Nobeltec navigation software

Nobeltec Releases Admiral and VNS 11.1 Service Pack

Nobeltec said today it has released a free service pack update for users of the new (January 2011) version of Admiral and VNS.  The service pack offers integration with Furuno’s popular Digital Fish Finder (DFF1) Sounder, as well as a number of NMEA 2000 integration improvements.  While I don’t often simply reprint a press release, Nobeltec is a pretty straightforward company and it makes more sense to just quote it here.  I am also planning a full review of the Nobeltec TimeZero Trident software, to which I believe most boaters will eventually want to move.

Herewith the Nobeltec News:

“Nobeltec announces new hardware integration and software functionality with the service pack release of Admiral 11.1 and VNS 11.1. VNS and Admiral are optimized for safe and accurate navigation on recreational boats, commercial vessels, and mega yachts. This newest service pack adds value to Nobeltec navigation systems. One of the most significant updates to the marine navigational software is the ability to integrate with the Furuno Digital Fish Finder (DFF1) Sounder.

“Integration with the Furuno DFF1 sounder is a natural addition to our Nobeltec software suite,” Nobeltec General Manager Bill Washburn said. “We’re glad boaters can take advantage of the integration of two great products: the Furuno DFF1 Sounder and Nobeltec VNS and Admiral software.”

Improvements to NMEA 2000 integration also enhance functionality in the Admiral and VNS software. The new release supports NMEA 2000 AIS Device Priority, and the real time weather functionality has been upgraded to include Pressure, Air Temperature and Humidity inputs from NMEA 2000 sensors.

Admiral and VNS 11.1 showcase improved AIS target filtering. In the Admiral software, the service pack adds the ability to filter AIS targets based on class and both VNS and Admiral offer the option to display a target’s class (A or B).

The latest version will also, for the first time, include NV. Charts digital chart integration and support. These raster charts cover Europe, Bahamas, Cuba, and other areas in the Caribbean. The integration of NV. Charts digital charts is in addition to many other types of raster charts as well as C-MAP® MAX Pro™ vector charts already supported by VNS and Admiral.

This is the first service pack for the software since the successful release of Admiral 11 and VNS 11 in January 2011. The new release is available as a free download to customers currently running the latest version of Admiral or VNS. Customers can visit the Nobeltec website (www.nobeltec.com) to access the new service pack.”

Copyright ©2011 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Technology
Nobeltec:  The Future Has No Dongle

Nobeltec: The Future Has No Dongle

Screenshot of Nobeltec Time Zero Trident 3D Nav View

Screenshot of Nobeltec Time Zero Trident 3D Nav View

I have seen the future of Nobeltec, and it has no. . . okay, okay, I couldn’t resist.  But c’mon, let’s admit, that dongle was the only real thing we hated about Nobeltec navigation software.  And yes, I know all the reasons they had for using it, but it really got in the way.  And now that you know that the future Nobeltec nav software won’t require a dongle, let me tell you that that is the least important of all the improvements coming.  Nobeltec gave journalists and industry insiders at the Miami Boat Show a  peak at the next-generation software, code-named Trident, that has been under development for some time at the company.  The future is very bright, indeed.

In fact, Nobeltec liked the code-name so much they kept it for the new product, married to a term that underlies the technical philosophy of the new products — “TimeZero.”  The full name will be TimeZero Trident.  The TimeZero moniker refers to the high-speed chart-drawing engine that will be the basis for all Nobeltec software going forward.  This is the result of the purchase of Nobeltec by Signet S.A., in October of 2009.  The TimeZero codebase is shared between Nobeltec, MaxSea and Furuno (who is a 49% shareholder of Signet).

What does this mean to you?

The major benefit to you as a navigator using software based on this chart engine is the nearly instantaneous, seamless chart re-draws, no matter what you’re trying to do — pan, zoom in or zoom out. You don’t wait for anything.  And when that kind of speed is available, then integrating full-time 3D is easy to do. In fact you can fuse photos into the 3D view as well and with a feature called Depth Shading, you can keep the high resolution satellite photos in place and watch it become more transparent with increasing water depth, allowing you to see where shallow water ends and deeper water begins.

The Charts?

TimeZero Trident will run MapMedia 3D charts, including official S-57 vector and raster charts from hydrographic offices around the world, as well as vector charts from C-MAP by Jeppesen and DataCore by Navionics.  The bottom line on this feature is that you will have access to the best cartography available and you can run in and out of the different charts without any work on your part.

The software is fully integrated, as you might expect, with the latest Furuno hardware, including NavNet 3D and the FAR 2XX7 series of radars, as well as a host of other Furuno and Insight (Nobeltec) hardware.  There are nice integrations of NMEA data streams, too, so a real glass bridge can be even more flexible and functional.

The Best Part

Despite all the previous gushing, what I liked best about the Trident product is the new user interface.  A couple of extremely useful and flexible toolbars are placed around the periphery of the screen, allowing you to configure your activity and views with nearly limitless customization.  But you don’t have to dig through a foggy manual to learn how to do it.  For example, in the screenshot at the top of this piece, you can see a small ribbon at the top of the screen, which allows you to select the “workspace” that you are in.  You can move with a single click from an active navigation (monitoring) workspace, to a planning workspace, without disrupting the former to get to the latter.

On the right side of the screen above you can see a transparent sidebar with a new key instrument view.  This, too, is customizable.  To read all about the features in TimeZero Trident, download the attached brochure PDF (6+MB).

