Techno-Talk, November 2006 from BoatUS Magazine -
I want my boat to be wireless!
not quite wireless; I’ll still need the 12-volt DC and 120-volt
AC power distribution system. The wires I want to eliminate are
the ones I have to install every time I add new electronic devices,
the multi-conductor signal cables, the ones that house varying numbers
of very small, and very difficult to connect wires.
new electronics to a boat, installing the signal wiring is invariably
the most time-consuming part of the job. So I want instruments,
sensors, radios and the entertainment system and all of its speakers
to work without wires. I’ll grudgingly provide power wires
to each device since creating a radio frequency energy field around
the boat strong enough to provide power wirelessly would melt the
chocolate, heat the beer, and bring me unwanted attention from the
Federal Communications Commission.
the goal of a “wireless” boat can now be achieved. The
following scenario supports this hypothesis. Opening scene: You
just got off the plane and are in the airport parking garage. As
usual you have forgotten exactly where you parked your car. You
reach into your pocket and click the remote door lock button on
the car key. Your car announces its presence with a chirp and a
friendly blink of its lights. As you drive home your cell phone
starts playing the overture from H.M.S. Pinafore (your favorite
“ring tone”, after all you are the captain of your boat).
You tap the answer key and carry on a conversation using the Bluetooth
headset that hangs on your ear.
you pick up the 56-key infrared remote control for your home theater
system. Before you can start the movie, the phone rings. You pick
up one of the cordless phones and inform the caller they have the
wrong number. You start the movie. An hour later, tired of watching
the movie, you turn on your laptop computer and using its WiFi link
and wireless mouse start surfing the Internet while listening to
music on your wireless, noise-canceling stereo headphones.
morning you shower while listening to one of your Pinafore recordings,
broadcast wirelessly throughout your home. Just before leaving for
work you check the wireless remote weather station display and pick
up your Bluetooth earpiece from its charging base.
systems you have used include radio transmitters for your car’s
access system and the garage door remote control, the Bluetooth
system built into your cell phone, the infrared transmitter in the
home theater remote control, a wireless home telephone, the WiFi
system that connects laptop to the Internet, the wireless mouse,
the radio link to your wireless headphones and the home’s
other audio outlets and the transmitter that sends information to
your weather display. You are living in a largely unwired world.
systems can make your boat wireless! The chart plotter / radar can
be managed using an infrared remote control. Wireless microphones
are available for some VHF/DSC radios. There are wireless depth
sounder, speed, wind speed and direction sensors that require only
DC power. Wireless audio systems eliminate the need to run wires
to speakers and can work with the same wireless headphones you use
at home. A WiFi repeater will create an on-board wireless network,
making it possible to use computers anywhere on board without installing
Ethernet cables. Install a computer below deck and a wireless link
will allow its screen, keyboard and mouse to be used anywhere on
board. Wireless controls are available for the autopilot, bow thruster,
anchor windlass and dinghy hoist. A combination of the technology
used in wireless phones, Bluetooth and WiFi (ieee 802.11b) can handle
all of the communication requirements.
some devices, for example marine GPS receivers and radar, that are
not yet available with wireless signal connectivity. GPS receivers
containing Bluetooth transmitters are available for use with computers.
So similar units for use with chartplotters can’t be far off.
Anyone who has had to cut and splice the multi-wire cable from the
radar scanner to the display will cast a vote in favor of a wireless
alternative. The technology needed to cut the control /data cable
between the scanner and the display exists, and we think it won’t
be long before a wireless radar unit appears on the market.
By Chuck Husick
Chuck Husick is a pilot, engineer, sailor and former president of
Chris Craft Boats.
© Copyright BoatUS Magazine 2006