A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Using Apps on your Boat
You may have looked at some of the wide range of marine apps for use on your boat, and like the idea of having all the data from your boat's instruments come up in the app, whether as just a repeat MFD display, or as part of a chart plotter, or for specialist applications such as yacht racing. Without a connection to your instruments, you can only use the built-in GPS in your phone or tablet, so no log, compass, wind, depth or other data.
Or you may have wondered about a wireless data connection to navigation software on your laptop. Instead of being tethered to the chart table by the USB cable, this would let you take the laptop up into the cockpit, or work at the saloon table, and still be connected to your instruments.
But then you've looked at the NMEA to Wi-Fi devices that are on the market, and found them expensive. This project will produce a simple but well engineered device at an affordable price.
So what does this device do?
This device connects to the industry standard NMEA0183 output on your boat's instruments, and sends the data over Wi-Fi (as well as the other way round) where it can be used by any app or software that supports NMEA0183 over UDP or TCP. It can also send data back to the instruments, such as autopilot commands or updated routes and waypoints. It can act as a stand-alone Wi-Fi Access Point (AP) or, if you have a router on your boat, it can act as a client to the router.
Why should I get this Device?
First, we have designed our device to be low cost effective price, but of high quality and offering good technical support. You may find cheaper ones from China or done as a spare time hobby on eBay or similar, but what will you do when it goes wrong or you have a problem? And what are the effects of it failing when you are out on the water?
There are also devices that do more but are more expensive. These are great if you need all that functionality, but if not why pay for something you don't need?
The hardware and electronics is of high quality, coping with all the variability in a boat's 12 or 24V power supply, and a fully opto-isolated NMEA port to protect against interference, ground loops, and over voltage. The board is conformally coated to avoid corrosion from a damp, salty environment, and the terminals and fastenings are all stainless steel.
The firmware is designed to give you all the configurability you are likely to need, easily configured through a web browser. It avoids the more arcane aspects of networking not needed in this type of installation, yet allows you to set all the important stuff. For example, some apps use non-standard port numbers for NMEA data, so you can change that. Also, some apps just support TCP and others just UDP, so our device supports both simultaneously.
If you are an app developer, there is also an API to allow you to discover the device and its settings, as well as the ability to configure it through proprietary NMEA sentences. Also, if you are working on your own hardware, it can be supplied as a bare board to integrate into your system or put into your custom enclosure.
What Apps can I use?
Of course this device is useless on its own, and is just an enabler to let you use the apps you want. It will work with any app or software that supports NMEA0183 data over a network, using TCP or UDP. Here are a few of our favourite apps, with links to their web or store sites:
"TeamSurv's is a basic NMEA-0183-only bridge with some excellent features like opto-isolation, configuration via web browser, and the ability to be a WiFi client instead of an access point." Ben Ellison, Panbo
Why are we Doing This?
At TeamSurv a lot of our work is concerned with crowd sourced bathymetry, so getting ships and boats to log data as they go about their daily activities - we then make this available to Hydrographic Offices and chart publishers, scientists, oceanographers, and any other interested parties.
In 2016 we started developing an app to collect and display data, but found that the hardware devices to interface to the instruments seemed pretty expensive. Looking into it further, we decided that we could do our own at a lower cost, and by making it a general purpose device that will work with just about anything, the revenue helps support our other activities. Hence this project.
Nicholas Mulvey has decades of experience in mechanical engineering, embedded systems and software in areas such as submarines, medical instruments and mobile phones. He is the technical lead, doing most of the electronic and software design work.
Aidan Ryan is straight out of an electronics degree. He is producing the batches of prototype systems, and working on making the designs ready for mass manufacture.
Tim Thornton brings the marine knowledge, with a career in marine computing and electronics. He has also been running the trials, and is also managing the Kickstarter campaign.
The device is a bi-directional NMEA0183 to Wi-Fi gateway, sending messages between the boat's NMEA0183 wiring and a phone, tablet or PC running navigation or other software that supports using NMEA0183 sentences over TCP or UDP.
The device status and activity is shown using LEDs. A web browser interface also lets it be monitored and configured from any web browser.
