iKommunicate and the Smart Transducers

Airmar Smart Tdxs

Recently we have seen a trend in customers asking about using smart transducers with our iKommunicate, rather than installing the more traditional; Log, Depth, Wind and navigation instruments.

If you are re-fitting an older boat or doing an install on a new boat, then it is worth considering the cost benefits and simplicity of design that this approach provides. Whether you create an NMEA2000 backbone or simply wire together NMEA0183 cables, having iKommunicate receive all of the transducer data and then distribute this over a wired or wireless Ethernet network, where the data can be displayed on multiple tablets, phones or computers around the boat is very desirable.

One of the most common questions is…”What transducers should I use?” and so we thought we would tackle this question in this article.

When it comes to transducers, the leading player by a mile, is Airmar the US company that manufacture transducers for pretty much all of the big players in marine electronics. As a result, their product catalogue is massive and finding the right model and part number can be pretty daunting and time consuming, so we have tried to highlight the ideal transducers in their range for using with iKommunicate and listed the Gemeco Part Numbers (SKUs) who are Airmar’s US distributor and whose website is very informative.

The obvious “through the hull” Speed and Depth transducer for most yachts and powerboats, would be the DST800. Described as a “Triducer” as it has a Speed, Depth and Temperature sensor, the DST800 is fully retractable for cleaning, with an integral valve that significantly reduces water ingress. It is available in Plastic, Bronze or Stainless Steel, with both NMEA0183 or NMEA2000 versions.

The NMEA0183 version, which can be used on 12v or 24v systems, comes with 10m of cable, terminated in bare wires and you simply add an S to the end of the part number for this version i.e. DST800PV-S.

The NMEA2000 version, powered from the NMEA2000 network, comes with 6m of cable, terminated in the “standard” male NMEA2000 connector (same one as iKommunicate) and for this version you simply add N2 to the part number i.e. DST800PV-N2.

Gemeco SKU Description
DST800PV-S NMEA0183 – 235kHz Smart Triducer – Plastic
DST800BV-S NMEA0183 – 235kHz Smart Triducer – Bronze
DST800SV-S NMEA0183 – 235kHz Smart Triducer – Stainless
DST800PV-N2 NMEA 2000 – 235kHz Smart Triducer – Plastic
DST800BV-N2 NMEA 2000 – 235kHz Smart Triducer – Bronze
DST800SV-N2 NMEA 2000 – 235kHz Smart Triducer – Stainless

So with the DST800, you get Speed (through the water), Depth and water temperature, plus as a bonus a distance log as well, which just leaves the Wind to worry about.

With the Wind transducer Airmar really “threw away the rule book” for designing Mast Head Units by removing all moving parts and using ultrasonics to measure wind angle and speed. Although not ideal for every type of boat, the 120WX and 220WX Weatherstation® instruments are really good bits of kit which not only measure the wind, but also air pressure and air temperature and in the case of the 220WX, with integral GPS and Compass sensors, even your position, heading, rate of turn and attitude (pitch and roll).

Above is an image of the 220WX which is physically identical to the 120WX.

Both units have NMEA0183 and NMEA2000 built-in, so no different versions to worry about, you simply order either a WS-120WX or WS-220WX and specify the type and length of cable you need;

Gemeco SKU Description
WS-C10 NMEA0183 – 10m
WS-C25 NMEA0183 – 25m
WS2-C06 NMEA2000 – 6m
WS2-C10 NMEA2000 – 10m (Terminated)
WS2-C30 NMEA2000 – 30m (Terminated)

There are other lengths available but we have listed the most popular for Yachts and Power Boats. The two NMEA2000 cables that have (Terminated) after them, include the NMEA2000 termination resistor and must be mounted at the end of the NMEA2000 network.

Should your budget not stretch to an ultrasonic wind transducer or you prefer a more traditional mast head unit, then our own WND100 wind transducer which comes with a 20m NMEA0183 cable is well worth considering, perhaps coupled with our HSC100 smart heading sensor and GPS150 Dualnav position sensor both of which have NMEA0 183 outputs to connect to one of the three NMEA0183 inputs on iKommunicate.

