VHF in text form? Any viable options.

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boating rich

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2018
Messages
88
Location
usa
Vessel Name
Oriente
Vessel Make
Back Cove 37
I am finding it tougher to hear the vhf radio and I was wondering if anyone has found way to see the vhf words. I have been trying some speech to text apps on my iPad but I have not found a good way to make this happen. It seems like there should be some tools given how loud the boating environment is. The weak link is getting the vhf speech into the iPad. I have tried several microphones without much luck. It seems the iPad also struggles with the noise :)
 
I usually just put a good external speaker on the radio. I have found that to work pretty well and my wife says I am almost deaf…
 
While my wife says I am going deaf, I have not had any problem hearing the VHF.

OP, I trust you meant you have tried several headphones rather than microphones. Sound from speaker to mic on a boat I do not accept will work, it needs to be hardwired input.
 
There is a fair amount of difference in the sound quality of different radios, especially with better performance antennas. Many years ago on my charter boat, I switched to a new radio and much larger high gain antenna. The sound quality was amazing. Unfortunately the amount of radio traffic noise from a city 80 miles away was also increased. Running the squelch at about 50% eliminated all but the relatively close transmissions and their quality vastly improved over the previous radio. Ever since, I've become a proponent of better quality radios and antennas. Unfortunately most people and boat manufacturers go cheap there as it's a low priority.

Ted
 
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Thanks Folks. Those were good reads. It would be nice to come into a marina and see a transcript of the harbor master on your screen which states “after you pass bouy 5, you are in Slip A4 which is and port side tie.”

I need to figure out how to hardwire my iPad to the audio from the vhf.
 
Why the FCC working with USCG and NOAA cannot come up with a way to send simple text over VHF is beyond me. We have a lame DSC system that is rarely used. Combine DSC with text and you might have something. We have 10 channels set aside on VHF to transmit a repeating weather forecast which as text could be sent in less time than the broadcast before it repeats and be stored in the radio for later reference. Imagine if the USCG in a marine assistance request could transmit a text lat/long to your radio. In other words marine communications hasn’t changed for more than 50 years other than the transmitters probably no longer have tubes.
 
I have a VHF app called Echolink that will send and receive text just like text chat.
 
There is a fair amount of difference in the sound quality of different radios, especially with better performance antennas. ...............

The quality of the audio output of a VHF radio has nothing to do with the quality of the antenna. It has to do with the audio circuit of the radio and the speaker.

It is possible to adjust the frequency response of both the audio circuit and the speaker to emphasize the frequencies where "intelligence" is conveyed (speech doesn't contain a lot of very low or very high frequencies.

While speech to text might seem like a good solution to understanding VHF messages, the danger here is the captain having his/her eyes on a screen and not where the boat is heading.
 
One of many conversation responses on ham radio related forums that discuss how antennas actually can not change things but they "seem" to.....

"Antennas don't differ in sound but they do differ in reception capabilities under differing conditions and the reception quality can alter tuner performance. So to the end user it could definitely seem as if "antennas differ in sound quality""

As to text being a distraction, probably many programs out there that will speak it like on my car info center or my phone. Plus it would be handy to go back and read it when safe like the OP discussed about harbormaster directions or for me when needing lat/long for rescue info and it was broadcast faster than I could get a oecil and write.
 
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Thanks. I will give the Bluetooth and the echo link a try. Good point the vhf hasn’t changed for a lifetime. I struggled to find a handheld vhf that has an audio jack which I am playing with headphones.
 
Why the FCC working with USCG and NOAA cannot come up with a way to send simple text over VHF is beyond me. We have a lame DSC system that is rarely used. Combine DSC with text and you might have something. We have 10 channels set aside on VHF to transmit a repeating weather forecast which as text could be sent in less time than the broadcast before it repeats and be stored in the radio for later reference. Imagine if the USCG in a marine assistance request could transmit a text lat/long to your radio. In other words marine communications hasn’t changed for more than 50 years other than the transmitters probably no longer have tubes.

Well said!

The possibilities are indeed endless. Imagine how we might design a ship-to-ship communications network if we started with a clean slate today!
 
