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Sharing NMEA 0183 data over Wi-Fi, and it’s limitations

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As we move into a digital age, wireless communication and interfacing is becoming a much more common practice in the marine industry. This is mainly being seen with the use of wireless gateways and applications on tablets/phones and PCs.

The w2k-1 is Actisense’s wireless gateway device, that allows for simple connectivity between your NMEA 2000 network, and an external wireless app. A big feature of the w2k is that it contains the same conversion engine as our legendary NGW-1.

This means that the device is capable of outputting NMEA 0183 via Wi-Fi, and as the majority of applications use 0183, the two tie together nicely.

However, there are drawbacks to using NMEA 0183 as the format of data on the application. The biggest one being the limitation in data conversion. Not every NMEA 2000 PGN has an 0183 converted equivalent, meaning that some data can be lost.

A prime example of this is engine data. A lot of NMEA 2000 networks have devices on them like our EMU-1 which converts the analogue engine data into NMEA 2000 PGNs for the displays to receive. This works fine on the 2000 network, but what happens when we want to send this data wirelessly to a tablet application that uses NMEA0183?

Currently, there are no engine data conversions between NMEA 2000 and 0183 apart from RPM. This means that any data such as oil pressure, transmission pressure, engine temp etc is all lost when converting to NMEA 0183.

Alongside this limitation with NMEA 0183 wireless data, it is also very important to consider the use case and purpose of the Wi-Fi system. Wireless networking should not be used as the main method of data transfer on the vessel, especially for crucial data such as AIS.

Wireless connectivity is an addition to NMEA 2000, and the physical core backbone / NMEA 2000 network should be used for data transfer, and the Wi-Fi is a ‘nice to have’ added extra.