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Old 11-12-2013, 12:44 PM   #1
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Boat Beacon AIS for phone/tablet

I'm thinking of ordering the Boat Beacon AIS for my android tablet. It's only $10. It's more than just AIS display of other boats like marinetraffic or shipfinder. It includes CPA alerts and transmits your position to other AIS units in the area.

Just wondering if anyone has experience with this app or a similar position reporting AIS app? How well does it transmit your data and how accurately does it display other boats' positions and alert on potential threat CPAs?
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Old 11-12-2013, 12:57 PM   #2
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Is this Marine Traffic.com? I see they have put out a new full feature App which is a paid subscription service. I use it all the time to track my friends in the commercial fishing industry. But not the full feature app that uses Sat. AIS and has all the bells and whistles.

This summer I noted one of my friends, who was returning from fishing in Alaska, was coming down Bellingham Channel and I figured he was heading to Dakota Creek ship yards. He was surprised when I was standing on the dock when he arrived. It's pretty cool.

Live Ships Map - AIS - Vessel Traffic and Positions
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Old 11-12-2013, 01:48 PM   #3
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yes, it works great. so long as you have internet access and the area is covered by Marinetraffic.com. It works like this, They have land stations with AIS receivers set up for most popular areas (read most). the receivers up load that data to the web and you access that info from there.

like any app or website the speed of the website is based on the user demand for it. Sometimes its a few second delay other times I have seen as much as 15 mins...after more time than 20 mins w/o and update (i think) the icon for the ship in question disappears from the display.

the transmit is a bit dicey too...the app will create a virtual AIS info and uploads it to the web. So the only users who will see you are others using boat buddy app or the Marinetraffic website. IT WILL NOT BE VISIBLE TO ANYONE NOT USING MARINE TRAFFIC.COM. you won't appear on someone's onboard AIS receiver. this is not an AIS transmitter. (got that?)


all that being said...it is a neat tool (toy) that lets you know who and what is around you and well worth $10 if they have coverage for your area.

AN easy way to tell if they have service in your area is to check out the Marinetraffic.com website and see if you can see any boats/ships near you.
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Old 11-12-2013, 04:15 PM   #4
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We show up on MarineTraffic sometimes (I see we're on there, now). Sometimes not. That's with an installed Class B AIS transceiver.

The "local" volunteer repeaters aren't that close, and it's a low power VHF signal...

BoatBeacon is a different app from the MarineTraffic website/app. Can't tell if they use the same volunteer repeaters (or the same feeds MarineTraffic et al use).

It does NOT/NOT "transmit your position to other AIS units in the area."

Boat Beacon will be using a cellular and/or WiFi frequencies to connect to the Internet, and it'll transmit your position to BoatBeacon's aggregator (as well as MarineTraffic etc. apparently). VHF AIS receivers will not see the Boat Beacon info.

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Old 11-12-2013, 04:24 PM   #5
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Clicking the link in post #1 gives some details about Boat Beacon. The only mention of marinetraffic is "People can also follow you on Boat Beacon and leading AIS systems like Ship Finder, MarineTraffic and AIS Hub which have free web viewers available." I have marinetraffic basic which is just a display of area AIS traffic but no CPA alerts or sharing of MMSI info via the web.

eseyoung, are you saying you have used Boat Beacon and it's the same as marinetraffic? Is Boat Beacon a subscription service? I see no mention of that either.

Here's another write-up on the Boat Beacon app with more info: Boat Beacon Marine AIS App

Specifically designed for use on the water, uniquely providing Bearing, Range and Closest Point of Approach (CPA) calculations in addition to all the standard AIS information. Uses up to the second AIS feeds unlike the other AIS apps which can be a minute or even more behind real time. Transmits as well as receives AIS and the only app that continuously monitors CPA, notifying if potential collisions are detected even when the app is in the background.

