Friday, February 12, 2010

Download HandHelm(tm) v1.0 FREE for a limited time!

Download your FREE licensed v1.0 copy of HandHelm(tm) today! HandHelm(tm) is the FIRST completely wireless, portable multi-function marine instrumentation and navigation tool for mariners. Runs on YOUR EXISTING Windows XP ship computer and instruments using electronics protocol NMEA 0183.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A little secret: How you can save money on navionics...

You fully realize that BOAT stands for "break out another thousand". Unless you are Warren Buffett, you don't have endless amount of green.

I'm going to let you in on a secret, that nobody in the marine industry likes to talk about. And, the reason that they don't want to talk about this - is because they want to make a lot of money - off of you. When NMEA decided upon a new communication standard in 2005 (called NMEA 2000) - nobody bothered to tell you how much this change would eventually affect your wallet. If your navionics were installed prior to 2005, using NMEA 0183 standards, start crossing your fingers now and hope that none of your instrument displays goes kaput. Because, when they do -- you don't have the option to replace a single display with a newer model (using NMEA 2000). These won't work with the rest of your instrumentation. Why, because the rest of your instrumentation uses NMEA 0183. Get ready to stimulate the marine economy, and replace ALL of your instrumentation and navigation, with newer equipment that uses the NMEA 2000 protocols.

Sure, you could do some online research. Maybe you could find a used model on eBay? But good luck with this. Older marine instrumentation and navionics are a hot commodity.

Are there any other options? YES. You can replace the instrument display that failed - without having to replace your ENTIRE navionics system. You don't need to buy from a specific manufacturer. You don't need to search the internet for marine parts from an islander in Figi. You don't need to rip out every marine electronics you have in place. You don't need to blow the wad you were saving for your retirement. That's right. Instead, you can use handHELM(tm) - as a replacement for instrumentation displays using NMEA 0183.

Keep reading. I'm going to show you how handHELM(tm) will not only save you money, but it offers you backup redundancy and portablity to your navionics. You'll save A LOT of money too. You'll have peace of mind, that in case any instrument fails, you've got it covered. Your comfort level goes up too. You are not stuck at the helm station anymore. handHELM(tm) is the best kept secret in the marine industry. And, now you know.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learn how handHELM(tm) keeps you safe while cruising

By making use of your ship's WIFI - you can now monitor depth, changes to apparent or true winds and MORE - at any time you need to step away from the main helm station. Maybe you need to make a cup of Joe, a trip to the head, a break from the sun, or need a moment of shut-eye when solo sailing. You handHELM(tm) stays with you at all times. It notifies you when you are in shallow waters. It notifies you when your anchor is dragging. It allows you to make heading changes while under way. All from your favorite portable PC or hand held device.

handHELM(tm) keeps you safe when you step away from your main helm station. While challenging weather or sea state conditions demand your full attention and navigation skills at your main helm station - handHELM(tm) gives you the added security that your instruments displays and navigation is duplicated. Should your other instruments or navigation system fail, handHELM(tm)'s got your back.

Often, there is only one true captain on a pleasure boat. This person is all too familiar with the marine instrumentation, navigation, safety, steerage - and every last detail required to be a responsible cruiser. If you are lucky to have a first mate, or crew on board, they may not have the same level of boat handling experience that you might have. There are always exceptions! So, when you need to take a break from being Captain, and a crew member takes your spot at the helm - all members on your vessel can breathe a bit easier. You've got their back, and they know it. If your crew needs to you review apparent wind, depth or more - you can do it from anywhere. No more rushing to the helm station - you can see it all - from handHELM(tm).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Discover how handHELMs portable features gives you freedom of movement

If you are like most boat owners, your instrumentation and nav equipment is in the vicinity of your helm station. And, with heavy seas or weather, busy traffic or when challenging navigation issues arise - there is no other place for you to be. At your helm station. As a Captain, you are responsible for the safe passage of your vessel - and you need to be at your helm stations when conditions demand it.

But, what happens the rest of the time? Are you glued to your captain's chair? Does the fact that all of your instrumentation and navigation equipment being located in ONE spot prevent you from moving freely about your vessel?

handHELM(tm) give you the freedom to move to a more comfortable spot, take a break from the sun by going below deck, or make a snack in the galley - and still have all of the instrumentation and navigation tools by your side. handHELM(tm) is portable. It can be used on your hand held pocket PC, Blackberry's or even larger displays such as a ToughBook, tablet PC or laptop computer. You choose what size and device works best for you.

