We all want the latest and greatest marine electronics on our boat, and at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, cool goodies from manufacturers like Furuno, Vesper, Kannad, Jeppesen, and Fugawi gave us some new things to check out. All in all there were dozens of new electronic items introduced to the marine world. Here are our top picks.

The Furuno NavNet TZ Touch

FURUNO made waves when they rolled out the NavNet system, made some more with NavNet 3D and Timezero, and again they shake up the game—with a new touch-screen system, which we first mentioned in our Miami electronics blog. The NavNet TZ Touch consists of two multi-function displays, the TZT14 and the TZT9. The TZT14 has a 14.1” WXGA screen, and its smaller sibling has a nine-inch WVGA screen. The big difference between these touch-screens and others introduced lately, like those from Simrad and Raymarine, is the ability to do pinch-and-pull ranging on-screen, a function no one else has offered just yet.

Furuno split the difference between Garmin’s zero-button MFDs and Raymarine’s or Simrad’s back-up buttons and knobs, providing you with a single dial control which allows scrolling through menus and zoom levels. Unfortunately for small boat owners, you still have to deal with using the touch-screen to utilize a number of functions—which can be difficult when the waves kick up or you’re running at high speed.

Along with these units, Furuno is also offering a Wifi NavNet data viewer, so you can bring up your nav screens on your smart phone using their free app. And their tablet app goes even farther, giving you remote control over your electronics suite. Pricing: TBD.

VESPER is another contender jumping into the touch-screen world, but in this case, they’re the first manufacturer of a dedicated AIS unit to offer this type of interface. Their WatchMate Vision has a full color screen which communicates with your cell or tablet via Wifi, so you can watch the ships moving along on your i-thingie (a nifty trick we first saw from Digital Yacht’s iAIS).

Vesper Marine's WatchMate Vision AIS.

The best advantage this unit offers is a tremendous ability to clear out the clutter and filter AIS targets according to your own customized requirements. With a swipe of the finger you can bring up data about any target, prioritize it, filter it, or set the unit to auto-filter. The transponder receives all Class A and Class B data, and transmits Class B unless you hit the “silent” mode. It also offers an internal 50-channel GPS receiver, USB connectivity, NMEA 2000 compatibility, and can interact with standard nav apps like InavX, on iPads. Those of us judging the NMMA Innovation Awards found it so impressive, we gave it the top spot in the Safety category.

The Kannad SafeLink R10 SRS.

KANNAD has a completely different use for AIS—and we love their new gizmo, as well. Their Safelink R10 SRS is the world’s first personal AIS (PAIS? The acronym is probably inevitable), which is designed to be clipped on to a life jacket. It has an internal battery which is good for 24 hours, and a shelf-life of seven years. If a crewmember goes over the side and the unit is activated, his or her position will appear on the boat’s AIS and/or chartplotter screen—as well as on any other active AIS receivers within range (about four miles). Though this will only be useful to boats with AIS and it doesn’t alert the authorities as an EPIRB would in the case of an emergency, the R10 SRS will undoubtedly save lives.

C-Map's Plan2Nav for iPhones and iPads.

JEPPESEN, the owner of C-Map digital cartography, jumped into the world of marine electronics apps this year by introducing Plan2Nav. This app works with iPhone and iPad products, and offers basic world-wide charts (you can purchase more detailed charts at the press of a button), trip planning, 2D and perspective chart viewing, a rotating on-screen compass rose, and wind/weather/wave screen overlay capability. But Plan2Nav is entering a crowded app-verse, with plenty of phone-based nav software already on the market; you can check out its competitors in this feature article, where we probe deeply into the realm of cell phone and tablet navigation.

Delorme's InReach satellite messenger system.

DELORME has a new unit called the inReach, and of all the new gear we saw in Miami, this one could have the most impact on the boating community. In fact, it won the Innovation Award for Marine Electronics. The inReach is a relatively inexpensive ($250, plus a $10/month subscription fee) satellite messenger, which allows you to send out an SOS with your GPS coordinates to SAR personnel at any time, any place under the Iridium satellite umbrella—which essentially means anywhere on the planet Earth. Other units have similar abilities, but they can’t receive texts back, to maintain an open channel of communications. And this is how the Delorme really shines: It uses Bluetooth to communicate with your Android smart phone, or a DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS (Apple connectivity is expected soon). Then, using the keypads on the second unit, you can send and receive text messages—anywhere, any time.

The limitations? You can only send up to 160 characters at a time, and depending on which plan you subscribe to you’ll have a cap on the number of texts you can send before overage charges kick in. Still, these are relatively minor-league annoyances in the bigger scheme of things—the inReach is one of the most useful gadgets to hit the marine market in years. Shhh… just don’t tell my 13 year-old she could use it to text her boyfriend from the middle of the Atlantic, or she’ll be screen-tapping in the cabin all day!

RUNNERS UP: There are several other products new to the market this year which are worthy of note. Raymarine gets kudos for expanding its e series to include the e95/97 and e125/127, larger 9” and 12.1” versions of the e7.

Broadband 4G radar also made an appearance, boosting broadband range out to 36 nautical miles. Standard Horizon rolled out the GX1700, a VHF with GPS built-in, so you can enjoy the advantages of DSC, position sharing, and navigation to DSC distress calls—without having to run extra wires and cables.

Fusion introduced a video capable unit called the MS-AV700 for the Fusion-link system, which allows you to run your marine stereo system through your Smart phone. And Icom developed soft-key menu systems for the M424 and M92D fixed-mount VHF radios, for more intuitive use.

In case you hadn’t noticed, marine electronics are evolving at the same breakneck pace that keeps us on the path of perpetual upgrades with consumer electronics like phones and computers. And lucky for us, all of these products have significant value that makes those upgrades worthwhile. So check out these nifty new items, figure out your budget, make a priority list, and pull the trigger. You won’t regret it—at least, not until next year’s models are introduced.