In the recent past, it wasn’t quite so simple to update the software on a multifunction display (MFD). First, you had to find the software on the company’s website, then download it to your home computer. Next, you needed to transfer it to a different medium, such as an SD card. Then you had to take the card to your boat, plug it into your MFD and upload the update.
Now you can bypass most of those steps by updating software, and even electronics chart data, wirelessly when connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot, such as the one in your marina or at home (if you keep your boat on a trailer or lift close to the house). You can also use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hot spot.
“Wireless technology stretches far beyond software updates,” McGowan says. “Other wireless functions let you view and control your electronics from app-enabled mobile devices from anywhere on the boat.” Here are examples of wireless features you’ll discover on many of today’s marine electronics and how they benefit you.
Advanced MFDs from brands such as Furuno, Garmin, Lowrance, Raymarine and Simrad allow you to wirelessly view the screen from an Apple or Android mobile device, such as your smartphone or tablet.
The first step is to equip your mobile device with an app, such as the Furuno NavNet Remote, Garmin Helm, RayControl or GoFree app.
How helpful are these apps to a boating angler? Well, let’s say you’re drift-fishing over a wreck or reef and want to descend from the flybridge to join the rest of the crew to catch a fish or two. The remote-viewing function lets you monitor your sonar to see if the boat is over productive structure or if it’s time to go back up to the flybridge, start the engines and reset for a new drift.
Apps offer more than just viewing functions. Many also let you control your electronics from a mobile device.
For example, when using the GoFree app with an iPad, you can remotely control the functions of your Simrad NSS display, such as setting a waypoint or creating a radar guard zone.
Furuno’s DRS4W 1st Watch Wireless Radar takes remote viewing and control to a new level. It combines a compact 12½-pound, 4 kW radome with an iPad or iPhone and uses the Furuno Marine Radar DRS4W iOS app to display radar returns on two devices at once.
A simple Apple interface lets you change range from 0.125 to 24 nautical miles. With the iPad, you can also determine target bearing and distance.
What use is this to a boating angler? Let’s say you want to turn over the helm to a crew member on night passage while you go below to make a sandwich. You can stay abreast of vital safety information, such as AIS, or zoom out on the radar range from your smartphone to check for potential danger ahead as you enjoy a snack while away from the wheel.
Two of the more innovative and useful examples of remote wireless viewing and control are the updated RayControl app for tablets and the RayRemote app for mobile phones. These let you manipulate both the FLIR T300, T400 and MD Series thermal cameras (through a compatible Raymarine multifuntion display) by pointing and positioning your mobile device. Wherever you swing your smartphone or tablet, the FLIR camera follows.
A number of today’s MFDs connect to the Internet wirelessly; some do so automatically. Lowrance’s HDS Gen3 model, for example, autonomously searches for a Wi-Fi network as soon as you power up the unit, much like your mobile device or laptop seeks a Wi-Fi source.
Once connected to a Wi-Fi source, such as one that has been set up to offer access in your marina, the possibilities open up. With the latest MFDs and operating systems Lowrance, Simrad and Raymarine, for instance, you can wirelessly access software updates and load them directly into the device.
In addition, Navico offers the GoFree Shop, giving users the ability to wirelessly purchase, download, and immediately use electronic charts and chart updates directly from the home screen of Lowrance HDS Gen3 and Simrad NSS displays. This onboard shopping function also allows you to upload a sonar log and then download personalized charts, giving you access to the latest, highly detailed chart data.
That’s the kind of technological edge that might spell the difference between a disappointing day and angling success. Today’s MFDs are truly wireless wonders.