• 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Sailing with mobile devices... issues to consider
Until relatively recently there was not much to choose from on the question of how the electronics would be installed on our boat. Depending of how big is our boat, our pocket or both at the same time the usual thing was to end up acquiring devices dedicated to navigation such as GPS receivers, plotters, depth sounders and other extras at prices ranging from a few hundred €uro$ to several thousand... even tens of thousands in particular cases.

This is changing today.

More and more of us seafarers are cruise ships that we decided to manage on our own, as will be the engineering of the electronic installation of our ships. The new high-powered, low-cost, energy-efficient computing devices have opened up some very interesting doors for those who want to experiment with this issue. The current mobile devices that can be found at prices of all kinds (phones and tablets) and open a new door to simple applications to install and operate (opencpn, Navionics and others) with updated quality mapping and enough features to ensure some navigation security. In fact, they are beginning to become a kind of "standard" alternative to the classic of traditional plotters.

Myself, interested in these byte and electron issues, has decided for several years now to ignore the offers of "traditional" brands of marine electronics for three reasons:

1 -Price
2 -Abandonment by the user of the "old style" brands due to Scheduled Obsolescence
3 -Mandatory use of proprietary protocols by brands to the detriment of the general compatibility of the devices

The objectives that a server set itself in principle were:

1 Price
2 Ease of adaptation to the circumstances of each navigation
3 Ease of replacement or repair of parts
4 Redundancy for safety
5 Strength and reliability
6 Simplicity
7 Positioning, plotting on chart, AIS, RADAR integration and any other type of electronics must be obtained at the user's discretion. Manage this data, send it wirelessly to several screens to be able to manage it from any of them.

Finally, using a Raspberry pi3 mini computer running OPlotter I was able to achieve this set of goals.

[Image: IMG_20180522_104149.jpg]


....there are several things I would like to tell you about the inconveniences....that I have also found.

I own an Rpi3 along with an AIS receiver and an accelerometer and magnetometer sensor as the navigation center.

[Image: IMG_20180522_104358.jpg]

I have several systems available for displaying the information. 

First of all a 12 Volt Nevir TV that acts as the main monitor. This is used in anchorage and/or port to plan future navigation, study routes, marks and routes as well as to navigate the Internet and play multimedia content Etc. 

[Image: IMG_20180522_105022.jpg]

when sailing -for energy saving- this screen is turned off but my mobile phone is located on the chart table as a screen repeater. In case of complicated navigation or if an AIS alarm is activated, take the phone to the outside and check the data as I navigate for the safest route possible.

[Image: IMG_20180522_104201.jpg]

But when I try to use my mobile phone as an external plotter, I have encountered certain problems.

The first of the drawbacks I've encountered is:

1-Insufficient battery life. As the screen is always on at full brightness, combined with the GPS receiver, WiFi, and power requirements to run the navigation software, I can get about 4 hours maximum, which is not enough for a day's sailing. I can extend this a bit by turning off the display, or turning off the phone completely, during noncritical moments, but this is a nuisance due to the difficulty of manipulating the phone while it is in motion. The only sure way to avoid this is to have a reliable power supply, either a power supply or a 12v to USB adapter.

2-Overheating problems. On a hot day, while charging the battery and running the navigation software, the phone overheats. Fortunately my Moto G3 is waterproof by itself, but if we needed to resort to the use of a sturdy case it would make the situation worse: the phone cools down mainly through the airflow that passes through its back. It'll probably stop charging when it's hot. In full sun, it will not cool down enough, and will turn off the navigation application to reduce the energy used and therefore the heat generated internally.

3-Other things on the phone may have priority, such as phone calls or instant messaging, causing partial or total loss of display of the moving map.

4- If you are using the OPlotter ap as alone wifi server you cannot use phone functions that require Internet, such as weather forecasting, while connected to the Rpi, because the phone tries to send data over the WiFi connection even if you do not have Internet access.

5-If some water leaks on the micro-USB port, the phone will detect it and refuse to charge until the port is completely dry. This is difficult to achieve quickly without compressed air or isopropyl alcohol.

6- Difficulty to manipulate the buttons and the touch screen in a navigation environment. It is not easy to operate with one hand only, or with wet fingers, cannot access the side buttons while in universal mounting, etc.

Fortunately, this past week I have tried something that partly solves some of these problems.

I was reviewing the general state of the electronics and its connections when I noticed that my old -1999- Garmin 12XL that was always on the  nav station due to redundancy and that I had in case of occasional electronics failure, was starting to cause problems. The pushbutton panel was not responding, the rubber coating was coming apart. I thought I would have to replace it and think about it and after several hours of surfing the Internet the conclusion was that I would replace it with a "rugged" phone. There are many models of all kinds of power and price on the net, but one was chosen whose cost was not higher than the GPS it was intended to replace. 130 € placed at the door.

The problems it solves are:

1, battery. As it has a 5680 battery, it has a long-lasting wick. In one hour of use in full sun and maximum brightness it spends 8%. I estimate 10 to 15 hours of trouble-free battery life.

2, overheating. Its casing is made of solid aluminium and Kevlar. The metal case dissipates heat well. The manufacturer claims that it can work in extreme cold and extreme heat environments without problems.

3, Communication disturbances. As this phone is intended to replace a GPS it does not have a SIM card. He doesn't receive or send calls - except distress calls - and I haven't installed messaging for him. I have only installed the navigation and weather applications I need, no more. My usual mobile phone is still with me and is on the nav station providing Internet access to all the devices - which definitely solves the problem 4 - and is fully charged.