And once you've made your choice - handHELM(tm) displays your instrumentation and navigation. It even lets you control your autopilot! If you are sailing using your autopilot, you can change your heading using handHELM(tm) from anywhere on the boat. handHELM(tm) goes where you go. It uses your vessel's WIFI. You don't drag around any wires. You don't need to have an internet connection. You can be hundreds of miles off shore, or even cruising along remote areas of the Intercoastal Waterway. It doesn't matter. handHELM(tm) is your completely reliable and indispensable sidekick.

When you determine that conditions require that you return back to your helm station, handHELM(tm) partners with you as a complete backup to all of your expensive navionics. So, as you look at your depth finder and it shows you are in shallow water, a quick look at the depth information in handHELM(tm) confirms this to be true. Time to adjust course.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Message from the Inventor of HandHELM(tm)

-Patrick Todd

I'm a software engineer by trade, and I specialize in getting various instruments and systems to "talk" with each other. I am also a USCG Licensed Captain, and enjoy cruising on our 44' catamaran with my wife.

One day, my Simrad depth finder/wind display went south. Since my cat was built in year 2000, all of the electronics use the NMEA 0183 protocols. I did a google search and an eBay search and could not find any used Simrad units that could be purchased as a replacement. These items are discontinued, and Simrad no longer sells them. Instrument displays now are made using the new NMEA 2000 standard.

I spent months researching NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000. As a software engineer, I understand the message streams and compatablility. If I choose to add a NMEA 2000 display, this would be incompatable with my current configuration of NMEA 0183 instrumentation and navionics. I would have to either replace ALL of my current network of instrumentation, autopilot and GPS with NMEA 2000 protocol equipment (I didn't have the green to do all of that) or invent a new solution that would allow me to keep my existing investment.

Necessity became the mother of invention. I was now on a mission. I needed to minimize expensive marine navionic investments when displays broke down. I also longed for new benefits.
  • I wanted to be able to be anywhere on my vessel, and have key instrumentation and navionics at my fingertips.
  • I wanted to be able to change course, without having to always be at the helm station.
  • I wanted to have a complete backup of instrumentation and GPS - in the event other "wired" systems failed.
I didn't want to do anymore wiring - better yet, I wanted to take advantage of wireless technology from the ship's WIFI. I began exploring a better way to connect NMEA 0183 instruments (depth, wind, etc) and navigation (GPS, autohelm) - into a device that was both wireless and portable.

Using any computer device (pocket PC, toughbook touch screens, Blackberry), a wireless router and a Brookhaus multiplexor - I wrote a program to capture instrument data directly from sensors (depth, wind direction etc) - and then display this information on my hand held aka handHELM(tm) device.

As a Captain, I like the idea that my wife and I can navigate our 44' John Shuttleworth (year 2000) catamaran - from any location on the vessel. In case I needed go below deck, or simply find a position away from direct sun - I thought - "wouldn't this be great if I could monitor the instruments, GPS AND adjust headings - from any position on the boat?". Further, I really liked the idea of having redundancy (backup systems) built in - just in case one of my Simrad or other instruments fails. In this case, I could still have all "information" that would have been displayed to a specific device -- now displayed to my portable handHELM(tm) display.

All of the multifunction instrument and navigation displays that I have seen on the market -- accomplish many of the features that I am doing -- up to a point. Here is where handHELM(tm) outshines existing multifunction displays:
  1. handHELM(tm) does not require any wiring (solution is completely wireless)

  2. handHELM(tm) is completely portable, and can be used on any display that runs windows XP or a Blackberry

  3. handHELM(tm) does not require you to upgrade your NMEA 0183 instrumentation and navionics to NMEA 2000 protocols

  4. built in redundancy works with existing instrument displays (including Trouble Alerts or Alarms, Depth, Wind Direction, Engine RPM's, Cross Track Error, Time of Day, Zone etc). You can use MORE than one hand held device.

  5. handHELM(tm) is a far more affordable option than ANY existing multifunction devices on the market
The software will run on your Ship's Navigation Computer - and on the hand held device of your choice. NMEA 0183 messages received on the Ship's Navigation Computer are re-transmitted via WIFI to all listening hand held devices.