You can see the screenshots in this special OceanLines Gallery 

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The Future

While TimeZero Trident will be a stand-alone product, distinct from the current Nobeltec VNS and Admiral 11 software, eventually, its TimeZero engine will be the basis for all Nobeltec software in the future.  I think it’s fair to say you can expect to see TimeZero VNS and Admiral versions, which do still have somewhat different feature sets from Trident.  The Nobeltec folks didn’t say so, but it seems logical to me that at some point down the road, I don’t know when, everything will become Trident labeled (hey, it’s a cooler name, right?).  Nobeltec expects TZ Trident to be available later this spring.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology

The Wish List: Auto-Updating Charts

Auto-Updating Charts — It’s time recreational mariners had broad access to, and used, auto-updating technology to ensure that the charts they use in their chartplotters are continuously up-to-date.  Offered by a single company to-date, it’s an important safety enhancement and one within the reach of current technology.  This is the second in our occasional series called “The Wish List.”

Are Your Charts Missing the Key Piece of Information?  -- Illustration

Are Your Charts Missing the Key Piece of Information? -- Illustration

I have two chartplotters on my boat — a Furuno NavNet unit that uses C-Map/NT charts (on a proprietary chip format), and a Northstar 6000i that uses Navionics charts on a compact flash card.  Once a year I have the opportunity to update these charts/chips, at a fairly modest cost; well, one more modest than the other.  What has always bugged me is that there is no practical way to update the charts in the interim period.  Why can’t I simply connect my chartplotters to the Internet — or bring the chips home and connect them to my PC — and get updates as soon as they are available via the NGA or Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs)?

Interestingly, this type of chart-updating is widely available to military and commercial mariners.  There is, however, only one company (to my knowledge) that offers this capability to recreational boaters and that is the Jeppesen Marine MAX Pro brand of cartography.  More on that later.

The Problem

Unless you’re a MAX Pro customer, you can update your charts at most twice per year, and usually just once.  Not only that, but by the time you get the updated chart cartridge it’s guaranteed to be out-of-date; since LNMs update these areas weekly. 

Commercial operators, who are required to have updated charts onboard at all times, use auto-updating services to stay current.  For example, in the U.S., the Jeppesena NavData update service ensures commercial captains always have the latest charts.  There is a little bit of irony, though, in the notion that a freighter plodding its way across vast, featureless stretches of ocean knows exactly where the buoys in every port are, while the recreational boater, who is navigating the coastal waters that are strewn with aids and hazards to navigation has only outdated information available to him.  Who actually has the greater need?  Even when the freighter gets to port, the odds are it’s going to get a harbor pilot aboard with years of experience and real-time local information to get him safely to the pier.

Of course, when I say the recreational captain doesn’t have updated chart info “available,” I’m really saying that he or she hasn’t taken the time to get it.  Local Notices to Mariners and updates from the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency are issued weekly and every boater can manually update paper charts — if they have them, that is.  U.S. Coast Guard crews have told me they rarely find appropriate charts aboard boats that are randomly inspected.

There are plenty of examples of auto-updating technology out there.  Your personal computer is probably the most obvious one.  If you use a Microsoft operating system, your PC probably automatically installs the latest security and operational fixes while you sleep.  Unless you’ve disabled the feature, you never have to worry about having the latest patches in your system.  Many applications on your computer can also update themselves.  All that’s required is a connection to the Internet.  And more and more boats have some kind of Internet capabilities these days.  High-end passagemakers often have satellite access to the Internet (remember, good update technology only sends relatively small-size files that have the changes, not the whole chart or program).  Many smaller cruisers have Wi-Fi antennae aboard and can make use of that connection any time they’re near a port or marina.

It is a relatively simple task to add Internet capability to most of today’s chartplotters.  Most have the guts of a PC-like computer anyway, so adding Internet connectivity shouldn’t be that big of a challenge.  And with more and more of these devices networked, often via Ethernet protocols, the ability to update ALL of your devices this way, whether for firmware or software enhancements, should be possible.

MAX Pro Charts

I mentioned earlier that Jeppesen Marine, under the brand C-MAP by Jeppesen, offers its MAX Pro Cartography product for use in both the Northstar 8000i and Simrad GB40 chartplotters (the latter a black-box system).  It is also available to run on the latest versions of the Nobeltec VNS and Admiral nav software packages, known as VNS MAX Pro and Admiral MAX Pro, respectively.  If you’re running Nobeltec software now, you should be upgrading your software to the MAX Pro versions because you’re already on a PC of some kind and that nearly always means Internet access.  Most MAX Pro users will plug in a USB thumb drive to their nav unit, tell the unit to update the licensed charts; and then the unit will place the update request on the USB drive.  Plug that into an Internet-connected device and it will automatically go get the updates, which can then be downloaded onto the nav computer.  A typical update might take from 30-60 seconds; only the update information is being retrieved, not the whole chart.

New Navico Broadband Radar Overlay on MAX Pro Chart -- Image Courtesy of Jeppesen Marine

New Navico Broadband Radar Overlay on MAX Pro Chart -- Image Courtesy of Jeppesen Marine

We will have a follow-on piece in the near future on the Nobeltec software with some demonstrations and discussions of how to do the chart updating, so stay tuned.

Another option for PC-navigation users is with the products of Rose Point Navigation.  Its ECS (used more by commerical mariners) and Coastal Explorer programs feature easy updating of the charts, including all the raster and vector charts available from NOAA.  Watch for our review of the Rose Point programs in the upcoming series on PC-based navigation.

In the meantime, if you use Navionics or Garmin-brand cartography, get after them to speed this capability to market.  I hear whispers that Garmin may be close to such a capability but the company won’t specifically confirm it.  Auto-updating of your navigation charts is an important safety enhancement and a technology already demonstrated to be ready for prime time.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Technology