Those of you who read Chart Transplant already know that the Insight Genesis system created by Lowrance is changing the way we use our chartplotters—and what we see on them. It allows you to record your fishfinder’s data alongside GPS, to create your own digital chartography on any body of water you want. You can view the bathy maps you make, download them and use them on your chartplotter, and view detail levels that were never before available, by adding data layers for vegetation, bottom type, and contour lines down to one-foot increments. (To learn how in detail, read the Chart Transplant feature). Already, in a perfect example of blindingly-fast electronic evolution, just a year after its introduction Insight Genesis is changing. In a big way.

lowrance insight genesis

With Insight Genesis, you can now collect your own chart data and display it alongside the data collected by other users.

Since zillions of boats are out there on the water each and every day, depth finders pinging away and GPS units constantly plotting position, Lowrance thought it made sense to harness all of that data. Besides, we all know that, good as modern chartography is, it’s far from perfect. And truth be told, a modern powerboat rigged with a relatively simple, inexpensive combo fishfinder/chartplotter unit chews through reams of data every time it leaves the dock. Why not record it, and improve everyone’s chartographic views?

Here’s how it works: when an Insight Genesis subscriber uploads a batch of chartographic data, he or she has the option of seeing the basic NOAA chartography for the same area in grayscale, with the usual accuracy. But wherever an Insight Genesis user has cruised and uploaded data they collected, it shows up in blue.

Insight Genesis

This image shows the difference between standard (gray) data, and the vastly improved data level gathered via Insight Genesis (in blue). The Insight Genesis data was gathered by three different boats over a two day period.

Before you fish-heads start screaming, don’t worry, your data remains safe and private unless you’re willing to share. When you upload to the insight Genesis system you’re presented with a simple check-box, asking if you want the upload to go into the public domain or remain for your eyes only. Either way, it’s a worthy endeavor—after creating my own chart of a spot on the Chesapeake Bay and comparing it to the available digital chartography of the area, no doubt was left in my mind. Suddenly I could see exactly where those un-marked fish-attracting humps and bumps were, and I could even use the bottom type data layer to figure out which were covered in oyster shell, and which were just mud.

Crowd-sourced chartography is, of course, not a completely new idea. Navionics first entered this arena with its community data layer, which allows users to update and correct data (see 10 Navigation and Smartphone Hits for Powerboaters). And this has been a tremendous success—on average 2,000 updates are made every day—and fears of flawed data entering the system have proven unfounded. When a trouble-making user decided to plant a new island where one didn't exist, for example, the flaw was identified and corrected by other users the very same day. And in any case Navionics applies user-generated content in its own distinct data layer, so you always know when you’re looking at it.

The big difference here is in the form of data collection, the detail level, and the quality. No matter how good the crowd is at self-policing, mistakes will be made. But it’s hard to argue with the accuracy of data that comes directly from fishfinder and GPS readings. As you might expect, however, deeper data costs bigger bucks. While joining the Navionics crowd costs $10 and up, getting an Insight Genesis subscription goes for $99. Is it worth the expense? That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. While you’re deciding, I think I’ll go fishing—and create my own uber-accurate charts, at the same time.

For more information, visit Lowrance.