Ship's Navigation Computer
  • -Requires Windows XP Pro
  • Accepts NMEA 0183 input on upto to four USB (serial) ports
  • Allows all input NMEA 0183 to be used by your existing Navigation Software without interruption
  • NMEA 0183 message sharing. Maintains a real-time list of all listening handHelm(tm) devices and re-transmits all NMEA 0183 messages to each of the listening devices.
  • GPS failsafe redundancy. Allows the user to identify 2 GPS sources and will automatically switch from a primary GPS source to a secondary GPS source if the primary stream is interrupted.
  • NMEA Multiplexor. Will echo any/all NMEA 0183 input to a single NMEA output effectively combining NMEA inputs into a single NMEA output stream.
Hand Held Device (portable, mobile notebook, tablet PC or Blackberry device)
  • runs on any device that uses Windows XP Pro or a Blackberry device
  • Will transmit Autopilot control messages.
  • Displays instrumentation data such as Apparent Wind, True Wind, Depth, and Log.
  • Alarms include Shallow Depth, Deep Depth, Gybe Zone, and GPS signal loss.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NMEA FAQ's: What is NMEA?

NMEA - stands for the National Marine Electronics Association

NMEA Interface Standards are intended facilitate interconnection and interchangeability of equipment digital date, minimizing misunderstanding and confusion between manufacturer's equipment and provide safe and reliable equipment communication for the mariner.

Among other important goals and objectives, NMEA defines electrical signal requirements, data transmission protocol and time, and specific sentence formats- in which your standard instrumentation and navigation manufacturers use. The GOOD news, is that standards in general, makes is easy for your marine instrumentation and nav equipment to USE information.

The BAD news, is that when standards "change", you may need to "change" with them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

NMEA FAQ's: What is a NMEA compliant device?

NMEA is a combined data and electrical spec defining communication between marine electronic devices such as sonars, echo sounder, anemometer (wind speed and direction), gyrocompass, autopilot, GPS receivers and many other types of instrumentation.

So, as you look around your boat, your instrumentation display, sensor sensor and GPS reciever - irregardless of the manufacturer is most likely NMEA compliant. It can share the same "language".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

NMEA FAQ's: What is some examples of NMEA devices?

  • Depth Sounder
  • Animometer
  • Speed Log
  • GPS
  • Auto Pilot
  • Engine Instrumentation

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NMEA FAQ's: What do I need to know about NMEA?

NMEA has provided a standardized protocol to allow communication between marine navigation devices. Be sure to go to the website for more information. NMEA communication can get technical - but here is what you need to know:

The communication between navigation devices uses NMEA messages -- and these messages contain NMEA sentences. Depending on how your electronics are configured, devices can act as originators or senders of NMEA data. This means that they SEND information OUT. Sometimes, these are called NMEA Talkers. Other devices can act as recievers, or consumers of NMEA data. They are called NMEA Listeners.

Many of your electronic devices (instrumentation) also have options to connect via RS232 or USB with computers. In this case, your computer will act as NMEA Listener. In that role, your computer will have to know how to handle the NMEA datastream.

HandHELM(tm) processes your NMEA messages / sentences. The information from these sentences can be displayed on your laptop, pocket PC, touch screen tablet or Blackberry.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NMEA FAQ's: What does NMEA have TWO different standards?

Ok, now we're getting to the part of NMEA that can affect your wallet. The best resource for NMEA information -- is directly on the website. Other websites, that promote themselves as experts, tend to get this NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 confused. Since the site can get a bit technical, I'm going to de-mystify this for you.

NMEA 0183 (the OLD standard used for marine electronics built PRIOR to 2005) an interface "standard" used to define
  • electrical signal requirements,
  • data transmission protocol and time,
  • and specific sentence formats for a 4800-baud serial data bus.
Each bus may have only one talker but many listeners. This standard is intended to support one-way serial data transmission from a single talker to one or more listeners. This data is in printable ASCII form and may include information such as position, speed, depth, frequency allocation, etc.

NMEA 2000 (the NEW standard used for marine electronics built AFTER 2005)

NMEA 2000® standard contains the requirements of a serial data communications network to inter-connect marine electronic equipment on vessels. The standard describes a low-cost moderate capacity bi-directional, multi-transmitter/multi-receiver instrument network to interconnect marine electronic devices.

It is multi-master and self configuring, and there is no central network controller. Equipment designed to this standard will have the ability to share data, including commands and status with other compatible equipment over a single channel. It is based on CAN (Controller Area Network). All NMEA 2000® products must be certified by NMEA. Although this standard is 50 times faster than NMEA 0183, it is not intended to support high-bandwidth applications such as video.