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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
Older Smartcraft to NMEA-2000
|Author||Topic: Older Smartcraft to NMEA-2000|
posted 11-23-2013 03:03 PM ET (US)
Has anyone here connected an older, c.2002 Smartcraft device to a [NMEA-2000] network? I've contacted my local Mercury dealer, and they said "We'll get back to ya." No call back yet. I have a new Lowrance HDS-5 I'd like to connect to a Smartcraft gateway if possible. Thanks--Mike
posted 11-24-2013 10:50 AM ET (US)
If your older c.2002 Smartcraft outboard engine can be connected to a NMEA-2000 network, it will require the Mercury NMEA-2000 Gateway accessory. First you will have to build a Smartcraft network. Then you will have to install the outboard engine and the Gateway accessory on the Smartcraft network. Then you will have to build a NMEA-2000 network. Finally, you will connect the HDS and the Gateway to the NMEA-2000 network.
Mercury sells their NMEA-2000 Gateway accessory in several tiers. As you buy a more expensive tier, you get more data transported across the gateway.
I have never seen a good explanation of how to build a Smartcraft network, what components are needed, or what are the costs of the components. I don't know where you can buy the components, and if they come with instructions for assembly. I believe you will need some combination of cables, hubs, terminators, and power node cable.
I believe that the Gateway accessory can be purchased now as just that device for about $390. Previously the Gateway was tied to the purchase of a gauge, and the bundle cost about $800.
I would investigate the Smartcraft components carefully for compatibility with your c.2002 engine. I do see mentions of terms like "newer" and "older" when Smartcraft is being discussed.
You can build a NMEA-2000 network for about $80 by using a NMEA-2000 starter kit bundle.
There are several older discussions about Smartcraft that contained links to more information, but all of those resources are now dead links. Brunswick has redesigned their websites and I don't know where they presently have more information.
posted 11-25-2013 01:06 AM ET (US)
Also, if you find out more about how to build a Smartcraft network, the details of what cables, terminators, junction boxes, and other devices are needed, their part numbers, their cost, and who sells them, it would be great if you shared that information. I can't really experiment with Smartcraft as I don't have the basic component: a Smartcraft engine. But I am curious about the details, and if you discover anything useful, please share it.
posted 11-25-2013 08:50 AM ET (US)
Lowrance has a general description and some pretty good detail on how to interface the two plus the it they outline what data will be available: http://www.lowrance.com/Global/Lowrance/Documents/NMEA/ Mercury_Engine_NMEA2000_Connection.pdf
posted 11-25-2013 08:13 PM ET (US)
That Lowrance white paper does a good job of explaining the Gateway module connection to a NMEA-2000 network, but it does not give any details on the Smartcraft side of the box. What seems hard to find is any sort of good details (from any source, not just Brunswick) on how set up a Smartcraft network with various Mercury-brand engines. Again, what seems hard to find is information explaining how to build a Smartcraft network, the details of what cables, terminators, junction boxes, and other devices are needed, their part numbers, their cost, and who sells them.
For a specific engine and a simple single gauge, there is a good article here on CONTINUOUSWAVE. See
SmartCraft Installation On 2005 130 Sport with 2005 Mercury 40-HP Four-stroke EFI Engine.
That article was first published seven years ago. Unfortunately, all of the web-based reference material that is mentioned in that thread has been removed from the web by Brunswick. All those URL's mentioned are dead links now.
If someone has the time and inclination to hunt the web for new information about Smartcraft gauges, how to install them, what additional components are needed, and where on the very wide variety of Mercury-branded engines you can find the connections, please share that information with us. I think it would be very helpful.
posted 11-26-2013 06:27 PM ET (US)
So far I've found information on Verado club parts.
posted 11-27-2013 09:02 PM ET (US)
After much back and forth with my local boatyard they had me call Mercury (1-920-929-5040). I asked the tech on the phone if I could connect my Optimax 225--I gave the serial number--to a [NMEA]-2000 through a gateway from Mercury. I also told him I had Smartcraft gauges on my dash already. He came back with "Since your S/N checked out for Smartcraft and the gauges are receiving Smartcraft data, you should only need a four-way junction box and a Smartcraft level 2 module (P/N8M0065207). No other parts should be necessary."