Single or two wire NMEA0183 connection
Fully opto-isolated to protect against interference, current loops and over voltage
Data rate may be set to 4800 (standard), 9600, 19200 or 38400 (AIS) bps
2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n
Acts as an Access Point (AP) or as a client to a router
SSID user configurable
WPA2 security when an Access Point, user configurable
WEP, WPA or WPA2 security when in client mode
All Wi-Fi channels available and user selectable
Internal Wi-Fi antenna for neat, snag free installation
Configurable fixed IP address or allocated over DHCP from a router
TCP and UDP
User configurable port number
TCP, UDP or both simultaneously
UDP broadcast or multicast mode
UDP IP address configurable
Optional timeout for TCP connections
Input voltage 7 - 32V DC
Current < 1A @ 12V DC
Reverse polarity protected
Internal self-resetting fuse
Connections: stainless steel screw connectors
Dimensions: 138 x 64 x 31mm (5.4 x 2.5 x 1.2 in) Weight: 110g (4oz) Enclosure: ABS Fastenings: Stainless steel Environmental protection: IP51 / NEMA12 The electronics are conformally coated to protect against corrosion in the damp, salty atmosphere often found on boats.
Discovery, Configuration and Monitoring
Monitoring statistics and full configuration via a web browser
Password protected access to configuration pages
Rebootable through the browser or the reset button
Ability to restore factory default settings through the browser or the reset button
Automated device discovery by compatible apps
Device configuration by compatible apps
The device will meet all necessary CE and FCC type approval requirements.
Testing and Quality Control
A device like this has to just work straight out of the box - it should be an invisible component in your boat's electronics.
In development, we have tested with many makes of instruments, and also had one on the bench running with our test system for weeks on end.
For manufacture, we have a tools that thoroughly test the device out before shipping. The prototype is shown above - we are just remaking it to use pogo pins (sprung pins) so the device can simply be dropped in and tested, much quicker than using screw terminals.
NMEA0183 Wi-Fi Device
This is the standard device within an enclosure, ready for mounting on your boat.
NMEA0183 Wi-Fi Board
This is the bare PCB without an enclosure, for you to put into your own enclosure or use as part of a bigger project of yours.
A TeamSurv window sticker with a low-tac adhesive that you can put up in your boat's window, as a great way of just supporting what we're doing and helping to spread the word.
To help get the campaign going, we are offering a strictly limited number of devices at a very special price - and these are also the first production devices to be shipped.
The first 1000 devices will be available at this special Kickstarter introductory price.
During the Kickstarter campaign we will be doing final testing of the batch of pre-production boards, and making some changes to the firmware to make configuration easier and a couple of other tweaks.
After the Kickstarter we order the PCBs and enclosures straight away, as these are on long lead times, and also ship the the window stickers. In August we order the print and packaging materials.
In the first week of September everything arrives and we go into assembly and shipping mode, shipping the earlybird devices in September and then the rest of the Kickstarter devices in October. If total orders are for more than 1000 devices, this is likely to slip continue into November, though we aim to ship a batch each week, with early backers getting their devices first.
All devices will be sent using a signed for service (so we cannot ship to PO Boxes, and somebody will need to be in to sign). In the UK we plan to use MyHermes as the carrier, whilst all other orders will be shipped using Air Mail postage. Depending on the country it is going to, you may be able to track the package in delivery.
The window stickers will be sent using normal letter post.
In all cases, we will send out a questionnaire 2 weeks in advance of the planned ship date to verify your address.
VAT, Duty and Other Taxes
VAT (at 20%) has to be paid on all UK sales and on all sales to other EU countries except to VAT registered business outside the UK. This has been factored into the pledge costs. If you are a VAT registered business outside of the UK, you will be able to tell us this after the campaign closes through the pre-shipping questionnaire, and we will refund you the VAT. A VAT invoice will be issued to everybody.
For orders outside of the EU, no VAT is chargeable. Because Kickstarter doesn't handle this well, and giving lots of VAT refunds would be a large burden on us, we have reduced the shipping charges to balance out the VAT refund that would be due.
We do not cover import duty or other taxes that may be due in your country; these are your responsibility. Your post office may ask you to pay these before delivering the package to you, and may also make a handling charge for collecting the taxes and duties.
Risks and challenges
Whilst there are risks with any project, our work to date means that the device is virtually fully designed and ready for manufacture. This means that risks are limited to delays in delivery from suppliers being late or making mistakes and having to rework components. However with our previous manufacturing experience, and use of UK suppliers for all but one of the component, these risks are low.