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  NAVICO Low-cost Heading Sensor and GNSS Receiver: POINT-1

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Author Topic:   NAVICO Low-cost Heading Sensor and GNSS Receiver: POINT-1
jimh posted 02-14-2013 08:50 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Any moment now at the Miami International Boat Show, NAVICO brands Lowrance, Simrad, and B&G will be revealing a new external GNSS receiver with a magnetic compass heading sensor incorporated in the same housing. The new device is expected to be priced at $200.

Official details are sketchy on the new device.

An update of the GNSS receiver was overdue. Lowrance had been selling the LGC-4000 for several years, but the specifications of its GNSS receiver were not particularly state-of-the-art.

The combination of a GNSS receiver and an electronic compass will give more accurate information about vessel heading. Deducing vessel heading from GNSS position solution has not been a good method when vessel speed is low or the vessel is not making forward propulsion. Obtaining vessel heading from a magnetic compass will improve the accuracy compared to deducing it from course-over-ground from successive position solutions.

An electronic heading sensor is nothing new. Simrad presently has three available, but the costs range between $470 and $2,400. Offering a heading sensor, combined with an improved GNSS receiver, for around $200 will be much more attractive.

Among the reasons for wanting to know vessel heading are two important tasks:

--orienting RADAR displays for overlay on a chart plotter

--controlling autopilot operation

Some initial comments indicate that the new GNSS and Compass device may not be suitable for these functions, with speculation that the accuracy of the heading sensor may not be sufficiently precise.

More information is needed on this new product.

The LOWRANCE version of this product is being called the POINT-1.

jimh posted 02-14-2013 11:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
From the Lowrance website comes information on the new GNSS sensor:

--

Lowrance Point-1 GPS Antenna

Offering unparalleled accuracy around the world, the Lowrance Point-1 GPS/GLONASS antenna with integrated e-Compass/Gyro is a rugged precision positioning and heading sensor that ensures access to stable and smooth vessel orientation. In addition to reliable location information, when used with a compatible Lowrance HDS Gen2, HDS Gen2 Touch or Elite-7 series display, the Point-1 greatly enhances navigational information by providing accurate course over ground (COG) data at any speed and enabling radar overlay on charts. Delivering a configurable update rate — 1Hz, 5Hz or 10Hz — for smooth and precise location updates, the GPS features an advanced chipset that offers enhanced time-to-first-fix and supports multiple Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). The high-precision antenna will also communicate with GPS, GLONASS and WAAS/EGNOS/MSAS. The Lowrance Point-1's compact size and NMEA 2000® compatibility enable ease of installation anywhere on a vessel, allowing boaters to select the ideal mounting site for optimal positioning and performance.

--

The notable information:

--the new sensor appears to only be compatible with the newer devices, HDS Gen2, HDS Gen2 Touch, or ELITE-7 seriees

--RADAR chart overly is enabled, but no mention of auto-pilot

--position solution update rate is configurable to 1, 5, or 10-Hz

--GNSS receiver can use GLONASS, EGNOS, and MSAS satellites

The reluctance to endorse the Point-1 for use with an auto-pilot may be related to the anticipated mounting position. In order for the GNSS receiver to see the sky, the Point-1 will probably need to be mounted on deck, possibly in an elevated position. The elevated mounting will increase the velocity that the sensor will swing as the boat rolls or pitches. The typical magnetic heading sensor--without GNSS receiver in the same assembly--is usually recommend for mounting low in the boat and near the boat's fore and aft center on the boat centerline. This minimizes the motion of the sensor as the boat moves in seas.

The heading sensor should help give the chart plotter a better indication of vessel heading when moving slowly. For people who like to see the chart presentation in course-up mode, the heading sensor may improve that presentation.

This information is presently hosted on Lowrance's website at
http://www.lowrance.com/en-US/News/ Lowrance-Debuts-New-Product-Additions/

jimh posted 03-02-2013 09:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
SIMRAD, another NAVICO brand, has also released a new GNSS receiver, the SIMRAD GS25. This product appears to be extremely similar to the Lowrance POINT-1. You can find product specifications for the GS25 at

http://www.simrad-yachting.com/GS25-en-us.aspx

Simrad says:

quote:
Simrad's GS25 is the ideal [GNSS receiver] for any navigator that requires extremely accurate and rapid vessel position and speed updates. Unlike other position-only [GNSS receivers], the GS25 provides magnetic heading for accurate boat direction at any speed and for RADAR chart overlay. The GS25 easily connects to any Simrad NS Series multifunction display or any NMEA 2000 network. It is fully waterproof and can be pole or surface mounted on any vessel.

Please note this product is not suitable for use with MARPA or autopilot systems, this requires a rate compass such as the RC42.


