BRIGHT SPARKS 419 - Bedazzled

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The future is brighter in marine electronics, reports KEVIN GREEN

BRIGHT SPARKS 419 - Bedazzled
BRIGHT SPARKS 419 — Bedazzled

The spring season is one of my favourite times of the year to go boating and as I’m often on other sailors’ boats, I tend to notice various things, when I’m paying attention, and one of them is the increasing brightness of instrument readouts.

The brightness is all to do with ‘nits’, the measure of luminosity given off by instruments. Major manufacturers including Raymarine, Navico, and Garmin are striving for more and more luminosity and clarity in displays, which is good for us sailors, especially those like myself who are shortsighted.

Take the other day; I was sailing along in a nice breeze and brilliant sunshine, in fact so brilliant that it was glary yet I glanced over at the Simrad IS20 instruments and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could read the information clearly.

The instruments in question were the IS20 Wind analogue readout — a large, colourful 4.5in display also digitally showing True, Apparent and VMG — and beside it, the IS20 Combi giving a digital readout of depth, speed, trip log and temperature.

Functionality has also increased in cockpit instruments as shown recently by Raymarine with its new i70 range. It even has AIS information shown on these small screens, which also give off a high luminosity of 700 nits.

But back in the Navico camp, it has just announced that B&G will release a new range of instruments in the first quarter of 2012 under the name Triton — maintaining the classical Greek theme embodied in its Zeus multifunction displays launched earlier in the year.

With a focus on display visibility, low-power consumption and ease of use, the new Triton instruments and autopilot are aimed not just at B&G’s large racing market but also at cruising boats, with sharp pricing to match — $699 for the Triton T41 digital display and $399 for the remote control unit.

Triton’s colour 10.4cm (4.1in) sunlight-viewable LCD screen has an astounding luminosity of 800 nits, so can claim the badge as the brightest box to hit the market. The T41 screen is navigated via Up, Down and Enter keys, while a dedicated Page key allows quick selection of the most useful data. Data connectivity is either through proprietary SimNet or NMEA 2000 protocols, which is to be expected.

Coincidently, the USA-based National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) has its annual conference in Florida as we go to press and is expected to voyage through the murky waters of NMEA certification and compatibility; two very separate areas. Established in 1957 by a group of electronics dealers at the New York Boat Show who wanted to ensure agreed standards were created for data in marine electronics, the two main NMEA standards (0183 and 2000) are the de facto marine communications protocols.

Several of the major marine manufacturers will be attending including Raymarine, Navico and Nobeltec. Similar to other areas of technology, such as Apple’s iron grip on its operating system environment, the NMEA only certify products that meet its specific standards. This continues to be at odds with manufacturers, who take the approach of building products that use NMEA system code but also add their own proprietary commands (often to exploit fully their particular hardware).

The murky aspect of this situation is plain to see if you check out the NMEA’s list of certified products (click on under the NMEA Standards tab. It shows a limited range of "certified" gear compared with all the "compatible" descriptions listed by manufacturers. Yet despite this incongruity the consensus is that most compatible NMEA 2000 products will talk to others that are similarly badged. However, if readers want to sponsor me for a trip to Florida I’m quite willing to point this out at the NMEA conference.

Elsewhere in the world of companies, wielding market-controlling power, Apple may have had a setback with the resignation of CEO and guru Steve Jobs, but is expected to bounce back with the launch of the iPhone 5 very soon. Anticipated to have a powerful 8MB camera, improved A5 processor and a rumoured extremely-bright 3D screen, it could be a very interesting device for marine charting.


1). Onboard with B&G — the new Triton instruments will be compatible with existing systems.

2). It's glary out on the water, but the B&G readouts on the mast are still brilliant enough to be read clearly.

3). B&G Triton will hit the market in early 2012 and include an autopilot.

4). The trend of analogue instruments, as shown by these Simrad IS20s, greatly aids visibility for helmsmen.

5). Take your iPad to see with confidence in a watertight case available from — but it’s not cheap at around $399.

6). The Triton displays emit an industry leading 800 nits brightness.


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