4, already solved... by the above.

5, The charging port is deeper and is better protected than that of conventional telephones. In fact, it uses a special longer micro-USB connector to avoid this type of problem. Anyway I prefer to exchange the phones - the inside out and vice versa - depending on how they are charged, although in roug conditions it will always be the rugged one.

I liked the result and that's why I wanted to share it with you. Especially for those who are thinking of something like that if it helps them.

[Image: IMG_20180522_120018_2.jpg]
As you can see it integrates very well with the rest of the electronics using an 8 € support and as the device has physical buttons apart from the screen buttons we can maximize the size of the screen - it is only 5 inches - and use it in difficult conditions with more ease which solves the problem number 6 quite easily.

Anyway.... I'm sorry about the long, long gig.  Angel
Why are sailors more daring than other men?
Because: No man is so often afraid
like the sailors.

"Of the questions of the seafaring world", in
The Tree of Science, Ramon Llull
Bravo! Thanks for sharing.
What was the model of the rugged phone? The outdoors is such an under-served niche. Back in the 1990's in America there was a wireless carrier Nextel that did a great job of selling to people working in construction and other all weather jobs - they had rugged phones with "Push to Talk" buttons. Another carrier (Sprint) bought them and they disappeared. Since then there has been so little attention, other than from makers of cases such as Otter and Lifeproof, to people who go outside. If it weren't for city people dropping phones in toilets we probably would not be finally seeing waterproof phones! Nearly everyone keeps their phone in a case - whether they work indoors or out - so it makes no sense to me that we see such focus on the beauty of a new device that we never see naked again.

Another display device to consider is an e-reader, such as a Kindle. It uses little power and is easily read in direct sunlight. iKommunicate has written a web app for it, there are a few threads about it on this forum.

A usb power outlet at the helm is indispensable. I have considered making some sort of splash screen at the helm, or adding a large shallow compartment with a hinged acrylic front panel for various tablets and devices. The devices themselves come and go, so the trick is a versatile configuration.

A single large fixed mount touchscreen (weatherproof and daylight readable) at the helm is what many people desire, but these are uncommon and very expensive at this time, so like you I believe tablets and phones are the way to go.
The phone model is a Doogee S30 but look at aliexpress and there is plenty to choose from and across the price range. I chose the cheapest range because I didn't want to spend more money than the old Garmin gps I wanted to replace. The great capacity of the battery is what make the decision.


[Image: DOOGEE-S30-4G-LTE-Smartphone-Android-7-0...40x640.jpg]

On the other hand I've already tested with an Android E-reader but I like the phone better. The reason for this is the lack of color, which makes it very difficult to understand the chart. To show Signal K data as you say it is much more appropriate. You can see here the free version of OpenCpn running over a E-reader with CM93 charts and getting data (AIS, GPS) over wifi.

[Image: ebook_opcpn.jpg]

Of course I'm going to put a proper USB power supply on it. Specifically I'm waiting for this one from Aliexpress is Qc-3 fast charge:


[Image: Captura_de_pantalla_de_2018-06-12_23-43-05.png]

We'll see how it works. I will share the result.

By the way, the sunlight view of the phone is not ideal but it is enough to see the necessary information. Almost ideal under the awning. I don't complicate it any more, for me the screen it's good enough, about 400 nits, although the ideal would be 1000.
My application for the eReader is display of instrument data rather than a chart, but for this you have the Raymarine instruments shown.

Thanks for your great post! That phone is a nice find.
As I told you past week I would give some info about how the QC.3 quick charge  I bought from Aliexpress works to give power for the rugged phone I use as an OPlotter outdoor display.
As you know, the phone has a really big battery and therefore to keep it full charged requires a certain level of power, especially if at the same time we are pushing it to the limit and with full brightness.

After drilling and installing it, you could see that it looks good and quite pretty. The quality of the product made of metal -aviation aluminum- looks good.

[Image: cerrado.jpg]
[Image: abierto.jpg]
I was using it in navigation all day and I could check that it has enough power to keep everything running and even to push the battery to 100% of charge with the screen at full brightness and all the applications working hard. I am quite happy with the result.
[Image: montado.jpg]
Now I can enjoy all the advantages of OPlotter -opencpn, remote desktop, NMEA0183 data over wifi, Signal K data etc.- without any limit off power. I'm glad. Smile

[Image: IMG_20180605_155601_0.jpg]
Why are sailors more daring than other men?
Because: No man is so often afraid
like the sailors.

"Of the questions of the seafaring world", in
The Tree of Science, Ramon Llull
(06-12-2018, 06:00 PM)Saqqara Wrote: My application for the eReader is display of instrument data rather than a chart, but for this you have the Raymarine instruments shown.

Thanks for your great post! That phone is a nice find.

I'm using a Pi Zero and LED matrix showing instrument data/engine temp in bright LED, daylight readable. It is attached to the mast enclosure below deck for now. I added a remote control to cycle through the data set. Each value is quickly scrolling in 2.5 sec intervals. Faster than that is a challenge for Node Red, not really clear for me why. Even when limiting the data rate with a delay node and QOS set to 0.

I can read it from 9 meters away, digits are about 4 cm in height I estimate. Readable during daylight at the steer. I have to be seated though, not standing, better would be to bring this DIY repeater outside under the sprayhood but that would need an acrylic housing and 12v input (or battery pack). I'l soon post a video,

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)