It can be a delicate operation, connecting multiple navigation devices and relaying them to a computer. The technologies have evolved, with them so have the standards and the different protocols that exist, only make installing equipment more complicated. Find the electronic terms and techniques in this mini-guide in order to better understand the different types of connections between the different navigation hardware that one can find on board a boat.
TIMEZERO software is compatible with a large range of instruments on your boat. GPS is the primordial hardware piece that you can put into your TIMEZERO software and from there you get a new range of hardware possibilities: sounder, current speed device, wind, AIS receiver and emitter, radar, etc.
All of these hardware devices can be connected to a computer using the following standards : NMEA0183, NMEA2000 and network (using a system Furuno NavNet MFD).
What is an NMEA protocol?
The NMEA stands for the National Marine Electronics Association and it is a communication standard protocol which allows for the proper sending of information from one piece of hardware to another, or computer to hardware and vice versa.
There are two types of protocol:
- NMEA0183 : This protocol uses a serial port or COM port. Please note that it is possible to emulate a COM port on a USB port using a driver dedicated to this task.
- NMEA2000: The more recent of the two protocols, the NMEA2000 is based on a compacted format and non-binary format (unlike the NMEA 0183). It can guarantee a faster data integration to a network and works straight away “plug n’ play”: You simply have to connect the devices so that they communicate directly which also facilitates the network connection.
Note: TIMEZERO software provides native compatibility with the protocols NMEA0183 and NMEA2000. All the same, for the NMEA2000 standard, only the receiving data is compatible. For the emitted data, an NMEA0183 to NMEA2000 converter is required.
Serial port: Serial ports with PC compatibility, as well as internal PCI charts, accept the RS-232 standard- which is often used in the marine industry. It allows TIMEZERO to connect to the most GPS devices and other hardware devices that you will find on the market.
USB serial port adapter: The USB serial port adapter is required for all new computers that often only come with a USB port instead of a COM port like before. Note: In order that the adapter is 100% operational, it is imperative to install a driver before connecting the adapter.
Serial port emulator (virtual): Certain GPS devices do not have serial ports and only have USB and Bluetooth connection. In order to connect these to TIMEZERO software, GPS emulator drivers can create virtual serial ports on the operating system (e.g. Windows).
Ethernet Network: If your boat is equipped to a NavNet device which can display Furuno charts (NavNet1, NavNetVx2, NavNet 3D) or an AIS receiver (F30 AIS, FA50 AIS), then your computer can connect to a NavNet network with the aid of an Ethernet cable. You can also use a Ethernet router NMEA0183 or a WIFI NMEA0183 connection.
Serial port connection:
Marine hardware devices (GPS, compass, sounder, AIS systems, etc.) are often connected to a computer by a serial port. The data transmitted by these devices on a COM port need to respect the NEMA0183 and or NMEA2000 standards to establish a communication between them. Also, make sure that these serial connections use one of the two protocols:
- RS-232: The standard by default for the serial ports on computers in RS-232. The connection uses 3 wires each dedicated to the following emission signals: TD for transmitting, RD for receiving and the last for the mass of the signal SG.
- RS-422: The standard used in a signal differential does not have a way of transmitting the signal SG mass. The connection is carried about using 4 wires: TD-A (positive transmission), TD-B (Negative transmission), RDA (Positive reception) and RD-B (Negative Reception).
USB Serial Adapter:
Most computers have replaced their ancient COM port connection with USB connections. Even if we find serial ports on desktop computers, laptops are very unlikely to have them.
It is possible to install a multiplexer that creates a wifi network directly on your boat. Complying with NMEA0183 protocol, you can integrate this device on your existing network so that you receive all the data on your navigation devices directly in your TIMEZERO software.
For more info on the features and advanced compatibility of TZ Navigator v3, visit our dedicated website page here: