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Author Topic:   Marine Electronics: Decision Matrix
jimh posted 03-25-2007 03:34 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
There are so many marine electronic devices available now for small recreational boats that I have become overwhelmed with choices. It is no longer possible to make a casual survey of the market and decide what is the best choice. To make a proper decision, some structure and organization has to be added to the process. I call this a decision matrix. We need a path through all the confusion to help us decide what choices and options are available. Perhaps we can collectively build this decision matrix. It may be a complex as the marketplace itself.

In building the decision matrix, the hierarchy of the decisions will be important. If we get the structure of the decision matrix correct, it will fit beautifully with the choices in the marketplace and with the decision process. Therefore, the first choice in the matrix is the most important.

There are several criteria which could be used as the first decision in the decision matrix. Let me list the ones that come to mind:

--Price
--Size
--Mounting (Handheld or Semi-Permanent)
--Function (combined or separate)
--Networking (Single- or Multi-station)

I invite suggestions on what single criterion ought to the the first branching or decision point in the decision matrix.

roloaddict posted 03-25-2007 06:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for roloaddict  Send Email to roloaddict     
Perhaps an early branch would be if this is a DIY or Dealer installation. Will price be king or Dealer experience and support. With a brand new product, the Dealer may be learning as well.
WT posted 03-25-2007 06:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
Probably screen size ( small, less than 6 inches, medium, less than 9 inches and large less than 14 inches), or price range (low, less than $1000, medium, less than $2000 and high, greater than $2000) for the first branch.
Jefecinco posted 03-25-2007 07:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Jim,

There are a couple of ways to approach the model.

One would be a YES/NO decision network as used with some fault analysis guides.

Another could be done using a spread sheet layout by assigning relative values to the different criteria. High values could be assigned to a set of price ranges, various sizes in the larger ranges, perceived reliability based on history, and ease of use. Lower values could be assigned to warranty time, ease of and availability of downloading updates, time and effort required to install, etc. Medium values could be assigned to other criteria demed to be more or less important than those mentioned.

It might be worth contacting Ben Ellison at his blog on Panbo. He might be interested in offering some advice.

Sounds like a FUN project.

Butch

A Little Madness posted 03-26-2007 04:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for A Little Madness  Send Email to A Little Madness     
JIMH. I just struggled through the process last week and finally made a selection for my 1989 17 Montauk. I'm going for the Lowrance LMS-527C DF iGPS Combined Sonar/GPS Chartplotter. Here's my thought process on it all:

First I did an incredible amount of research on-line and in CW. Probably just enough knowledge to be dangerous, and certainly enough to become confused. I saw comments about Garmin screen durability, Lowrance a better Fishfiner and Garmin a better GPS, etc.. The more convaluted the web of data became, the more confused I was about which direction to go (e.g., combined or seperate, color or mono, etc.). So I went to the closest thing I have to an expert, the dealer who's installing my motor and hydraulic steering. He sells them all and gets lots of first hand feedback. I knew I wasn't going to spend over $750, which may be the difference in choosing color. I spent about an hour talking it thru with him and originally came to the conclusion of a combined mono Lowrance as I really want to preserve console space. After looking at several units in a West Marine store, I called him back and upgraded to the unit above as I really liked its screen size and the color presentation a lot better. Turns out he's getting me a very good price (always a factor). Some would say I don't need all this capability (deep saltwater and w/outriggers) but one consideration is we actually are thinking of transferring it later as we intend to upgrade one day. (Don't worry, not getting rid of our classic beauty)

So I guess the best matrix criteria I could come up with in the end was the diverse experience and knowledge of my dealer, and my confidence in him.

Jerry Townsend posted 03-26-2007 02:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Jim -- Ah! - decisions, decisions, decisions. A few comments - but first, where are the performance criterion? Certainly, performance is a major requirement - and in my mind, a top priority. Another, where applicable, is safety.

Many will rank your five parameters differently - as their finances are different, their boats are different, their applications are different. But I rank your five parameters in the following descending order - function, networking, mounting, size and price.

Making decisions of complicated/complex choices can be difficult. Being confronted with making difficult decisions of complex options many times during my career, I found that one has two choices: - making the decision and then questioning if (hoping) the decision was right - or rationally and formally evaluating the choices to make the decision, and then relax, not "looking back" and feeling good about it. The latter option normally requires some form of formal (even a short mental evaluation) decision analyses - which eliminates the "gut feeling" or the "seat of the pants" decision - and the subsequent and extensive steps and logic taken to explain or justify that decisison.

