Moderated Discussion Areas
  ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
  Nomenclature: GPS v. ECDIS

Post New Topic  Post Reply
search | FAQ | profile | register | author help

Author Topic:   Nomenclature: GPS v. ECDIS
jimh posted 12-19-2007 12:47 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
These days even small boats have rather sophisticated (and expensive) electronic displays which are integrated with a GPS receiver, digital chart cartography, vessel position display, depth sounder data, engine data, and in some cases overlays of other data such as vessel RADAR plan position indicators, remote weather radar, and AIS vessel position plots. Many times these devices are referred to (quite inappropriately) as "a GPS." Of course, they are far more than a Global Positioning Satellite receiver.

In professional marine electronics these devices are often referred to as an Electronic Chart Display and Information System or by the acronym ECDIS. On the bridge of a commercial ship there usually are one or two rather large ECDIS units which are crucial to the navigation of the ship.

I think the acronym ECDIS is becoming more appropriate for use with marine electronics for recreational boats which have these same capabilities. These devices have evolved and they are no longer just a GPS receiver or a GPS receiver combined with a chart plotter. The new devices are really ECDIS units. And they should be called that. So from now on, please be advised that you are going to see the acronym ECDIS used on CONTINUOUSWAVE to refer to these high-end devices which can do so much more than just a "GPS."

roloaddict posted 12-20-2007 12:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for roloaddict  Send Email to roloaddict     
Not to quibble over termanolgy, but ECDIS may not be the best term for pleasure boat Electronic Chart Displays (ECS).
To be an ECDIS, the system has to have a number of defined and regulated features, the most obvious is the minimum size of the display, 23" is the norm. The lesser obvious is the restrictions in the software,position sources and chart formats/providers.

An ECS is free from those restrictions. Many of the coolest features availible today; Bathymetric displays, 3D topo, weather overlays, picture in picure video, would not be approved in an IMO approved ECDIS.

Frankly the ECDIS's I have worked on have been disasters technology wise, except for the most part Transas ECDIS systems. Special hardware,lots of software revisions,poor documentation and every ship is different. The security stuff that is installed to keep the crew from playing games on them is the same security that will prevent you from fixing it.

I would put a ECS on my boat, and put a bullet through any ECDIS that came near it. But, I am not bitter or any thing. I am pretty much over the extra week and a half I spent in Guam after a "easy"?!? software upgrade on a Raytheon ECDIS (Windows NT) resulted in a machine that would give the blue screen of death every time the CD drawer closed. Nothing like sitting half way around the world while the Raytheon tech support guys trashed talked me to my company president. Waiting for a replacement computer. When the new one arrived from Germany, there was note in it advising not to upgrade the software. The new computer had the same version as the original. So, after 2 weeks, $15,000 in expenses, and 44 hours of travel, I "get" to explain to the customer why thier system still doen't work right.

Maybe ECS is better. No really, I'm not bitter.

jimh posted 12-20-2007 01:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Those are interesting comments. But I have to ask: where is the "S" in "Electronic Chart Display"? Shouldn't that be "ECD" instead of "ECS"?

We might ask for an opinion on this, too.

K Albus posted 12-20-2007 08:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
The IMO has a very specific definition of ECDIS, as well as very specific requirements for such systems. See: pdf

I believe it is very unlikely that the GPS/Chartplotter systems used by most recreational boaters comply with all of the IMO requirements.

jimh posted 12-20-2007 09:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If ECDIS is too narrowly defined, we need something besides "GPS" to call these devices. Heck, every cellular telephone sold these days has a GPS in it.

Calling these devices "chart plotters" is not very accurate either. Many have capabilities beyond just displaying an electronic chart.

K Albus posted 12-20-2007 10:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
I don't think there is sufficient uniformity of systems between recreational boaters to allow for a catch-all acronym or even a generic descriptive phrase.

While the newer "marine networks" often use a common screen to display electronic chart information, radar information, weather information, AIS information, and engine information, I would venture to guess that only a very small percentage of recreational boaters currently have such "marine networks" installed in their boats.