Real time map view of your boat and boats near you via AIS.
Over the horizon collision avoidance and alarm using Closest Point of Approach (CPA)
CPA calculations and AIS position updates continously in background
Lets others see you on Boat Beacon and internet AIS systems like MarineTraffic.
Compass mode to sight ships on the map
Current Speed, Course and GPS location
Share your location and track with friends and family
Man Overboard tracking (iOS only at present)
Anchor Watch and Theft Alarms (iOS only at present)
Ship to Ship instant messaging – chat with other Boat Beacon boats. (iOS only at present)
Magnetic or True North setting. (iOS only at present)
MMSI numbers to contact nearby boats on via VHF.
SART support – alarms and reports SART’s within 30NM.
Support for local AIS data feeds via WiFi, e.g. easyAIS, Digital Yacht, Lowrance, Simrad and B&G GoFree.
With transmit enabled your boat will appear on other Boat Beacon devices. If you enable AIS sharing and have an MMSI number your boat will also appear on live AIS traffic sites and their associated mobile applications, eg:
AIS Hub
Marine Traffic
Ship finder
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Old 11-12-2013, 04:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ranger42c View Post
We show up on MarineTraffic sometimes (I see we're on there, now). Sometimes not. That's with an installed Class B AIS transceiver.

The "local" volunteer repeaters aren't that close, and it's a low power VHF signal...

BoatBeacon is a different app from the MarineTraffic website/app. Can't tell if they use the same volunteer repeaters (or the same feeds MarineTraffic et al use).

It does NOT/NOT "transmit your position to other AIS units in the area."

Boat Beacon will be using a cellular and/or WiFi frequencies to connect to the Internet, and it'll transmit your position to BoatBeacon's aggregator (as well as MarineTraffic etc. apparently). VHF AIS receivers will not see the Boat Beacon info.

-Chris
Thanks, Chris! That helps. I was hoping Boat Beacon was a different beast and other AIS receivers in the area would also get the BB data through rebroadcast, but apparently the AIS receivers are VHF only and do not access or display the internet-based data like BB or MT.
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Old 11-12-2013, 05:07 PM   #7
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This is the email I received from Marine Traffic on their upgrade this morning. Maybe this will help:

Dear Sir,
MarineTraffic started back in 2007 as a pet project and has since grown to be the most popular vessel tracking service in the world, regularly used by the whole maritime community.
Through the years, we have listened to your comments and requests and tried hard to continuously improve the service and expand our global coverage. We are more committed than ever to continue making MarineTraffic more useful, reliable and relevant to your needs.
During the past few months we have been rebuilding the website and the mobile applications, including a full redesign, more data and several new features.
While keeping the existing service free, we are introducing a number of paid plans, built for users that need to make intensive use of the system resources and wish to access the value-added services, such as:

Satellite AIS data for global AIS coverage, including mid-ocean vessel tracking. Available with the SAT or SAT PRO Plans.
Detailed, global Nautical Charts for in-depth insight and situational awareness. Available with the PRO Plan or higher.
Export data to CSV files directly from the website. Export limits according to respective Plan.
Use MarineTraffic API data services to feed data directly into your applications. Available on request.
Retrieve historical AIS data within the billions of position records archived from 2009 onwards. Available on request.

Also, extended fleet management and notifications are made available for professional users, for intensive use of email and SMS alerting services. We will continue adding more features and tools for you, whether you are a maritime professional, a ship enthusiast or just need to follow a vessel!
Some of the premium services will be offered to our contributors (AIS station operators and Photographers) for free. In the effort to expand our coverage, we are always reaching out to new AIS station operators who now have one more strong incentive to join us.
Note that we have already started a gradual rollout of the new website, which will reach all our users soon. We would like to apologise in advance for any temporary instability issues you might experience during the migration
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Old 11-12-2013, 07:56 PM   #8
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Thanks for that, Edelweiss. I like the idea that the Admiral can see where I'm fishing and cruising buddies with the same program can see each other. Having CPA alerts even when the program is running in the background is also a plus. So I've gone ahead and bought a copy of Boat Beacon. I'll take it for a test drive and report back on what I find.
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Old 11-12-2013, 10:40 PM   #9
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Holy smokes, the MarineTraffic is a mess as they're migrating. I'd click a link and get the next page in Russian Cyrillic characters! I think I'll hold off on using them until all the dust has settled.

So far, so good with Boat Beacon. BB seems to be working smoothly on my Samsung Note 8.0 tablet with no surprises and no extra fees. I've created a profile and started a MyFleet collection on Vessel Finder. My MMSI info, boat pic and boat details are displaying normally.
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Old 11-13-2013, 07:49 AM   #10
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Thanks, Chris! That helps. I was hoping Boat Beacon was a different beast and other AIS receivers in the area would also get the BB data through rebroadcast, but apparently the AIS receivers are VHF only and do not access or display the internet-based data like BB or MT.

