Sunday, June 15, 2014

Predict Wind Update - "Impressive" New Features and Interface

Application: Android & iOS devices. iPad, iPhone, iPad Touch, iOS 7.0
Function: Wind Forecasting, Marine Weather Routing
Cost: App is Free, in app purchase for forecasts

I reviewed the Predict Wind app almost a year ago in this post. The developers at Predict Wind have since been very busy making some changes and upgrades to the app. It is nice to see that continued development is taking place.  If you spend any time on the water this app is essential.  It will provide you very accurate wind and weather forecast data on your mobile device. The Weather Routing and Departure Planning features are the best I have seen in any iOS app. It is available on Android devices also from the Google Play store.

The unique thing about Predict Wind is that they use observations from both the Canadian Met Center (CMC) and Global Forecasting System (GFS) models to produce their own PWC and PWG forecasts. Predict Wind has developed their own process to produce high resolution 8KM and 1KM forecasts.  The forecasts are updated twice daily every 12 hours.

The forecast results for the PWC and PWG models can be listed side by side so they can be analyzed to determine which model is working the best in your area.  The app is awesome for use on mobile devices but Predict Wind also has a very functional website that can be used for forecasting also.  The website allows users to sign up and get a free forecast to see if they like the product.

New Features:
  • New User Interface
  • Pinch to Zoom Tables and Maps
  • Larger Screen Support
  • Horizontal and vertical orientation
  • New Graph features
  • Improve time slider for viewing time lapse forecasts
  • In app help files with video
  • Split page menu

The new user interface brings you right to a very intuitive split screen display where you can select from any of the major wind and weather display pages. 

The menu can be viewed on the left while other pages are displayed on the right side of the screen. This split screen viewing is only available on the larger iPad display, not on the iPhone.

The menu on the left side of the screen can be minimized by selecting the horizontal lines icon in the upper left of the display. This gives the viewer a full screen view of the forecasts maps and data.  Tap the icon again to return the display of the menu.

The slider bar at the bottom of the screen has been improve also. It can be used to step through the forecast period. Use the arrows on either end of the slider to increase or decrease the time of the forecast. You can also use your finger on the circle and move it to anywhere on the time line.


Table data displays provide a nice tabular format of the forecast data. In this view I have minimized the menu and zoomed in on the graph for a full screen display.

The zooming feature is available on both the iPad and iPhone.

Select the Gear icon in the upper right of the display to show or hide specific forecast data on the table.  The Gear icon is used to access the settings on each of the forecast pages.

Wind indication can be selected to show arrows, numeric or cardinal directional data.

iOS navigation features including pinch to zoom and panning are now available on the tables and maps for added viewing options.

To create a forecasts the first thing you will have to do is select a location. Select the black bar above the menu and select the + icon to add forecast locations.


The Graph section has been totally redesigned to show an expanded forecast window.

Select the settings Gear icon in the upper right of the screen to select 1 or 7 day forecast graphs. Select the Compare on Graph option to display multiple location forecasts on the same graph.

In the compare on graphs option I found the sliders to be a little slow in responding and unresponsive at times when I swiped them on and off. It may make sense to have a radio button selection instead.

In this graph I had three locations selected for comparison of the 1 day forecast wind speed data.

Swipe down on this page to see additional graph data for gusts, rainfall, cloud cover, temperature, pressure, wave height, wave direction and wave period data.  I like that all the graph data is displayed on the same page and easily viewable.

Weather Maps:

On the main menu additional selections can be made for forecast data including Swells, Rain, Clouds, Isobars and Sea Temperature maps.

These are all viewed on separate maps and include time lapse display  of the forecasts.

The same slider bar at the bottom can be used to view any time period of the forecast.

Weather Routing and Departure Planning:

The Weather Routing and Departure Planning features both have a new improved header which allows entry of start and stop points for the route. 
Routed points can be added graphically by tapping points on the map.

Route points latitude and longitude can also be typed in using the keyboard. Tap the + icon to add additional points along the route.