Most recreational boaters, including, particularly, small boat owners, have a number of separate "systems" in their boats. For instance, in my 180 Dauntless, I have a Furuno GP1850 combination chart plotter/fish finder, an Icom 501 vhf radio, and Mercury SmartCraft gauges. None of these "systems" are connected to each other, and none of them communicate with each other. My chart plotter/fish finder is not capable of displaying any engine information, and I do not have radar, weather, or AIS information available.

Most small boats that I have been on are similarly equipped. They may have a depth finder or fish finder; a GPS unit or a chart plotter/GPS; and a vhf radio, none of which are connected to each other. These systems could hardly be described as Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems.

To more directly address the point raised in your initial post, most of the recreational boats I have been on have a stand-alone GPS receiver with some mapping or chart plotting capability. I think it's perfectly acceptable (and accurate) to describe such systems as a "GPS" or a "chart plotter".

I also believe that this is not likely to change in the near future. Although we're seeing more and more integration and networking capability become available for recreational boats, I believe the typical small boat owner will be reluctant to spend $5,000 or more simply to have the ability to display all of the available information on a single screen. Hopefully I'm wrong about this, and the price of marine networks will drop rapidly. I'd love to have an affordable single-screen, fully-integrated system on my boat. But I've been waiting almost 20 years now for my flying car, and I don't see that happening anytime soon, either.

blackdog54 posted 12-20-2007 03:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for blackdog54  Send Email to blackdog54     
It is probably easiest to wait for the industry that designs and sells them to identify a better term or acronym. I'm with K Albus, in the meantime, it's GPS for me, because that is the basic functionality to be found in all of these units.

roloaddict posted 12-20-2007 10:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for roloaddict  Send Email to roloaddict     
ECS- Electronic Chart System

It was a long day.

jimh posted 12-21-2007 09:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
GPS means Global Positioning Satellite, and although everyone calls their GPS Receiver a "GPS" it is really not even a good acronym for those devicess. These days a good GPS Receiver is about $30, and it is just a tiny part of the overall electronic device on our boats that we still keep referring to as a "GPS." So I really don't like "GPS" as the name for an electronic display of digital chart cartography which is often integrated with a GPS receiver and a SONAR.

In the newer NMEA-2000 network devices, the GPS receiver isn't even in the display device any more. The receiver can be a independent and self-contained device built into the antenna housing.

"ECS" for electronic chart system is good, but that leaves out the SONAR data and the other overlays. I think you are going to see more overlaid data become common, particularly with AIS receivers showing positions of commercial vessels.

The only really specific requirement in the formal ECDIS memorandum is the size of the display, which is defined to be a minimum of about 10 x 10 inches. Now that is larger than most recreational boats, but other than that specification, the definition of ECDIS fits most of the more advanced devices we often call a "GPS."

Jefecinco posted 12-21-2007 09:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
ELVIS = ELectronic Vessel Information System?

Clearly what we have is a system of components including GPS receiving antenna, display, mapping software, VHF if DSC equipped, VHF antenna, sounder, and radar. In at least one case these components are, except for the antennas and radar, contained in one device. In the small boat catagory many use multifunction devices such as GPS/sounder/radar, etc. We are now seeing more and more non-navigation information displayed such as engine operating parameters, trim tab position information and fuel consuption and level. Even weather is displayed if we suscribe to the service. We are certainly moving well beyond navigation. Where will we be in 2015.

Elvis may be a little tongue in cheek but at least we can remember it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.


K Albus posted 12-21-2007 03:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
One of the key requirements of an ECDIS system is that it must use government-authorized electronic navigational charts ("ENCs"), rather than commercially-produced alternatives. This requirement would seem to set most recreational boat chart plotters apart from an ECDIS system.

I'm sure that Jim is correct, and we will see more overlaid data become available, and I look forward to it. What I don't look forward to is replacing the perfectly good, well-functioning electronics I already have on my boat, just for the sake of having a more integrated system. I paid top dollar for the stuff I have, and I'm sure I'll only get pennies on the dollar when I sell it. Nevertheless, I will only be able to resist the urge for so much longer. I'll most likely cave in when somebody comes up with an interface to connect the SmartCraft system to a NMEA-2000, or when I have to repower.

