Sunday, April 22, 2012

SEAiq - Intelligent Vector Chart Plotter

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch 
Function: Marine Navigation and Charting
Rating: *****
Cost: $9.99

Take a software engineer with a PhD in computer science, add equal parts live aboard family man, captain and world cruiser and you have the creator of this new unique app called SEAiq.  Mark Hayden, his wife and their new born child are presently cruising Australia after successfully sailing through the Caribbean, transiting the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. Their adventures can be followed on their blog svnorthfork.blogspot.com.

The author of this app is a sailor which I find very beneficial.  Mark knows first hand what is required by a charting and navigation app and the type of information we are all looking for while out on the water. He related to me how he was frustrated with many of the apps out there and wanted to create one that addressed all his needs. He has built a slick and efficient app that provides easy download of NOAA ENC Vector charts.  He makes full use of all the information supplied on these vector charts.

Version 1.2 of the app was just released on April 13, 2012. 

Features:
  • Free NOAA ENC Vector charts
  • Best for use on the iPad
  • Offline use of charts
  • On screen instrument display
  • Detailed Vector chart information
  • Waypoints creation and edit
  • Route creation and edit
  • Smooth chart quilting
  • World chart view
  • Multi-touch gestures
The main display is a world view. At the top of the screen is a handy instrument display.  Instruments include latitude, longitude, ACC, COG, SOG, BTW, and DTW.  The instrument display takes advantage of both the internal GPS of the iPhone and iPad but will also use the assisted GPS when within cell range or connected to the Internet. An iPod touch could also be used if provided a GPS signal. The program downloads NOAA charts to the device so it will operate offline when no cell or internet are available. 

At the bottom of the display you will see soft keys for Navigate, Waypoints, Routes, Settings and NOAA.

Simply tap the screen twice on any point on the chart and a pop up box will display. You can view the coordinates of that point, bearing and distance from you present location, add a waypoint or get additional details about the location.

Settings are also available to follow your vessel on the screen and turn on and off the instrument status bar at the top of the screen. When the instruments are turned off you get a full screen display of the chart.

The Waypoints page is where you can create, edit and view all of the waypoints.

To create a new waypoint simply tap on the + icon on the top left corner of the waypoints screen. A pop up box will appear allowing you to edit the Name, Description, latitude and longitude.  A button also allows you to GoTo or navigate to the waypoint.

The Edit icon in the top right will allow you to delete waypoints or move them using the rows icons on the right side of the screen. Simply touch the rows icons on the right and move your waypoints up or down in the list. Tap Done when you finished.

Routes are nothing more than a list of waypoints that you want to navigate. The Routes page works similar to the wapoints page. The Edit button allows you to delete or move the route up or down in the list. When you have them in the order you want, select Done.  

Tapping the + icon adds a route to the page. Select your new route to edit it, this will take you to the routes edit page.

The Routes edit page allows you to edit the waypoints in the route, edit the route name or follow the route.

In the routes edit screen, select the + icon to add waypoint to your route.  A pop up of your waypoint will be displayed for easy selection.  The Edit button allows you to add, delete or change the order of your waypoint by moving them up or down the list.

I found editing of both waypoints and routes to be very easy and intuitive. It took no time at all to create some waypoints and a route. The pop up windows allowed for easy selection of waypoints, I did not have to go hunting for the points I wanted to add.

The Settings screen has numerous selections for speed, depth, symbols and status. Saftey depths can be set to show different colors on the charts to keep you off the reefs and out of trouble.

Selection between English and metric units is provided.  Another nice feature is the selection of different displays contrasts for Day, Dusk and Night making it easier to view your device in varying light conditions.








The NOAA Charts screen is where you can download and update your complete set of free NOAA ENC vector charts. NOAA charts are only provided for US waters. They are nicely divided into regions which makes it easy to download only the charts you need in a particular area.

The app does not come with any charts to start with. The user needs to download the charts for their desired region.  You will need to be connected to the Internet to download the charts. Once downloaded the charts can be used offline without an Internet connection.

Toggle the regions to On for the charts you would like to download.  Select the Update icon in the top right of the screen. The charts will download to your device.

Update the charts at any time by returning and selecting Update.

My first look at the app was encouraging.  Many apps only provide the NOAA raster charts which are like the old paper charts most people are use to. The raster charts are fine but have limitations.  This app uses the NOAA ENC vector charts which allows access to more information and zooming to different levels.