Select the Gear icon to choose the forecast model, optimizing route options, boat polar diagrams and motoring options.  The What If selection allows you to adjust wind speed and time to see how they would affect your route.

The Departure Planning page looks very similar to the Weather routing page. Simply select a start and stop point and the app calculates the best time of departure within the next few days.  It takes into account the weather forecast and plots the different paths on the map. 

The header area seems to take up a lot of space on the screen. This areas could be reduced in size without any loss off functionality. The header can be hidden by swiping up on the screen. Once I swiped up I had a little trouble getting it back down. A tab could be added to drag the header back down.

Extensive trip data is also listed below as you page down. It calculates passage time, max and min wind speed, % time up wind, reaching and down wind.  Both PWC and PWG model data is listed for comparison.

Predict Wind has made some substantial improvements to an already great app. The fresh new look and added functionality has made the app an even better value.  It is great to see that improvements continue to be made. It tells me that Predict Wind is serious about providing the best wind and weather forecast data to it customers. 

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Furuno 1st Watch Marine Radar App

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. Requires iOS 6.1
Function: Mobile device display of marine radar
Rating: *****
Cost: App is Free

All images compliments of Furuno

I can't believe it took the marine industry so long to finally provide radar on my iPad.  Yes, you heard right. RADAR on the iPad, now we are talking baby!

Radar is one of the last features to be brought to mobile devices. This now rounds out the iPad as a complete Navigation, Charting, AIS, Weather, WiFi Instrument display, AIS, Tides, Currents, POI Social Networking and now Radar tool.

Furuno is a world leader in the marine hardware and software industry. It has produced an 4KW Radome that will transmit it's output wirelessly to mobile iOS devices like your iPad. Furuno made the introduction of the DRS 4W at a boat show in Stockholm back in March of this year.  I can't believe I have not heard more about it in the press. Well, leave it up i-Marine Apps to bring you the latest news. It is not available for sale in North America yet, so that might be why it is not more well known.

The free Marine Radar DRS 4W app did not show up in the App Store until April, 2014.  

  • 19 inch 4KW radome
  • .125 to 24 mile range
  • 2.4GHz WiFi signal
  • Connect 2 iOS devices simultaneously
  • Full screen mode
  • Day/Night mode
  • Gain, STC, Rain VRM
  • Cursor position range and bearing on iPad 
  • Portrait or landscape mode
  • 12-24 volts power supply
  • 2.1 at 12 volts and 1 amp at 24 volts 
  • IP6 water resistant rating
  • 10-30 meter power cable
  • Range scale
  • Gestures zoom in and out
The installation of the radome hardware is simplified by the fact that all it need is a 12 volt power source. No communication wires are needed to get the signal to the display because it is broadcast over a proprietary WiFi. This WiFi signal can only be use by two separate iOS devices.  I would have been nice to have an open WiFi source that could be networked with other on board WiFi systems. I guess that was to much to ask.

The free app is a pretty basic but is a fully functional radar display. When you first start the app it looks for a signal from a DRS 4KW radome hardware.  Once connected it starts displaying data instantly.

It does have some features including day and night viewing. The night and day options allow easy viewing in the dark or bright sunlight.

The Range scale is located in the upper left corner of the app. Zooming in an out can be done with these selections on the bottom corners of the screen.

Transmission indication is show in the upper right corner letting your know your connected to the radome network.

Range rings are evenly spaced and identifiable. The off center display can be achieved by dragging the ships position to the desired location. This allows easier viewing of a greater distance ahead of your position.

One has to wonder if radar is becoming obsolete with the adaption of AIS. Although large commercial ships are required to have AIS, most recreational boats do not yet have AIS receivers or transmitters.  Radar still remains a very important tool in collision avoidance.

Radar has many other uses besides collision avoidance. Radar is great for picking up land masses which can help verify your position.  Tracking the movement of weather systems and storms is also a valuable use for your radar system.

Furuno has beat everyone to the punch by providing radar on iOS mobile devices. I think this compact system will be very popular with large and small yachts and recreational boaters.

