Comar AIS-2-2000 receiver, & N2K firmware updates

Sweet.  Comar's new little dual band AIS receiver not only outputs NMEA 2000 but is powered off it. Could there be a simpler install?  In fact, the AIS-2-2000 doesn't even have NMEA 0183 plotter or PC ports.  But the way things are going...

18th August 2010.
By Ben Ellison

Comar_AIS-2-2000.JPG

Sweet.  Comar’s new little dual band AIS receiver not only outputs NMEA 2000 but is powered off it. Could there be a simpler install?  In fact, the AIS-2-2000 doesn’t even have NMEA 0183 plotter or PC ports.  But the way things are going, especially given all the charting programs slated to support the Actisense gateway, who needs no stink’n’ 0183?  Actually a lot of boats do, which is why the Digital Yacht AIS200N2K is a nice product to have in the pipeline.  And actually you may recall that NMEA was none too quick about writing N2K PGNS to match all the 0183 AIS messages, but the Comar unit is designed to deal with that tardiness…

Comar’s U.S. distributor, Milltech Marine, is clear about how the AIS-2-2000 will ship ($399, real soon) able to output all existing standard AIS PGNs, which should cover Class A and B targets fine, and can be upgraded when NMEA gets around to writing PGNs for AIS ATON buoys and whatever else the authorities dream up.   I like the sound of this as I’ve used two early NMEA 2000-capable Class B transponders that didn’t output the standard Class B static data message — Simrad’s AI50 and Raymarine’s AIS500 — and I’m not sure that an update has been offered for either yet.  But while it’s no fault of Comar or Milltech, it is a disappointment that an AIS-2-2000 will have to be sent in for updates.
   Which reminds me of the slick new Garmin NMEA 2000 Updater that a Panbo reader kindly pointed out, seen below.  It’s just an SD card reader with an N2K port, costing $80, but it will be useful for boaters who want to try, say, Garmin’s GMI 10 and/or some of its sensors, i.e. Garmin gear without an MFD and SD card slot for updates.  Garmin’s update process, incidentally, has gotten even better than when I last enthused about it.  Check out how many devices they managed to bundle into the last package. I ran that update on Gizmo’s somewhat large N2K network the other day — no problem, even the N2K powered and controlled GXM audio/weather receiver hardly skipped a beat — and then passed the update card to a friend with an almost entirely different network of Garmin devices.
   At any rate, here’s an idea: Couldn’t NMEA spec out a standard SD card N2K update protocol that any company could manufacture and all companies like Comar could utilize for firmware updates?  The project might even make sense for Maretron or Airmar, whose customers, or their installers, now have to use a PC gateway to update their sensors.  Or maybe Garmin would consider letting other manufacturers update gear with their update device, adding value to it?  There may be liability issues and so forth, but I can dream, can’t I?

Garmin_Network_Updater.JPG


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About the author:

Ben Ellison

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Ben Ellison is electronics editor for Bonnier Marine Group, specifically Yachting and Cruising World. He previously was electronics editor for Power & Motoryacht and SAIL, as well as a writer for Ocean Navigator. His blog posts appear courtesy of his website www.Panbo.com, which has 80,000 monthly readers worldwide.
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