All of the decision analyses tools I have used are based on evaluating/ranking the comparison of the choices, two at a time - one versus another. That is, is "A" better than "B" and by how much, - and then similar evaluations between "A" and "C", "A" and "D", et.al.. Then compare "B" versus "C", "B" versus "D", et.al.. And proceeding in this manner - until all options have been compared, one against each other. This procedure is very/most important as it eliminates any bias.

The evaluations can be ranked (whole weight or weighted) in many ways - but the weighted procedure given by Dr. Saaty, ("Decision Making for Leaders" by Thomas L. Saaty, Ph.D. (a mathematics professor from MIT, business consultant et.al.) published by the Lifetime Learning Publications of Belmont, California) which utilizes a matrix for the calculations, works very well. There are decision analyses computer programs available, but, in my case, I have used a spread-sheet procedure for many years. ---- Jerry/Idaho


A Little Madness posted 03-26-2007 06:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for A Little Madness  Send Email to A Little Madness     
Gentlemen. With all due respect, we're talking about buying a fishfinder or GPS for personal use on a fun boat....and we're referencing a PHD Math Professor from MIT? I'm very familiar w/the methodology you're discussing as I do data analysis at a nuclear power plant for a living, but I tend to leave that level of detail at work and enjoy a cold beer on a warm day on my whaler w/a rod in the holder and my bride by my side. Yeah, I'd like to know w/relative certainty where I am (and if I snag a big one the ability to come back to that spot) and how much water's under my hull, but I'm not about to spend good on-the-water time analyzing this to death w/computer models or spreadsheets. Afterall, that's really what it's all about right, time on-the-water relaxing!
bluewaterpirate posted 03-26-2007 06:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
I wise man once told me ...... keep it simple stupid! Boy was he right. Thanks Dad.
HAPPYJIM posted 03-26-2007 06:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
8 years ago my fishing buddy bought a $1300 fish finder/sounder for his 25 foot Revenge. We installed it and the first time out we tried to run it through the paces. He forgot the book at home and we couldn't figure it out. To this day, all it is used for is the depth finder because it is on the screen all the time. Never did use it as a fish finder. Big price, big screen, big book BUT a hundred dollar Hummingbird would have been money better spent.
wywhaler posted 03-26-2007 07:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for wywhaler  Send Email to wywhaler     
JimH:

Like the idea of the ping pong balls and I'll give that a try. I think that was your idea?

I think the SITEX units will stand up well in any head to head competition. The idea being to give users of this site info that will help them get the best for the least.

Used the Profish II in a Colo. deep reservoir (Horsetooth) yesterday. Was picking up fish right on the bottom. Something to consider about these units is that they use 120khz as the working freq. Sorta different than the 50khz and 200khz by most of the others I've seen. Based on what I've seen the unit do so far, maybe the 120khz is a good compromise. This is a little something to add to the matrix.

Ron

jimh posted 03-26-2007 08:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
To vote in my own poll, I have been thinking this over and my choice for the first decision criterion is...

Single Station v. Multiple Station

I think in boats the size of most Boston Whalers there will seldom be a need for electronics which are designed to be used on a multiple display network. So in my search I am going to ignore all of those fancy and expensive large displays which are intended to be used in a network of other displays. I think this is a good first break point in the decision process.

Any comments, agree or disagree?

A Little Madness posted 03-26-2007 10:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for A Little Madness  Send Email to A Little Madness     
JIMH...agree 100%. I like the idea of one component to look at. A split screen & there ya go, 2 in 1. Not to mention a single set of controls, and the portability when carrying it ashore. Only drawback...if one goes, both are out of commission while being repaired. There ya go, one decision's made. Good luck with the rest.
jimh posted 03-26-2007 11:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
No, no---I am not talking about Single Function vs Multiple Function. That will come later. I am talking about these fancy systems where the functional components are all black-boxes and you have multiple helms stations where there are display devices. The system is build with a very high bandwidth networking that can send video information from the black boxes to the displays. These are fine things for yachts with two helms stations, but really out of place on a small Whaler.

These are the boxes in the $3,000 and up price range, usually.

WT posted 03-27-2007 12:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
I have multiple station displays on my 170 Montauk. One on the console and one on the bow but they are not networked. :-)

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v665/warrent/Montauk170/?action=view& current=Warrenfullreso_edited.jpg

But I agree, most Boston Whalers do not have or need multiple display stations.

Warren

A Little Madness posted 03-27-2007 04:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for A Little Madness  Send Email to A Little Madness     
Sorry, I misunderstood you. You're referring to an integrated system like the Raymarine I had on my sailboat where the GPS, wind, speed, direction, etc. all talked to the auto-pilot, as could a laptop with a nav program.
jimh posted 03-27-2007 07:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
No--again, I am referring to systems where the network is design to have enough bandwidth to transport high-speed video across the network for display on multiple high-resolution display devices.

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