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Best marine electronics for 2019, Part 1

At the end of every year we like to look back at the marine electronics products that took awards in the previous 12 months. Not surprisingly some win awards presented in different competitions, while others are singled out for one award or another and not repeated.

Innovative new products seem to come in waves. A dozen years ago wireless technology began coming on like gangbusters, impacting everything from communications to remote monitoring of onboard systems. Not long ago we saw the introduction of revolutionary radars equipped with Doppler technology to keep boaters aware of nearby vessels that may pose a risk. In 2018 it was a proliferation of portable devices to aid in navigation, security and safety/survival at sea. All the while connectivity pushed out in every direction, linking equipment and systems.

As we sorted through electronics that won awards in 2019, the results seemed more eclectic, ranging from multifunction displays that harness augmented reality to a handheld VHF that does a lot more than help you communicate.

Typically, the award competitions are run by marine publications and boat show organizers, but associations like the National Marine Electronics Association also get involved. The job of naming the winners usually falls to judges with a fair amount of boating electronics experience. They scrutinize dozens of products and pick the best, based on criteria such as innovation, value, design, benefit to boaters and others.

Product award presentations typically start in January and wind up late in the year. Our approach will be the same, starting with Sail Magazine’s Pittman Innovation Awards. We’ll include judges’ comments when available.

Boating writers and editors select the Pittman Innovation winners in several categories of marine equipment plus an overall winner. In 2019, the top prize—although not dedicated marine electronics—went to the Integrel Advance Generator Replacement system.

The judges said, in part: "The Integrel system from the UK’s Triskel Marine consists of an add-on system for diesel propulsion engines that promises to eliminate the need for a stand-alone genset, thereby eliminating a great deal of weight and complexity from many of today’s cruisers. At the heart of each Integrel installation is a 9 kW 48-volt engine-mounted generator (not an alternator) coupled with a complete power generation, storage, conversion and distribution system.”

Electronics Category

There were four winners in the Electronics Category—Raymarine ClearCruise AR, Fusion Apollo Series Stereo, Starlight LED helming guide and Spinlock Sail-Sense.

Raymarine ClearCruise AR (Augmented Reality)
"Let’s be clear: Raymarine’s new AR system is worlds apart from the gimmicky augmented reality you may have seen on someone’s phone app, with the video source being a high-quality fixed HD marine camera that can also be quite useful on its own. Aboard sailboats, the CAM210 bullet or the CAM220 dome model camera can be mounted high on a mast for a crow’s-nest view accessible via any networked Axiom multifunction display that might be onboard. Raymarine’s AR200 video stabilization module then steadies the video stream and makes the magic happen by spatially analyzing it relative to precision GPS and motion sensors. This, in turn, allows other Axiom network data, like AIS targets, nav aids and waypoints, to be precisely overlaid on the 3D real-world video imagery, with the end result being that most users will find the final ClearCruise AR view to be much easier to understand than a conventional top-down 2D AIS and/or chartplotting.”

Fusion Apollo Series Stereo

" . . . the beauty of the sleek glass bridge style of its flagship RA770 is more than just skin deep . . . Gesture Mode lets you pause/mute or replay/next with hardly a glance. The Apollo SRX-400 model also shines as cockpit and/or sleeping cabin auxiliary, in which everyone aboard can easily do their own thing or join in via a PartyBus mode that allows all stations to share controls and sources—sources that include all the regulars plus high fidelity protocols like optical S/PDIF and UPnP. All Apollo stereos use digital signal processing (DSP) to improve audio quality and even automate the tuning of Fusion speakers for different sound environments.

Autonnic Starlight LED helming guide
" . . . the active blue LEDs in the 26-inch-long light bar stay pegged to your desired course while the on-center fixed yellow LED marks your bow, thereby providing a constant reference point, not just for your steering accuracy but also for how quickly your error or correction is taking place. Better still, since the bar is meant to be installed near your visual horizon level . . .  there’s no longer any need to glance down at a compass or conventional instrument display.”

Spinlock Sail-Sense
"The small self-contained hardware module is fastened near a sail’s clew, and a wireless app is then used by the loft to log in things like the sail’s construction date, size, and materials. The customer and crew can then use the same Sail-Sense app to better manage either a small inventory or a full container of databased sails . . . the module logs the sail’s UV exposure, hours of use, G-force and flogging.”

Cruising & Safety Category

Shakespeare Galaxy INFL8
" . . . the new Galaxy INFL8 antenna is the world’s first inflatable emergency VHF antenna. The INFL8 can be quickly inflated and measures 5 feet in length when deployed, giving it full 3dB functionality with three times the range of any existing helical emergency antenna. It . . . comes with a unique splice connector that allows it to be patched into existing antenna cables quickly and efficiently and . . . can also be connected to a handheld VHF radio.”

SiOnyx Aurora Day/Night Camera
"The new SiOnyx camera is billed as the world’s first color high-definition day/night camera. It sees in the dark not by sensing heat but by greatly boosting sensitivity to light. With its patented ultra-low-light IR sensor the SiOnyx Aurora, therefore, affords crystal-clear color night vision, rated as "moonless starlight capable,” that allows you to pick out small details at both short and long range. It also, of course, works great in daylight.”
NEXT WEEK: Top-dog products from the Miami International Boat Show, Boating Industry magazine, IBEX, ICAST and others.

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