We live in a world of real-time monitoring, where we connect via the Internet to all kinds of things around us; we can remote-start our cars, watch our kids at day care from wherever we are, and even check our vital signs—all through our phones. And yet all too often on our boat—a prized possession—, we still rely on the combo lock and marina night watchman to monitor our pride and joy.
According to BoatUS, 69% of boats that sink do so at the dock. For many people that don’t live near their boat, a delay in discovering an issue could mean your boat ends up on the bottom of the harbor. In addition, as we fit more expensive electronics on our boats, they become increasingly enticing to thieves.
The good news is there are some affordable remote monitoring solutions available to keep a watch over your boat. With relatively inexpensive technology together with connected devices, you don’t have to be in the superyacht league to buy peace of mind. The power of the web means that you can set up a system onboard, and then receive status updates and notifications via text, voicemail, or email. You can even watch remote video surveillance on computer or smartphones, over either WiFi, cellular, or satellite networks. With simple instruction guides this is a reasonable DIY project; here are some options for you to explore.
• Electronic monitoring - Sensors on electronics monitor batteries for low voltage, loss of temperature in your refrigerator or freezer, or monitor on/off actions such as an ignition start.
• Water sensors – Automatic bilge pump on/off sensors can detect high water levels and pump cycles.
• Entry alarms – Door and window sensors, floor pressure mats, and motion sensors can detect intruders.
• Cameras – interior or exterior cameras can provide a direct feed to remote devices or local DVR recording.
• Location tracking – GPS devices can detect unauthorized boat movement.
• Professional monitoring services – They keep watch 24 hours a day so you don’t have to.
We checked out five solutions that look interesting. They vary in terms of features, cost and complexity, but all have a similar setup: a central control unit with communication capabilities via cellular or satellite, together with accessory sensors.
Spot Trace – Spot offers a range of products that offer peace of mind by allowing you to track your boat using satellites and/or notify friends and family of your position. The ‘Trace’ is a small GPS device that you attach to your boat; if there’s unauthorized movement, you get alerts via text or email. Your boat can also be tracked on Google Maps™. At $99.99 for the device and $99.99/year for service it’s an affordable way to set up basic anti-theft protection. Visit Spot to learn more.
Boat Command – We mentioned this one in a recent article on staying connected while onboard. For a $299 Boat Connect! base unit and $8.99 a month, this is one of the least expensive ways to protect against a variety of situations—leaks, unauthorized entry, low battery voltage, anchor drift, low or high interior temperatures, or unintended shore power disconnections. The Android and iPhone app has a straightforward interface with traffic light reporting. For more information, go to Boat Command.
Siren Marine – Siren offers straightforward packages starting at $499 for the basic setup, a range of sensors ($9 to $218 depending on the sensor), and a remote monitoring subscription. A bonus of the Siren system is their iPhone app (Android is coming soon, according to their website) which can monitor, receive messages, and also control the sensors on your boat. With their service plan up to four phones can be enabled. Visit Siren for more info.
EyeOnBoard – Suited for mid-sized vessels, EyeOnBoard uses wireless technology to simplify installation, which avoids tearing into boat compartments. The WiFi communication option also allows owners to tie into their marina’s WiFi for monitoring, and the base station PC can also be used for regular internet access. They don’t have a mobile app, but a companion website can be used to remotely control onboard equipment. A starter package with an outdoor camera and one year monitoring service costs $2,219.84. EyeOnBoard.
GOST – For larger vessels, GOST Global offers a sophisticated suite of security and monitoring equipment. A standout is the integration with FLIR M-series cameras, allowing remote pan/tilt/zoom of the thermal-imaging camera. While this might be beyond most boaters’ budgets, for larger boats the addition of night and low-light capabilities can be important. Another unique feature is the ‘Cloak’, a fog-release system that creates a cloud of smoke, reducing visibility to zero to confuse an intruder. Check it out at the Gost web site.
Want to learn more about staying connected with your boat, and staying connected when your boat’s at sea? Read these articles:
Get Connected: WiFi on Boats
Connected While Cruising
Cell Phones and Chartplotters, Working Together
Rise of the Machines: Wearable Computers Come to Boating
Global Communications: Saving Lives or Saving Face