Upgrading your electronics? SmartBoat can help
6/21/2022

One of the challenges in replacing your old onboard electronics with the latest wizardry is making the existing sensors work properly with that new multifunction display (MFD) or replacing the many sensors with compatible devices, which can be costly. Veteran transducer manufacturer Airmar introduced a solution that pulls data from the old sensors and converts it for use on the NMEA 2000 network. Below, company Marketing Director Craig Cushman explains how the SmartBoat module works.

By Craig Cushman

Modular system integrates existing sensor data with new MFDs


Planning a complete electronics upgrade on a vessel can be a daunting task.   Technicians need to have a solid understanding of which components have to be replaced and which existing components, if any, can be integrated into the new monitoring system.  It’s a certainty that the MFDs (Multifunction Displays) and network will be replaced, but a tougher question is how to integrate those new MFDs with sensor data from existing pumps, switches, resistive tank senders, diesel engines, and temperature sensors of many types. Replacing these sensors is complex and, depending on where they are located, nearly impossible to reach. Quoting a full-scale refit can be difficult since often assumptions have to be made during the bidding process as to what types of existing sensors are on board.  If you factor in the time and expense of just trying to figure out which individual sensor modules are needed for specific types of monitoring, it’s apparent that there must be a better way.

The SmartBoat system from Airmar is an easy and cost-effective method to integrate existing vessel sensor data with a new upgraded, modern helm.  Multiple analog sensors of nearly any type can be directly connected to the SmartBoat module, and regardless of their protocol, they can be converted to communicate on the NMEA 2000 network.  This NMEA  2000-certified device supports a wide range of analog sensor types such as thermistors, resistive senders, binary switches, relays, run detectors and more, all easily connected without the need for expensive, proprietary sensor translation modules, which can drive the cost of alternative upgrade paths out of reach of most customers.  With the SmartBoat system, if an early assumption about sensor types was wrong, simply choose the correct sensor type from the software’s drop-down menu. The correction is painless. Often, other solutions require re-purchasing sensor modules or adding more capability than what is needed.

"The overall combined features of one SmartBoat module makes it a powerful product.  The flexibility to connect multiple sensors to one module and easily configure and set conditions and alerts using the intuitive SmartFlex View software is impressive,” says Jennifer Matsis, VP of Sales and Marketing.  

Each SmartBoat module has an internal web server hosting browser-based software called SmartFlex View. This software features drop-down menus that guide installers through the set-up and allow for customization of each sensor on the network.  All modules have built-in Wi-Fi and NMEA 2000 capabilities, with advanced modules including a second CAN network (NMEA 2000, J1939 or diesel fuel flow sensors), Ethernet and USB 2.0 capability.  Modules can be added to an install as capabilities are needed and the network expanded to include wired or wireless connections between modules.  This makes larger vessel retrofit projects a straight-forward integration for bringing legacy sensors on the boat onto the MFDs at the helm.

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