Correct, standard VHF AIS equipment doesn't do cellular or Wi-Fi frequencies... and vice versa.

That's not to say BB -- and MT, etc. -- don't offer some utility, for some folks. It seems like the difference between BB and MT is that BB actually transmits (probably cellular, with option Wi-Fi if connected) whereas MT only relies on feeds from volunteer repeaters.

If we had a BB on board, BB would know where we are and would inject that into the 'net, so MT would know where we are too... as would other MT users. Without a BB on board, MT (and presumably other BB users, like you)may or may not know where we are, depending on the local repeaters' reception (sometimes they get us, sometimes not).

But none of that would show up on our AIS display (which is actually on our plotter).

Assuming evolution may bring (may have already begun bringing?) cellular and 'net to plotters (as with Bluetooth connectivity)... integration could be possible. But most currently-installed AIS equipment wouldn't know about all that.

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Old 11-13-2013, 07:51 AM   #11
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Holy smokes, the MarineTraffic is a mess as they're migrating. I'd click a link and get the next page in Russian Cyrillic characters! I think I'll hold off on using them until all the dust has settled.

MT website seems OK at the mo; I also see we're "there" just now

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Old 11-13-2013, 02:08 PM   #12
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And now MT's lost us... as well as one of the nearby Fleming fleet members that has his AIS xmtr on all the time.

Even though there's also another probably transient boat shown on MT, I'm guessing probably taking on fuel right next to us...

BTW, I'll also emphasize AIS isn't all knowing, even when it's receiving repeats of all AIS signals in a given area. At any given time in our marina, we're near approx. 300 boats... and of those, 5 or 6 transmit.

An when we're out in the Bay on a busy day around here, I can often see 60-100 boats with Mark 1 Eyeballs... and maybe 2-6 in the same range on the AIS display.

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Old 11-13-2013, 03:27 PM   #13
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Same here on the SF Bay. I've been using MT for a couple years and frequently see the targets appear and disappear. In this area, it seems that very few recreational boaters transmit AIS.

MT seems slow in updating (every few minutes) and BB says it's updated every couple of seconds. I'll be using VesselFinder for a while to see if it's any better.

When I activated my Boat Beacon at my home yesterday as a test, it appeared right away on Vessel Finder. Same with a buddy who also loaded it up last night. He appeared on my screen right away.

Although it's not a panacea, it seems to be an improvement over what little I had available to me through MT. Time will tell, but at $10, it's not high risk.
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Old 11-13-2013, 03:42 PM   #14
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Although it's not a panacea, it seems to be an improvement over what little I had available to me through MT. Time will tell, but at $10, it's not high risk.
Are you saying that even after you have spent $10 that you still have to look out of the window?
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Old 11-13-2013, 03:51 PM   #15
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LOL! Yes, you'd think for that much money it would remedy that problem of having to enjoy the scenery that we all associate with boating!!

At least it let's me know some of what's around the next bend in our serpentine waterways and exactly how far behind I'm trailing my boat buddies.
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:49 AM   #16
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And now one of our Fleming neighbors is back on MT... but we're not...

FWIW, I'm only emphasizing this hit-or-miss situation so folks realize MT's weaknesses. Certainly it's cheap -- even cheaper than BB -- but then again you get what you pay for.

That said, I've gotten no end of pleasure -- during happy hour -- just from casually viewing who's out there, where they're going, etc...

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Old 11-14-2013, 03:55 PM   #17
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In this area, it seems that very few recreational boaters transmit AIS.
I have some boater acquaintances (notice I didn't use the "friends" word) who believe that the government is using the AIS data to keep track of them!!
Maybe they're right!! It could all be an NSA plot!!
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Old 11-14-2013, 04:59 PM   #18
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Airplanes have been using transponders for decades to assist in the aircraft identification and tracking by USA FAA and Military ATC. Later requirements for Terminal Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) provided a cockpit presentation similar to AIS to provide the pilots more timely and relevant info in the cockpit.

Not to hijack my own thread, but they don't need AIS to follow us. The following is a non-political technological report on recent advancements in optical acquisition and tracking.

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/AHrZgS-Gvi4
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:33 PM   #19
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Watch the TV show "Person of Interest" sometime. It has a fictional theme which follows along that same futuristic vision of intelligence gathering. As much as I usually dislike those types of shows, my girl friend watches it and it's actually entertaining.
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