The GS25 GNSS receiver is said to be "100% compatible with WAAS, EGNOS, MSAS, Glonass, Galileo and QZSS satellite systems." The alternative global navigation satellite systems may not be familiar to users in the USA, but will make the GS25 more attractive for users in other areas, where WAAS augmentation is not available or not useful. In the USA regions, access to satellites in other constellations besides the Air Force GPS will provide improved position solutions.

jimh posted 03-20-2013 10:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Lowrance has released some additional specifications for their POINT-1 GNSS receiver:

GPS Receiver Channels = 32
Heading Accuracy = 3-degrees
Horizontal Accuracy = 5-meters
Rate of Turn = 3-degrees
Receiver Type:
--L1, C/A code, 1.575 GHz Frequency
-- L2 C/A code, 1.602 GHz Frequency

Satellite Reacquisition = 5-seconds
Cold start = 50-seconds

Lowrance also notes: "Galileo-capable with future software update."

jimh posted 03-20-2013 10:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Lowrance has also introduced another heading sensor and GNSS receiver, the POINT-1 BAJA. In comparing the specifications I cannot find any difference, but in the descriptive literature, Lowrance says:

quote:
The Lowrance Point-1 Baja is the ideal ruggedized position and heading device for off-road racing and trail navigation.

Point-1 Baja is also designed to handle the rigors of off-road racing and extreme weather and will withstand dust, water, shock and vibration.


The price of the POINT-1 BAJA is $249. The price of the POINT-1 is $199.

The POINT-1 BAJA also includes a NMEA-2000 starter kit with 15-foot extension cable. The starter kit is usually priced at $70. The POINT-1 does not include a starter kit.

jimh posted 03-20-2013 04:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The new Lowrance POINT-1 GNSS receiver and heading sensor can be used with older Lowrance HDS first-generation models, according to Lowrance Technical Support, who very promptly answered that question for me. The POINT-1 literature does not make this clear.
Hoosier posted 03-24-2013 09:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Shouldn't the Point-1 work with any NMEA 2000 device that can read the standard navigation "words"?
jimh posted 03-25-2013 08:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The POINT-1 can be set to use various rates of update for sending to the network the position solution. I think the rates are 1-Hz, 5-Hz, or 10-Hz. From what I can tell, the question or concern is whether or not a particular chart plotter or other device that is listening for that data is going to be improved in its operation because the POINT-1 is sending more data and at a faster rate.

For an example, let us assume an older chart plotter was designed in an era when the fastest position update rate anyone could imagine was 1-Hz. This chart plotter and its processor and algorithms are designed to check for the latest position solution from the GNSS receiver at a rate of not more than once per second, because that is the rate they expected to find new data available. If you use a chart plotter like that with a POINT-1 set to transmit position solution data at 10-Hz, and the chart plotter only listens for data once per second, then there may not be any benefit from the POINT-1 and its faster data rate.

I believe that GARMIN has a GNSS receiver with a 10-Hz rate, and in the GARMIN literature they mention the receiver only works with certain chart plotters, mostly the newest models. I presume that is because only the newest models can handle the 10-Hz data rate.

Also, the notion that the POINT-1 has an operating control to select the data rate seems to be a sign that perhaps you may have to turn down the data rate to get the POINT-1 to work with particular chart plotters.

There could also be some sort of incompatibility with the faster rate. Imagine if the chart plotter operates like this: every time the chart plotter sees data on about a position, it wants to plot that data. If the chart plotter cannot perform the plotting function at a rate of 10-Hz, it might be overwhelmed by position data coming to it at that rate, which could lead to a malfunction. This is just my speculation. But, when you change the speed of one component in a system by a factor of ten, you might have some effect on other components in the system that were not designed with that speed in mind.

Even if you don't get to use 10-Hz with the POINT-1, it is a better GNSS receiver because it can use satellites from systems other than GPS. It can use GLONASS satellites in its position solution. This leads to the potential to have better arrangement of the psuedo-range solutions, giving lower horizontal dilution of position (HDOP) outcomes. The POINT-1 is also better because it is faster to acquire satellites and deduce a position. And, of course, it has a magnetic heading sensor, which was completely missing in previous models. Since the POINT-1 is selling at the same price as prior models, it is a substantial improvement at no cost increase, compared to prior models.

Now, whether or not your chart plotter can keep up with 10-Hz remains to be demonstrated.

Hoosier posted 03-25-2013 05:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
This is from the Lowrance website:

"The Point-1 easily connects to any HDS Gen2, HDS Gen2 Touch or Elite-7 display or any NMEA 2000® network."

So this raises the question, will it work with an older NMEA capable chartplotter if set to the 1-Hz data rate? If so, how do you set it? I have an older Lowrance LWX-28cHD that needs an external antenna and the Point-1 could be a good solution.

jimh posted 03-26-2013 08:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I don't know the mechanism for adjusting the POINT-1 data rate. It might be in some sort of configuration screen in software, but that would necessarily have to be loaded on the multi-function display device to be executed.

At present, Lowrance only offers literature about installation

INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS

and this literature is mum on the topic of configuration of the data rate.

jimh posted 03-26-2013 09:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For a moment there I was wondering where the information about the configurable data rate was coming from, as I could not find it listed on the Lowrance website in the specifications or features of the POINT-1. Then I found the reference: it is above, where I have quoted the press release material dated February 14, 2013.