Since this, in my mind, is still a maybe, I'm going to accumulate the pieces part-by-part. Making sure they all fit one-by-one. First purchase is the junction box, Monday.
posted 11-28-2013 08:58 AM ET (US)
On page 26 of this PDF [hosted on a Russian website], I think I have found my wiring configuration. I will have to call Mercury again to see if I have to start back at the motor and create a CAN bus or if I can connect to the system connector (P/N 84 859315-A1, 5 pin to smartcraft connector) to a junction box. I already have one of these going from my tach to the speedo. Here is more information about to the multiple types of connections on Smartcraft engines that may help someone else.
posted 11-28-2013 10:48 PM ET (US)
I think it is very weird that you have to get your literature about Smartcraft from some unauthorized website in Russia. That speaks volumes about technical support for the product from Brunswick.
posted 11-29-2013 06:52 AM ET (US)
If I am reading all this correctly, up through the 2002 model year you could have non- [CAN bus] gauges with Smartcraft information displayed on them. After 2002 it seems only CAN bus gauges and monitors are used. Now I have to figure out if I can have non-CAN bus gauges and a CAN bus running at the same time, i.e. for the [NMEA-]2000 module. [This will mean] another call to Mercury.
posted 11-30-2013 11:27 AM ET (US)
Please take note of the proper name for the electronic communication buses you are talking about. One is NMEA-2000. This is not "NEMA". NEMA is the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and they are not involved particularly in the marine electronics business or have a standard for data communication protocol. NMEA is the National Marine Electronics Association. They have created the bus called NMEA-2000 and a standard for data communication related to boats on that bus.
CAN bus is an acronym for Controller Area Network. See
CAN was developed in the automobile industry. Brunswick decided to use it as the basis for the electrical bus carrying their engine data. This was probably due to the very wide acceptance of CAN bus, the availability of many inexpensive integrated circuit components designed for CAN bus, and by a recognition that there would be little to be gained from trying to re-invent the wheel, that is, CAN bus was an electronic data communication protocol that was already serving a global manufacturing industry, automobiles, and it would not make any sense for an organization like Brunswick, who lacked any sort of expertise in data communication or integrated circuit design, to invent its own system. The used CAN bus, and it was an intelligent decision. They just gave their system their own name, Smartcraft. They branded CAN bus.
In the past some naive individuals have tried to suggest that NMEA-2000 was modeled on Smartcraft. This was an absurd suggestion, as both use CAN bus and both are modeled on the automobile data bus concept.
In NMEA-2000 the communications bus is very similar to CAN bus from an electrical perspective, or at least that is what I believe to be the case. NMEA-2000 is a big secret unless you join their organization and pay several thousand dollars to get the official specification. In one of the early technical papers from NMEA that they actually make available at no cost to the public
the NMEA-2000 bus is described as follows:
"Key to NMEA 2000 is an integrated circuit implementation of a network access protocol commonly known as CAN."
This suggests that the electrical aspects of the communication buses of Smartcraft and NMEA-2000 are similar. However, the NMEA-2000 protocol has its own data structures, as does Smartcraft. Even though this data is carried on a bus architecture that is very similar, you need some sort of data translation device, a gateway, to convert one protocol into the other.
What we have now, in 2013, are two very similar electronic communication protocols for use in marine applications. One of them, NMEA-2000, is used by all manufacturers (except Brunswick), making for a market with a variety of devices, which can all be connected together and communication with each other. The other, Smartcraft, is used only by Brunswick in their Mercury-branded outboard engines and MerCruiser-branded sterndrive and inboard engines, and connection of other devices is limited to devices made by Brunswick under their Smartcraft-brand of instruments. There is perhaps one other supplier, Livorsi, who makes some gauges with enhanced cosmetics like availability of many colors of dial faces or trim rings, who supplies licensed Smartcraft devices that can be connected to a Smartcraft system.