Many apps to convert voice to text

most charge about $ 50


found "Transcribe" free with adds in I Store, installed in IPhone, seems to transcribe my voice to text well.
 
Thanks Folks. Those were good reads. It would be nice to come into a marina and see a transcript of the harbor master on your screen which states “after you pass bouy 5, you are in Slip A4 which is and port side tie.”

I need to figure out how to hardwire my iPad to the audio from the vhf.

You're really presenting two different problems. If you can't hear it, then I also recommend an external speaker. The size of the cone on the VHF is tiny compared to the external speaker. They are very loud and as clear as the broadcast (some antennae just suck).

If you have trouble remembering, keep a pencil and paper at the helm. I have a friend that uses a grease pencil on the fiberglass (it clean right up). I have another that uses a pencil on the fiberglass (it also cleans right off with some cleaner wax).

You're building an elaborate square wheel to solve two unrelated issues.

Also keep in mind that MANY of the harbor team responding to hails for slips or moorings are using handhelds. If you get to eager and hail too early, you will struggle due to distance, and their tiny antennae just feet off of the water.

I witnessed this coming into Provincetown, Ma. I could hear the person doling out moorings. The boat way behind me (I had passed him so recognized the name) was hailing furiously with no response because he was so far out). When I tied up, I could see he (harbor employee) was using a handheld.
 
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.... We have 10 channels set aside on VHF to transmit a repeating weather forecast which as text could be sent in less time than the broadcast before it repeats and be stored in the radio for later reference......


NAVTEX, which provides written weather forecasts, is widely used in Europe, but little used in North America because of the VHF weather reports. We used it crossing the Atlantic on Fintry. It provides a new weather forecast every four hours. Although it has a nominal range of 200 miles, we always had at least one station on the Atlantic crossing.


Jim
 
Jim,

I’ve looked at NAVTEX but the best I can tell it doesn’t broadcast weather for inside waters in SE Alaska or observations. I have never been able to find the content they are transmitting. Since I installed Starlink, NOAA weather radio and NAVTEX are no longer a concern. I just wonder why marine VHF hasn’t changed since the move over from HF.
 
That is a good question why VHF has not changed. FURUNO just announced they have AI driven trips six months after we all got ChatGPT, but the vhf I use today is the same as the one I used in 1990 except it has gps coordinates in case of emergency.

Great discussion and some food for thought.
 
..... but the vhf I use today is the same as the one I used in 1990 except it has gps coordinates in case of emergency.

Great discussion and some food for thought.


VHFs type approved in the USA after 1999 also must have DSC, which, if properly set up with GPS input and MMSI, is a great help in a distress situation.


Jim
 
VHFs type approved in the USA after 1999 also must have DSC, which, if properly set up with GPS input and MMSI, is a great help in a distress situation.


Jim

:iagree:

Not only DSC but the better radios have better innards and quite a selection if options to include remote mics, loud hailers, AIS, etc.

Some things may have been available earlier but were not as common and out of the reach of many boaters pricewise.

But I do admit once the basic radios went from crystals to electronic channel selection....that was a true advance...but basic transceiving hasn't changed a lot since that switch.
 
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Just curious: have you tried capturing “voice to text” using your iPhone or Android device? That might help.

Edit: sorry I see you have tried that without success

Jim
 
Shrew makes a very good point about VHF internal speakers. Tiny , tinny and poor quality so hard to understand.

I use two vhf s. Both are equipped with independent speakers plugged in. THat made a HUGE improvement in my ability to hear and understand the VHFs. The teeny speakers are virtually useless and if turned up they distorted. .

One is off to my right side and its speaker is close.
THe other vhf speaker is behind me but close. THere is no ambiguity which radio is the noisy one I need to pay attention to.

I know this is not specifically what was asked about but I used to have trouble with hearing and understanding calls or other boaters untill I equipped both VHFs with their own DECENT speakers.

They don't have to be expensive speakers either. Both were take off scrounged from elsewhere or bought fr a few bucks.