I was using the app on my iPad 2 and found that when panning or zooming there was quite a delay in the updating of the screen.  The app displayed a Working message while updating.  This may be something the developer can improve on. I assume if I had fewer chart files downloaded it may have updated the screen faster.

I liked the waypoint and route creation and editing displays.  It was quick and easy to make waypoints and routes and edit them.  Beyond that there are not many other bells and whistles with the app. As most of you know I have a list of features that I would like to see in an app as noted in my blog post The Perfect Marine Charting App.  It would be nice to see some of these features added to SEAiq in the future. Some apps can get to overloaded with features which may cause performance issues. This app is very efficient at charting and navigating and seems to perform well.

SEAiq is a compact and smooth working app that does a great job allowing the user to display, track and navigate a vessel on the NOAA ENC vector charts.  For $9.99 it is well worth the price. If it fits your needs, pick it up and give it a try.   

~~~Sail On~~~
Mark




16 comments:

  1. SEAiq add two more apps to provide users with charting options and a test drive option. All three apps have similar feature, the difference comes in how the charts are provided and the addition of an in app purchase.

    SEAiq Free will let you try the app out and allow you to make an in app purchase for $9.99(the price of SEAiq USA) to enable all the features. This is a great way to test drive the app to see if you want to purchase it.

    SEAiq Open has the same features as SEAiq USA but it allows you to supply your own vector charts. The app is free and an in app purchase enables all the features. With this version you can try your charts with the app to make sure that they work before making the in app purchase.

    Check it all out at http://www.seaiq.com/

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd like to let i-Marine Apps readers know version 1.8.0 of our SEAiq Apps is now available. This version includes a wide range of improvements, including:

    * Graphical editing of waypoints and routes
    * External NMEA over wifi (using your ship's instruments)
    * AIS support

    For those of you that purchased wifi-only iPads that do not have true GPS support, you can now use our SEAiq apps to tether your iPad to get GPS from your iPhone 3gs (or to another iPad that has GPS).

    fair winds, Mark

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mark,

    Love the new features. I was able to tether my iPad to my iPhone 4S. I had to enable the NMEA uses UDP setting on the iPad to get it to work.
    Won't it work in TCP/IP mode?

    I also got it to work with a USB connected gps to my laptop. I used Franson GPS gate to connect through TCP/IP to my iPad.

    The graphical editing of the waypoints works good. It is easy to put the waypoint exactly where I want it and view the coordinates while I move it around on the chart.

    Keep up the great work, SEAiq is becoming a very full featured app!

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the note! Sorry I didn't see this comment earlier. Regarding, TCP/IP mode for tethering... I just tested it on my phone and it worked ok. I'll send you an email separately to get more details. We make a point of fixing all user-reported bugs with each release.

    We've still been busy. In the most recent release we added import/export of waypoints. You can transfer waypoints, routes, and tracks to other apps, send them via email, or transfer them directly to/from your laptop.

    In the upcoming release, the main additions are support for the Inland ENC format and S-63 support. Inland ENC support allows display of the free charts available for much of Europe's rivers. S-63 support allows you to purchase charts for anywhere in the world from www.chartworld.com.

    In the upcoming release + 1, we are planning to add automatic download (similar to NOAA charts) for the Army Corps of Engineering IENC's for US rivers to our SEAiq USA and SEAiq Free apps. By the way, Army Corps of Engineering distributes their charts in the S-57 format; you can use them in SEAiq Open today.

    fair winds, Mark

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the update Mark, looks like additions to SEAiq are progressing at a rapid pace. I look forward to future releases!

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  6. For international readers, I wanted to announce the availability of version 2.0 of our SEAiq Open app. You can now purchase charts for anywhere in the world from ChartWorld. Also, with Inland ENC support, you can download hundreds for free charts for many rivers in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I use opencpn with cm93 charts pretty much exclusively at this time but am looking at the purchase of an android based tablet such as a Samsung tab2. I'm interested to know if SEAiq will be available for the android platform or will it remain Ipad only?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Steve,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for the questioin. I can't speak for SEAiq, but I have not heard the author elude to creating an Android version. Mark Hayden, if your listening could you chime in? I know he is moving his boat to South Africa the last I heard from him so it may be a few weeks till we hear from him again.

