cheaply, just plug it in, run the pi off a 12v to USB socket, install kplex with 1 command, set up the dongle (admittedly more complex but lots of tutorials) and set kplex to run on startup. Maybe a couple of hours of following tutorials. 

Well, it's not bad for someone like you and me, but for many people, this could be an overwhelming nightmare. And unless they really understand it, how will they know they got it right? I think it's a bridge too far for most people.

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So I'm lost. At this point in the thread, what are we trying to help the OP with?  If he wants to transmit AIS data, he has to spend a good bit of money, for both a transponder and an antenna splitter or a second antenna. If he wants to receive AIS data, well, again, a $260 lowrance VHF Link-8 will give NMEA 2000 or 0186 to his plotter. 

Maybe I should whip up some software to convert AIS data to something an older, less expensive plotter can put on to the screen. But really, what's the shelf life of something like that?

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Cant comment on the transceiver brand but assuming you have one you can connect it to a brookhouse multiplex with wifi (~$350), BANG you have AIS on iNavX. It works as I have it.

i also have the Rpi as well for all other nmea and openCPN but that's another thread 

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I experimented a bit running OpenCpn on a "headless" pi and then remoting in to that from phones, pads and computers (android, ios, linux, win10). I was getting four NMEA 0183 inputs via usb/serial. Worked surprisingly well but it's definitely a hack. It takes some tweaking and it hasn't seen any QA. So not a turnkey or critical system thing.  The advantage is that the "server" keeps context so when you log in with your pad or phone you have all the AIS targets up to date.

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18 hours ago, solosailor said:

Standard Horizon 5500 (VHF/GPS/AIS) to RS422 to WiFi bridge ($75 Amazon) to iNavX or such.   

OK, now we are talking!

What kind of wifi bridge do you have? Do you have a link to the product? Part of the problem here is that I am not sure which wifi device can "translate the AIS NMEA data. If you have a working system that would be very helpful to know!

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3 minutes ago, AnotherSailor said:

OK, now we are talking!

What kind of wifi bridge do you have? Do you have a link to the product? Part of the problem here is that I am not sure which wifi device can "translate the AIS NMEA data. If you have a working system that would be very helpful to know!

AIS data encoded using NMEA 0183 is part of that standard. Any device which claims that it converts NMEA 0183 from one topology to another (wire to wifi, for example) should be able to handle all the standard NMEA 0183 sentences. 

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1 hour ago, jarcher said:

AIS data encoded using NMEA 0183 is part of that standard. Any device which claims that it converts NMEA 0183 from one topology to another (wire to wifi, for example) should be able to handle all the standard NMEA 0183 sentences. 

Ok, I start to understand the basics now.

So something like this should work?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NMEA-0183-to-WiFi-BRIDGE-/182598371832?epid=848896893&hash=item2a83b609f8:g:Ab8AAOSwqfNXlsfL&vxp=mtr

 

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Search Amazon for RS422 to Wifi.   Find one that uses 12V power.    All RS422 to Wifi bridges should work with no complicated setups.  NMEA (& AIS) are simply serial strings.

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Ok, this is very helpful. Thank you all.

Since the wifi bridge only needs 3 wires, this seems pretty simple... once I get all the equipment I will let you all know how it worked out.

 

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4 hours ago, solosailor said:

Yes that will work, looks like a nice inexpensive unit and runs on 12V.   It does NOT need to say NMEA, simply RS422.

Check the manual on the specific AIS unit for this, NMEA0183 is technically an RS422 signal but some older units actually output a RS232 signal. Some newer units are compatible with both. If the one you're looking at can do RS232 the converters are often cheaper as it's more common.

Electrically the difference is that RS232 has a signal and a ground wire for transmit and receive (often a common ground, I.e. 3 wires) and RS422 is a differential signal (a +ve and a -ve for transmit and receive so always 4 wire).

The good news is that when you read the manuals on most ais units they're compatible with RS232 and RS422 because they tend to have been used interchangeably over the history of NMEA0183. 

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I was in a similar situation. I finally decided piecing together a system to save a few bucks wasn't worth the hassle. Every cost cutting option I found had usability drawbacks or unexpected costs. 

Ended up with a Vesper 8000 from Milltech.com using their GPS/AIS antenna and had it running with INavX, iRegatta, and my NEMA data two hours after opening the box.  I was $200 over the cheapest home-brew option I could estimate. Works great, reliable, no hassles. 
 

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