Just match the vhf and speaker ohms for best operation. Some are 4 ohm and some 8 ohm.
 
VHF in text format

You didn't say what radios you had or whether they were fixed or handheld.

We have nothing but Standard Horizon, 1 fixed mount at the lower helm with a RAM up to the bridge and 2 handhelds we carry while underway moving around the boat.

I've never seen a speech to text availability but that doesn't mean there isn't 1 out there.

I wear hearing aids and I have Bluetooth in the aids, it would be nice if there was a connection there, but again, there doesn't seem to be. I'll check SH further and if I find out that there is the ability to connect to aids, I'll repost.

SH does have, for their handhelds, a SSM-14A which is a submersible speaker/microphone that plugs into the radio, I'm getting 1, which would work better than an external speaker alone. See it here (file:///C:/Users/cwill/AppData/Local/Temp/MicrosoftEdgeDownloads/31a75d47-6d28-47f1-a040-4bc0d009fe2c/HX890_Brochure%20for%20Web.pdf).

I think that would be your best approach. A setup like you see the cops, have all contained.

SH make a great product AND they have great support if needed for questions.

Any specific questions PM me.

Good luck.
 
VHF in text form

https://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=091-18-07&category=cm-deckplate-2

I was sure this must exist, it seems so obvious, but it seems like, as usual, boats come second with technology.( although first by a lot in cost!)

The link above is to a Coast Guard Auxiliary information piece on this topic, so it may be that you can get at least part way to what you want, although it may require buying a new VHF set, if yours doesn't already have VDMSS.

You can also send and receive text over your VHF via a bluetooth connect with your cell-phone, but it is limited to others who have the same app, which is unlikely to include the bridge operators and harbormasters you would want to get test from.

I thought that the deaf star of the movie CODA used something like this on his fishing boat, but now I don't think so.

Hope you are able to come up with something that will work for you.

Peter
 
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trying but believe only available to HAM operators?

thanks

Yes, Echolink requires a Ham radio license, as it is used to send and receive on amateur radio frequencies and repeaters.

As for speech to text more generally, I agree on the value but also the concern of distraction. Another issue is the high risk of mistranslation that might send someone into danger. If I had to guess, that may be one of the manufacturer concerns.

A few VHF radios now offer a feature from some aviation headsets: playing back the last X seconds of transmission (e.g. to hear ATC again). For my 0.02, that is better than transcription.
 
I looked at Standard Horizon, ICom, and Uniden looking for VDSMS radios and Uniden seems to be the only one that lists them. It looks like the text capability has a comparable adoption rate to select calling. Something that is hard to use and doesn’t work well won’t go into general use.
 
The key to VHF to TEXT is it requires a computer on both ends for the message to be coded and decoded.
I am running EchoLink as I type this note. But it requires a PC to capture the voice and encode into a voice file and then with a secondary appellation running in the background to decode the incoming voice file without detecting a gap in the voices.
I wouldn't try it unless you want to go crazy with coding :)
 
Text on a VHF radio

I had 1 last thought on this concept and since I'm not sure how this would actually work I can only make a response based on my Standard Horizon HX-890.

Think of this, you are on a river with a fair amount of barge traffic, and you are communicating, on a VERY SMALL screen with the captain of the tow. How well do you think that is going to work out?

Size of the type will be small and if you are like me, you not only can't hear, but your sight isn't as good as it used to be.

I wear hearing aids as well.

I just ordered the noise canceling speaker/mic setup from Standard Horizon and think that with the speaker on my shoulder, it will provide the additional clarity that I will need.

IF you go with the text route, which actually sounds clunky, let us all know how it works out.
 
The small screen is a simple problem to solve. The NMEA output of the radio can easily incorporate a text and send it to your MFD. All the pieces are in place. In the case of weather, all the major marine electronics manufacturers have incorporated Sirius weather into their MFDs but it is not a cheap option or service. Sirius being a digital satellite service made sending weather data relatively straight forward. We already have a digital service in marine VHF called AIS. The next logical step is digital weather. NOAA weather radio is a nationwide critical service. It needs to evolve into the digital world.
 

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