Today we finished a series of successful tests, connecting our AIS receivers to a Google Nexus 7 Android tablet. This was made possible by a new version of Boat Beacon the popular AIS App for Apple and Android devices, which should soon be available (as a free update) on the Apple Store and Google Play Store.
One of the most popular features of Boat Beacon was that it allowed you to receive AIS data on your phone or tablet (from the internet) without having to install an AIS receiver on your boat. What is more, you could also transmit your position (without having an AIS transponder), so that you appeared on AIS websites like Marine Traffic, Ship Finder and AIS Hub, allowing friends and family to track your passage. In order to receive AIS data and transmit your position, you needed to have a 3G internet connection, but for many people Boat Beacon was a great app to have and introduced them to the world of AIS.
Relying solely on Internet AIS data does have serious limitations though, namely;
- Holes in the AIS network coverage
- Slow update speeds
- Constant risk of losing the 3G internet connection
This is the reason why most boat owners ultimately decide to fit an AIS receiver on their boat, but then you have the issue of getting this AIS data on to your phone/tablet. With Apple devices, currently the only option is to use one of our Wireless NMEA units to convert the AIS data in to wireless NMEA data that an App running on the iPhone/iPad can read. Many Apps including Boat Beacon support Wireless NMEA, which we documented in a recent article (click here to read it).
However, many Android devices now support USB “On the Go” (OTG) which allows USB slave devices to be plugged in – see USB OTG cable in image above. In order for the USB slave device to work correctly, Android must have suitable drivers installed and there must be an App running that knows how to use the USB device. As part of our testing, we confirmed that the drivers for all of our AIS receivers (and our NMEA to USB adaptor cable) are pre-installed in Android and that the latest Boat Beacon App will read the NMEA0183 AIS data and display the AIS targets on its chart display.
Installation could not be easier, simply plug in the USB OTG cable to your Android device, download the latest version of Boat Beacon and then plug the USB lead of one of our AIS Receivers in to the OTG cable. Android should detect the AIS device and ask you to confirm that you want Boat Beacon to use this device.
Then Boat Beacon should open and you should see the live AIS data starting to come in and be displayed on Boat Beacon.
With CPA and TCPA alarms, colour coded AIS targets and the facility to also transmit your position back to the internet AIS sites via 3G, Boat Beacon is the best AIS App for Android and now with the option of connecting our AIS receivers via USB or any of our AIS units via one of our Wireless NMEA adaptors (WLN10, NavLink, iNavHub, etc.) you have an app that can be seriously used at sea as an AIS display and alarm system.
For more information on Boat Beacon visit the Play Store by clicking here.