    I had a similar question about the Garmin BlueChart Mobile app today too. Many Android users are feeling left out of the Marine app development. One way to solve that is to break down and buy an iOS device. I was a holdout for a long time but had to take the plunge to be able to review all these great apps.

    Consider becoming a follower and support the site by checking out a few of the Google adds.

    Stop back soon!
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sorry for the delay in responding. I'm afraid we've decided not to support other platforms, feeling that efforts are better spent focussing on IOS.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here is an update on SEAiq apps. We just released version 2.2.1 of the SEAiq apps, which now includes free ActiveCaptain support. At no cost, you can download either of our free apps display charts and ActiveCaptain data. The paid upgrade is still required to display charts below 1:50000 scale and unlock the other features such as GPS, NMEA, and AIS.

    We have more features in progress. Planned for the next release:

    * Weather support (GRIB files)
    * Anchor monitor/alarm
    * Docking aids for large vessels

    The last one is interesting. We have a growing number of harbor/river pilots using SEAiq on their iPads for their work. They like SEAiq because it is the only app that lets them load the same official marine charts used on the vessels they board and it has high quality AIS support with true-scale vessel display. They've been asking for some time for additional support that allow them to identify the wharf and get real time display of angle to the wharf, distance and closing velocity from various key points of their vessel, etc. All of this account for the position of the GPS antenna, shape of the vessel, and rate-of-turn. Not too useful for the average boater, but still interesting to know that 1000ft freighter that just passed you may be running SEAiq! Of course, this is only a supplement to the vessel's on-board ECDIS systems.

    We plan to keep improving our apps and are always interested in hearing from users.

    cheers, Mark

    ReplyDelete
  11. Mark,

    I previosly posted this in the i-navX section but this app also looks to be a viable ccontender for developement as well. I am wondering if some of the i-ware apps will be supporting direct integration for 3/4G radar. I would like to skip buying a chart plotter all together and just directly integrate the systems to my ipad.

    Greg, s/v Blue Sky

    ReplyDelete
  12. Greg,

    Welcome!, glad you found the site. Become a follower to keep up on the latest posts and share the site with all your friends.

    I hear yah! that would be great but I have not heard of any stand alone apps able to do radar. There are some that simply mirror the chartplotter's radar display on the iPad.

    There is some work going on to get radar on a PC but that is old school by now. If I hear of any apps doing that I will let your know.

    There are some apps and websites that use AIS data to give you a virtual radar. These only work if you have NMEA AIS data or a cell connection. See my Top 5 AIS apps page
    http://i-marineapps.blogspot.com/p/top-5-best-marine-ais-display-apps.html

    Stop back again!
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the comment & sorry for the delay in responding. I was sailing our boat from Cape Town to Cape Verde when this was posted. Last 12 months has been a big year for us: 15k nm of sailing, all of which was either done with our 1yo son or single handed (I'm not sure which was harder). Oh yeah, and we also released the SEAiq apps along with tons of new features.

    As Mark says, SEAiq does support AIS display today (if you have an AIS receiver/transponder).

    I'm interested in supporting display of actual radar data in SEAiq and have contacted several vendors about API's for accessing the radar data from their devices. No progress so far on this one. I'll post something if that changes.

    ReplyDelete
  14. We are pleased to announce version 2.5.0 of the SEAiq apps.

    Big new features include: raster charts, new vertical status bar, VRM/EBL, and pressure/isobar weather data. There are tons of other fixes and enhancements.

    The pricing remains the same: $10 for SEAiq USA/Free (for USA waters: NOAA vector/raster charts and US Army Corps of Engineers inland waterways) and $20 for SEAiq Open (international version). We now also include a 7-day evaluation period during which all features are enabled (yes: you can uninstall/reinstall the apps for another 7-day eval period).

    We continue to add features important to cruisers that don't appear in any other apps. For, instance SEAiq Open is unique in allowing users to load their raster charts derived from satellite imagery (http://www.svsarana.com/make_charts_from_google_earth.php). We also support both automatic download of weather data (requires internet connection) as well as manual loading of GRIB files (eg, from SailMail/SailDocs).

    ReplyDelete
  15. are there any Canadian charts (NW Pacific) available for SEAiq ?
    - if yes, what type of charts and what is the cost ????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SEAiq Open version allows import of the widest range of charts than any other app. It will allow you to import Canadian S-57 charts. Check them out here http://www.charts.gc.ca/charts-cartes/digital-electronique/index-eng.asp?step=1&by=cdPreview&cdType=vector&cdTitle=PAC-A#h2

      These seem kind of pricey. I will look for others

      Mark

      Delete