So you have your iKommunicate and smart transducer setup, but what options are there for displaying the data? Well you have plenty of PC Navigation packages; Nobeltec, Rosepoint, Fugawi, Seapro, MaxSea, SmarterTrack, etc. and then Apps like NMEA Remote, iSailor, iNavX, iRegatta, SailRacer, TimeZero, Imray etc are perfect for running on your Apple iPhone/iPad or Android phone/tablet in the cockpit. If you want a dedicated display then perhaps a single graphical display from Garmin, Raymarine, Simrad, etc. or a mast display from NASA or Race Geek would give you a permanent cockpit display without breaking the bank.

Finally with iKommunicate you also have the option of running the new Signal K web apps in your browser so any mobile wireless device can display the data on a modern web browser, even a Kindle !


New WindSense App for Android


Our new WindSense wireless wind system can work with many existing apps like the popular NMEARemote, Imray InstrumentsSailTimer, etc. but most of these are for Apple iOS devices, so we decided to develop and release a simple Wind display app for Android.

Our free WindSense App is now available on the Google Play Store and will give all WindSense owners an app that they can use straight away to calibrate and display the Wind data from our WND100 wind transducer.


For more information on our WindSense wireless wind system click here.

WindSense – New Wireless Wind System

WindSense is a new wireless wind system designed to allow iPads, tablets, SmartPhones and PCs to display accurate apparent wind speed and direction.  It features a high quality, precision mast head sensor with 20m cable that connects to a below decks interface unit providing a wifi and NMEA 0183 wired connection.  Existing NMEA compatible sensors can also be connected to the NMEA input to allow the wireless network to share other available on board instrument data.  It’s compatible with a wide range of apps for iOS and android.  The built in wifi will typically footprint a GRP boat up to 30mwindsense-montage-white-back-ground

It has been attractively priced and positioned as a low cost replacement or addition to any marine electronics system but offers significantly enhanced accuracy, reliability and functionality with easy interfacing enabling a tablet to become a complete instrument display with other connected sensors.  There are many vessels equipped with just a speed and depth system who require wind data too and also many older wind systems requiring replacement where customers do not want the substantial cost of a totally new instrument package.  Depending upon the app utilised, true wind information, VMG and other sailing performance parameters may also be calculated.

Key features:

  • Stand alone or networkable (via NMEA 0183) wind system with precision mast head unit
  • Wired connection with super-thin cable from MHU to below deck interface with wireless WiFi and wired NMEA connections
  • Ultra tough IgildurTM mast head unit bearings for exceptional life and corrosion resistance
  • Full range of apps for iOS & Android plus compatible with multiple PC and MAC apps
  • Support for up to 7 WiFi connected devices – use multiple smart phones, iPads or tablets as a display at the helm, chart table or on deck
  • NMEA 0183 output ($MWV)
  • NMEA 0183 (4800 or 38400 baud) input with multiplex facility for WiFi connection
  • WiFi can be standalone or joined to existing network
  • Minimal power consumption
  • Optional NMEA 2000 interface (available late 2016)

Installation is easy with an ultra thin mash head unit cable with removable connector which plugs directly into the interface unit.


Its then just a matter of connecting power and any other NMEA interface connections you require.

WindSense is compatible with a wide variety of new and existing apps and charting programs with instrument displays.  Both TCP/IP and UDP connections are supported.  There are also free apps from Digital Yacht plus use popular, low cost apps from many 3rd party developers too.  Apps can also calculate true wind information, VMG and other performance sailing data like polars and laylines for racing.

WindSense – makes sense!  Available late October 2016, see it at METS 2016 too, Stand 01-434.  Part number: ZDIGWS UPC:081159830625 SRP $599.95/£375.00/€495.00

Download a product introduction pack from HERE


Replacing a defective GPS antenna

Garmin GPS Antenna


Unfortunately, for boat owners the “Joys of Spring” are often tempered with discoveries of equipment failure as you power up your electronics for the first time, after a winter layup. It is usually the sensors and aerials that suffer the most, as they are permanently located outside in a very hostile environment.

One of the antennas that can fail is the GPS antenna and with such a reliance on GPS these days (when was the last time you had to do a DR plot ?) this can really mess up your precious sailing time.

