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Author Topic:   Lowrance Geo-fencing
jimh posted 09-13-2011 08:58 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Some time in the recent past, Lowrance began a policy of dividing their HDS product line into two distinct groups: products to be sold in the Americas, and products to be sold in the Rest of the World (ROW). The ROW products are certified to European standards and carry the CE mark. It is not known if there are any actual electrical or mechanical differences in the products marked with the CE mark that would distinguish them from the products manufactured without the mark. The only difference may be just the mark, although that is speculative. For more about the CE mark see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_mark

The products for sale in the Americas do not have CE marks and therefore might be technically illegal to be sold in Europe or other places where a product like a recreational marine electronic device may be required to be certified with the CE mark.

Distinguishing which Lowrance product you have is apparently best accomplished by a close inspection of the original packaging. The box should show a notation of "This product for use in North or South America only" (or something similar).

On units intended for sale and use only in the Americas, some strange restrictions have been put into the software on the device. If the device determines (from its deduced position from its GPS receiver, I assume) that it is outside of the intended region, it goes into a limited function mode. The boundaries are the meridian at 30-degrees-West longitude and the International Date Line. The limited functionality consists of locking the units into the English units, that is, distance in feet or miles, not in Metric units, and a flashing of an on-screen reminder that the device is being operated outside of its intended region. For more details see Lowrance's document on

Restricted Use of Americas Region Units Outside of the The Americas
http://www.lowrance.com/Global/Lowrance/Documents/Support/Restricted-Use-of-Americas-Units.pdf

The onset of these geographic restrictions apparently began around software version 3.0. Downgrading units to earlier versions of the software can apparently remove the geographic restrictions, but, of course, comes with a loss of features and upgrades.

Lowrance also apparently has a policy of providing a software unlock which will remove the geographic restrictions. It sells the unlock in four tiers, depending on what unit is to be modified. The prices are believed to be

MODEL   PRICE
HDS-5 = €250
HDS-7 = €550
HDS-8 = €650
HDS-10 = €750

It has been speculated that this "geo-fencing" was undertaken to reduce the gray market export to overseas markets of devices produced and distributed for sale in the USA. There is often a substantial price difference between the cost of an HDS unit in the USA and the same unit in a foreign country. For example, an HDS-10 sells in the USA for around $2,500 (or less) but in some European countries it sells for $4,500 or more.

The Lowrance HDS geo-fencing has become the topic of discussion on several blogs and forums. For example, on Facebook there is a thread on the Lowrance page:

[A dead link has been removed, which demonstrates something about the longevity and usefulness of information hosted on other websites--jimh]

jimh posted 09-13-2011 09:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I just dug out the original box for my HDS-8. In very small type and in not at all a prominent manner, my box says

quote:
This product intended for use in North or South America only. All functions not available outside those regions.

I guess if I ever get my small Boston Whaler boat in a location East of 30-degrees-West longitude or on the far side of the International Date Line, I will have to be content with measuring in feet and miles, and put up with an on-screen flashing warning.

20dauntless posted 09-26-2011 01:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
I wonder if the same is true of other Navico brands, like Simrad and B&G. If so, it could be a major dealbreaker for world cruisers and commercial operators.
jimh posted 09-26-2011 02:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If you are a world cruiser, you just buy the unlimited (ROW) version of the product, and there won't be any change in functionality with location.

As I speculated, perhaps this was undertaken to reduce the gray market export to overseas markets of devices produced and distributed for sale in the USA. It does seem to have affected some boaters in Australia who bought the Americas-only version.

There could also be licensing problems with included technology or intellectual property. For example, chart data contained in the device may not be licensed for global distribution.

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