The 1st Watch Radome is only available in Europe at this time but will hopefully be introduce in North America soon. I can't wait!

Do you use Radar on your boat? Do you find it useful? Share your thoughts about the new Furuno DRS 4W system.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Navionics Boating 7.0 with Free NOAA ENC Charts

Application: iPad, iPhone iOS 6.0 or later and Android devices
Function: Marine navigation, charting, POI
Rating: *****
Cost: The new Boating app is Free with NOAA ENC charts. Optional in app purchases for chart sets and additional app features.

The Navionics Boating app was introduced a while back and I wrote about it in a blog post back in March of this year.  I confess I was a little hard on Navionics for phasing out an older version of the app that I had originally spend money on.
The big news this week is that Navonics has a new 7.0 version of the Boating app that was just released on May 29th.  This release now provides boaters with an very functional full featured chart plotter with free NOAA electronic charts.

NOAA ENC charts are vector data sets that conform to the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) S-57 standard. The new preloaded Gov charts include primary navigational data such as depths, buoys, beacons, hazards, channel markers. They provide boaters with a ready-to-use tool as soon as they download the free app. A worldwide basemap is also included.

Initially the app came with only a base map and you had to make in app purchases of the Navionics chart sets. These optional detailed Navionics charts sets will cost you from $49.99 to $64.99 for the iPad versions.

Navionics has now made the Government's NOAA ENC charts available for free for use within the app.  So if your a casual boater you can now own a full featured chart plotter app for your iPad or iPhone for free!  I have to wonder what Navionics is thinking.  They must be trying to gain market share with the freemium model and then entice users to buy the additional detailed chart sets and features with the in app purchases.  Who am I to question their marketing plan.  All I know is the Boating app is now free with some very functional charts and features.

Navionics Boating HD has many of the same features as the previous Marine and Lakes USA HD  versions.  See a complete listing of all the Navionics app features on their web site.

  • Free NOAA ENC Charts
  • Routes
  • Tracks
  • Range and bearing measuring tool
  • COG(course over ground), SOG (speed over ground) instrument display
  • Markers 
  • Weather and Tides
  • POI, Crowd sourcing edits, Fuel Prices
  • Sharing to Twitter, Facebook and via email export .kmz files
  • In app purchases for Auto routing, Advanced Map Options, Sonar Charts
  • Magazine Guides.
  • Sych Data and Synch Plotter allow boaters to share routes, tracks and data between mobile devices and chart plotters.
  • Map Types and options
  • Geo-tag photos and video
If you already own the Navonics HD version for your iPad you will also have the option to use the free NOAA charts also.

Select the charting icon in the lower left of the display to select Gov Charts(NOAA Charts) or your purchased Navionics or Sonar charts.
Both versions of the app now show a basic speed and course over ground display as shown in the top left of the display.  Tap the instrument display to change settings or share through Facebook, Twitter or email. Additional instrument data would be a nice to have.

The apps still lacks the integration of AIS and NMEA instrument data over WiFi. Many other apps provide these features with the price of the app.  I have to believe these features may show up at some point in the future as an in app purchase.

They do offer the Plotter Synch feature which allows on-board electronics to connect to Navionics servers on the Internet for uploading sonar data and downloading new charts or updates. This only applies to owners of Raymarine Wi-Fi enabled chart plotters at this time.

Several upgrades for the app can already be made with in app purchases. Select the Menu button at the bottom of the screen and select Upgrades and Apps.  Here you can choose to purchase additional Navionics charts which include very good coverage of the world.

Upgrades include the Nav Module, Autorouting, Advance Map Options and Navionics Plus.

Navionics seems to be back on track and now I understand why they made the changes they did earlier this spring.  As you know, I am a big fan of free.  Navionics has won back a little of my admiration with the addition of the free NOAA charts to their free Boating app.

Download this app today and see if it meets your needs. If not check out some other options on my list of Best Marine Charting apps.  Apps like iNavX and SEAiq offer additional premium navigation and instrumentation features not found in Navionics.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)