Electronics -- the Ongoing Evolution

As I mentioned in my blog a week ago, I have really been looking forward to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Not only does it showcase some amazing new boats and engines but it offers a glimpse at electronics products either due to the market in a matter of weeks or by the first of next year. Waiting for these product intros is like anticipating a new Apple release. Cutting-edge technology just explodes on all fronts.

This week at the Lauderdale show, I have seen a new "4G" radar from Navico (Simrad, Lowrance and B&G) -- talk about your Apple parallels. The 4G expands its predecessor's range to 36 nm from 24 and offers better target separation plus dual-range functionality with overlays. Cost will range from $1,899 to $2,299 with units available Nov. 14. (See the accompanying screen shots and more coverage in an upcoming issue, and visit simrad-yachting.com and Lowrance.com)

I also saw the first hint of a new CHIRP sonar product from Raymarine. CHIRP, as many of you have read in my print and online reports on competing Simrad and Garmin products, gives anglers a more thorough look at the water column by sweeping through a range of frequencies rather than pinging at just the traditional 50 or 200 kHz.

Besides those fairly big announcements, there were other introductions that you'll read about in more detail in the magazine. But I will mention them here:

* C-Map's new Plan2Nav mobile app for iPad and iPhone devices provides a planning app for anglers that offers some dynamic content, such as tides, currents and weather with forecasts, detailed harbor charts and aerial photos, depths and an aids. C-Map also allows users to manipulate the image to view the map at different angles (see picture). Download the free app from iTunes, and then pay $19.99 to $29.99 to download regional charts (jeppesen.com/plan2nav).

* OceanLED announced its new 2010 XFM HD Xchangeable Flush Mount light head ($2,500 to $2,600) that can easily be switched out from inside the hull. It also comes in a version that offers multiple color options including green, blue, white and red LEDs. (oceanled.com)

* Inmarsat debuted the Oceana 400 and 800 satphone systems. The 400, priced at $1,900, uses the inner workings of the company's popular handheld, portable IsatPhone Pro and puts them into a mountable base system with which users can pair a regulate household wireless phone for voice, SMS texting and low-speed data. The 800 ($2,300) offers the same product in an all-in-one unit with its own wired receiver. (inmarsat.com)

* Humminbird showed its new 2kW and 4kW, 12- and 21-inch dome radar units available for a range of its multi-function displays. The Koden-based units cost $1,499 and $2,199. Humminbird also showed a new NMEA 2000 module ($199) and a five-port Ethernet switch. (humminbird.com)

* Geonav announced a new auto routing feature available in early January as a free download and on new units. The feature allows boaters to set safe parameters such as minimum depth, then select a route destination. The software then auto-plots a route that the captain can edit or accept. (geonavmarine.com)

The one sure thing about electronics is change. Today's news is tomorrow's distant memory. And in just three and half months, we'll be visiting the Miami International Boat Show.