ConB posted 12-21-2007 05:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
Good call Jefecinco, I was concerned about remembering the new acronym.


andygere posted 12-23-2007 01:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
I'm with Butch, let's establish ELVIS as the new acronym. If ContinuousWave can make Veradito stick, ELVIS should be a cinch.

jimh posted 12-23-2007 04:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As far as using government charts in ENC format, I really wish that the vendors who make recreational boat electronics would make provisions for those charts--you can get them for free. A lot of the cost and value in the current crop of recreational boat electronic chart plotters is in the proprietary chart cartography that they all use. If someone came out with a device that used the free ENC cartography, I think they would have a winner.

Is there some restriction on use that is preventing this?

roloaddict posted 12-24-2007 01:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for roloaddict  Send Email to roloaddict     
I have seen the reaction of deck officers when you tell them that thier new ECDIS can display ENC charts (usually a software option on a full ECDIS).Generally negative. The complaint has been two things,ENC charts don't have the detail that is desired and concerns have been raised about thier accuracy. In 2005 I saw a notice to USCG personnel advising them not to use these charts for navigation on USCG vessels. I don't know if that is still in effect, the exact reason behind it ( I would guess at the above two), or if it was just some inter government wrangeling.

The other side of Jim's question is propably two fold, $150 for a $10 SD card is a lot of profit ( rotating - got to have those updates!) to leave on the table and controlling the liability.

j_h_nimrod posted 12-24-2007 05:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for j_h_nimrod  Send Email to j_h_nimrod     
GPS means Global Positioning Satellite, and although everyone calls their GPS Receiver a "GPS" it is really not even a good acronym for those devicess.

GPS actually stands for Global Positioning System and it is a type of GNSS, Global Navigation Satellite System. Its' official name is NAVSTAR GPS.

Jefecinco posted 12-24-2007 09:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Con & Andy,

Thank you for your comments. I like Elvis, too. However, it seems that some are determined to keep this discussion seriously technical and are not taking my suggestion in the same serious vein in which it should be taken.

Veradito & ELVIS and time spent on the water in a Whaler. What could be better?

I'm planning to go fishing on Thursday. I'll be using my ELVIS to find my good spots and if we get the fog often encountered here in Winter I'll use it to find my way home.


jimh posted 12-24-2007 03:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As far as I can tell, and at least in the United States, most of the commercially produced electronic charts are based on the government published charts, so it is hard to see how an electronic chart from a vendor would be more accurate than one from NOAA. In any case, the soundings are probably all based on the government charts, unless someone has been out taking private soundings and doing private charting and mapping of our waterways.

Maybe it is the vector format of the ENC compared to rasterized charts, or perhaps the vector format is not a detailed as other vector formats of the same chart data.

Yes, "ELVIS" is a perfect acronym. It makes sense, does not rely on use of strange words or combinations, and it is catchy--Electronic Vessel Information System.

ROGER on GPS as in Global Positioning System. I guess part of the "system" could be the receiver that decodes the data and presents it. But GPS is still not a good acronym for just the portion of the system that receives the signals and displays the position. If we want to use GPS correctly, it doesn't mean that little box on the dashboard.

Chuck Tribolet posted 12-25-2007 09:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The acronym for the box that receives and displays GPS signals
is GPSr, for GPS receiver. The r is usually lower case.


andygere posted 12-31-2007 12:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Whaler: This is Whaler One hailing the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard: Go ahead Whaler One.

Whaler: I am calling to report a vessel in distress.

Coast Guard: Please describe the nature of the distress, a description of the vessel and it's exact location.

Whaler: The vessel is sinking, it's a 24 foot Grady White cuddy cabin boat, and the location is...hold on, let me check with ELVIS for the location.

Coast Guard: Whaler One, uou should be advised that false mayday calls will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Perhaps ELVIS may not catch on as easily as I thought...

Post New Topic  Post Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | RETURN to ContinuousWave Top Page

Powered by: Ultimate Bulletin Board, Freeware Version 2000
Purchase our Licensed Version- which adds many more features!
© Infopop Corporation (formerly Madrona Park, Inc.), 1998 - 2000.