There are basically two types of GPS antenna, the traditional passive antenna, that is literally just an aerial (with a 3v or 5v pre-amplifier inside) and the “smart” GPS antenna that has the all the GPS receiver electronics built-in to the antenna. To tell which antenna you have, just check the cable or connector. If it is coax cable (like a TV aerial) with either a TNC or BNC (most common connectors for GPS aerials) then it is the traditional passive antenna, if it is a cable with multiple separately isolated wires inside or a multi pin connector, then it will be a “smart” GPS antenna.

GPS Antenna Cables+Connectors


Digital Yacht produce both a traditional Passive GPS Antenna and a “Smart” DualNav GPS Antenna that will be perfect drop in replacements for any of the old marine GPS antennas that are currently being used on boats. Whatever the make or model, the chances are that one of these Digital Yacht antennas will be suitable.

Our Passive GPS Antenna (Part No X500.391) can work from either a 3v or 5v pre-amplifier supply voltage and has a small FME connector to make it easy to feed the cable through the boat. It is supplied with an FME to TNC adaptor which will fit most GPS units, or you can easily get an FME to BNC adaptor from any good electronics shop if your GPS has the less common BNC connector.

Our GPS150 DualNav smart GPS antenna (Part No ZDIGGPS150) has the very latest GPS receiver technology inside and with its simple two wire NMEA0183 output can be connected to a wide variety of Chart Plotters, VHF Radios, etc. including Garmin, Raymarine, Icom, Standard Horizon, Furuno, Lowrance, etc.

Both antennas feature a standard 1″x14TPI thread integral mount, so that they can be mounted to standard VHF brackets. For more information or to get wiring diagrams for specific makes and models of chart potters and radios, please contact us.

Providing GPS data to Standard Horizon Radios

Standard Horizon Eclipse VHF


Following on from yesterday’s post about connecting our GPS150 and AIT2000 to Icom radios to enable the DSC function, I have now completed a Tech Note on how to do the connections on Standard Horizon radios. Click here to download a copy.

For customers thinking about buying a new VHF/DSC radio, the latest Explorer model from Standard Horizon has the option of a built-in GPS for even easier installation, but for existing owners of Standard Horizon DSC radios, our GPS150 is an ideal option, featuring the latest receiver technology that supports dual GPS and GLONASS operation.

Another popular combination is to use the Standard Horizon GX2000 radio which features the AIS display and CPA/TCPA alarms with one of our AIT2000s Class B Transponders – click here to see previous post on this.

Providing GPS data to Icom Radios

Icom Radio for Dia

A recent post on Panbo, the popular marine electronics website, raised an interesting issue of the number of VHF DSC radios in the United States that have not been properly configured for DSC. This really got us thinking, because two of our products; the new GPS150 DualNav Positioning Sensor and our AIT2000 Class B transponder are ideal position sources for a DSC capable VHF radio, but if people are not connecting a GPS to their radio, then perhaps more information is needed.

The benefits of DSC are well proven and in most cases, connection is easy with just a couple of wires to be joined. To take away some of the confusion of which wires to connect, Digital Yacht will be publishing a couple of new Tech Notes that show how to connect our products to the most popular brands of VHF Radios.

The first Tech Note is for Icom radios and you can click here to download a copy. We have tried to cover all of the different models of Icom radios but if your model is missing or the wiring does not match, please let us know and we will add/modify it.


Gosh it was windy last night, and at about 11pm while I was writing my Santa wish list, I thought the roof was going to blow off the top of the house!  I spared a few thoughts for those afloat and wondered what conditions would be like in the English Channel.  So I reached for my trusty iPad and opened NavLink UK…

NavLink UK is a new app from Digital Yacht that will be available on the Apple app store very shortly.  It’s a full featured electronic chart display with real time navigation and excellent UK Admiralty digital charts.  It can also gather data from weather buoys so I clicked on the Channel Light vessel to get an immediate indication of local conditions.  More on NavLink next year but look at the results from last night.


42 knots of wind from the SW with a 6m swell running short with a 9 second period and a barometric pressure drop of 6mb in 3 hours.  Rather them than me and a place to be avoided.  NavLink shows lots of exciting data like this.

Anyway, I’ve asked Santa for an iPad Air and NavLink shouldn’t break the bank at £19.99 – coming soon…….

Happy Holidays