It is also possible that the data rate could be configured by arrangement of some electrical component on the housing of the device, such as a switch setting or by connecting certain circuit leads in the wiring harness together or to ground. I have not seen any further mention of the configurable data rate or the method of configuring it, other than that initial press release.

jimh posted 03-28-2013 01:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
An inquiry with Lowrance technical support has revealed there is no method to configure the data rate of a POINT-1 GNSS receiver, or at least no method that Lowrance wants to reveal. They said, if the POINT-1 is connected to an HDS GEN-2 device, the data rate automatically switches to 10-Hz, and, if the POINT-1 is connected to an HDS GEN-1 device, the data rate automatically is set to 5-Hz. They seem to be a bit cagey about this topic.
Hoosier posted 03-29-2013 09:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
OK, the Point-1 won't work with pre-HDS Plotters, I think. From Lowrance Tech support

"The Point-1 is not compatible with the LCX-38c HD. You will need to purchase the LGC-4000."

jimh posted 04-02-2013 08:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Regarding the rate at which a GNSS receiver provides position solutions, I have never really understood the fascination about this for boating applications. I have seen many statements made that suggest that a 10-Hz rate of position solution is going to provide a better outcome than a 1-Hz rate. Let us examine this situation more closely.

If a boat is traveling at 5-MPH, its forward progress along its course is going to be

5-Miles/1-hour x 5,280-feet/1-mile x 1-hour/3600-second = 7.3-feet/second

If a GNSS gives me a position solution once per second, the distance between deduced positions should be 7.3 feet. If a GNSS gives me a position solution every 0.1-seconds, the distance between deduced positions should be about 9-inches.

Given the accuracy of a GNSS deduced position is typically about 30-feet, and perhaps at best about 10-feet, the notion that I need to get an update every 9-inches of boat movement seems very odd.

If the GNSS receiver were in an airplane going 250-MPH, the distance between successive position solutions would be fifty-times greater, so a 1-Hz rate would be almost 400-feet. That situation might benefit from a faster position solution rate.

jimh posted 05-16-2013 11:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The arrival of the POINT-1 product has apparently created so many questions from customers that Lowrance has published a POINT-1 FAQ. See

http://www.lowrance.com/Root/Lowrance-Documents/Point-1-FAQ-EN.pdf

The FAQ discusses the possibility that the POINT-1 has or will have in the future features which may not be usable with the original generation of HDS devices:

quote:
The HDS Gen2 models, both keypad and touch, with software version 2.0 or higher will have GPS damping and filtering features, as well as the ability to initiate heading calibration from the HDS, that will not be present in any HDS Gen1.
jimh posted 06-02-2013 10:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There are several anecdotal reports on the use of the Lowrance POINT-1 sensor and Lowrance HDS devices that mention a problem with using the POINT-1 as the GNSS receiver. These users have resorted to only using the POINT-1 as a heading sensor, and have reverted to using another device as the GNSS receiver, typically the built-in GPS receiver in their HDS.

For some anecdotal reports, see

http://www.bbcboards.net/lowrance-garmin-sonar-gps/ 375327-point-1-heading-sensor-only-fix.html

It is not clear to me from the above precisely what the problem was. The best inference I can draw from the narratives is there was a problem with the HDS display showing the boat heading on the chart. The work-around suggested is somewhat unattractive. The purpose of the POINT-1 was to combine a modern GNSS receiver and a heading sensor into one unit, so having to disable use of the GNSS receiver in the POINT-1 is not a particularly good way to resolve the problem. Judging from the enthusiastic replies from several who have adopted the workaround, this problem with the POINT-1 and HDS combination must have been affecting many users.

jimh posted 07-30-2013 09:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Lowrance have released a firmware updater for their POINT-1 GNSS receiver and heading sensor. The firmware update is called Version 1.3, and it implements the following changes:

--improves time to acquire position fix from the GPS constellation

--provides ability to set NMEA-2000 Instance parameter

The setting of an NMEA-2000 Instance parameter allows more than one POINT-1 device to exists on a single NMEA-2000 network. This will also allow the user to select which POINT-1 device (on a network with more than one POINT-1 device) will be used by associated Lowrance HDS chart plotter devices as the source for the heading data.

For more information, see the release notes:

http://www.lowrance.com/Global/Lowrance/Documents/Software/Point-1%201. 3.0%20Release%20Notes.pdf

The updater for the POINT-1 is applied by inserting the updater executable file onto an HDS device on the network. You can obtain the updater file from the Lowrance support website:

http://www.lowrance.com/en-US/Software-Updates/Point-1/

jimh posted 07-30-2013 09:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Lowrance has also released new firmware for the HDS Gen-2 devices which make use of the POINT-1 heading sensor and GNSS receiver. These updates are said to improve the response of the chart plotter presentation to data received from the POINT-1 heading sensor. See

http://www.lowrance.com/en-US/Software-Updates/HDS-Gen2/

for more details.

It appears to me that the POINT-1 is most useful with the HDS Gen-2 devices. How well a POINT-1 heading sensor will operate with the older HDS Gen-1 devices is not clear to me. This has tempered my enthusiasm for installing a POINT-1 on my boat, since I have a Gen-1 HDS chart plotter.

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