Manufacturers who use NMEA-2000 have, generally, just called it NMEA-2000 and have not tried to brand it as their own. Indeed, the whole appeal of NMEA-2000 is for a manufacturer to declare his product conforms to NMEA-2000. This lets buyers know the product can interoperate with other NMEA-2000 products.
The dearth of good technical information on the internet about Smartcraft reflects the approach of Brunswick: they seem to be saying that you ought to let their authorized dealer provide you with Smartcraft installations. And, they want you to get all of the devices you connect to Smartcraft from them or a licensed supplier. As you are finding out, you are trying to swim upstream against this current. I encourage you to keep working on it. It would be good to have more first-hand reports about adding Smartcraft instrumentation as a self-install project.
The appearance of the Smartcraft gateway product represents an admission by Brunswick that they needed to be able to expand their network to accept the NMEA-2000 standard. This means you can interoperate Smartcraft and NMEA-2000, if you are willing to spend the $400 to $800 for the Smartcraft gateway.
posted 11-30-2013 09:07 PM ET (US)
Thank you Jimh for the corrections.
I will not post again on this subject until I have a working system or confirmation that my version of smartcraft is too old to convert to NMEA-2000.
posted 11-30-2013 11:55 PM ET (US)
I think it is great you were able to find that literature (in English and published by Brunswick) hosted on a Russian website. That is an excellent find. I made a local copy of it. Literature like that has a way of disappearing from the web. I recommend you make a local copy of it for your use in case that Russian website hosting that files disappears in the future. Right now, from what I can tell, that is the only place to get any information about Smartcraft.
posted 12-01-2013 12:00 AM ET (US)
It is also quite interesting to see that Smartcraft networks appear to be constructed exactly like NMEA-2000 networks. They use terminators, hubs, extension cables, and drop cables. The biggest difference is that Brunswick is the only source of any of those components for Smartcraft. For NMEA-2000 you can buy the wiring devices from many vendors.
It would be very useful to get the prices for the various Smartcraft components sold by Brunswick. I assume you have to buy them from an authorized dealer. If you get a price list for the various component parts, it would be great to have that information.
posted 12-01-2013 12:27 AM ET (US)
It sounds to me like perhaps Brunswick began to use the brand name of Smartcraft with their products for some instruments that are not based on the CAN bus. I really have not made a study of the history of when Smartcraft first appeared. If Brunswick later adopted CAN bus and integrated use of CAN bus with their engines, but continued the branding as Smartcraft, then there could be a situation, as you suggest, where some older products carrying the Smartcraft branding would not be really CAN bus products at all. If you can dig up some information about the early Smartcraft devices, this will also be very interesting information to have available.
I am sorry that I can't help you with this. I have been looking for information about Smartcraft for years, but I always end up being told to talk to a dealer. Unfortunately, my local dealers handing Brunswick's Mercury brand are not really up to speed with Smartcraft, and they are not a good source for information. Many of these Mercury-brand engines are sold on Brunswick brands of new boat transoms, and all the Smartcraft installation and configuration is done by the boat builder and his technicians. The installation of Smartcraft does not seem to be done very much at the dealer level.
It is rather clear that Brunswick is not really making much information available to the public about Smartcraft installation. I think this sends a signal to the dealers that they are also not supposed to make much information about Smartcraft available to the public, either. That is why you find information about Smartcraft on websites in Russia.
posted 12-08-2013 11:12 AM ET (US)
Here is a link to some Brunswick literature about Smartcraft installation available from a USA website with the MercuryMarine domain:
The six-page instructions are for dealers, boat builders, and "company" service personnel, but are supposed to be passed on to the boat owner.
Here is a link to some Brunswick literature about a Smartcraft Vessel View device, available from a USA website with the MercuryMarine domain. This might be helpful to gain more understanding of how to assemble components for connecting to a Mercury-brand outboard with Smartcraft:
I found some links to information hosted on a website that calls itself the "world's digital library". The problem with that resource is you have to pay a fee to download the documents, or else read it on line while being pestered with pop-up advertisements. I don't recommend this resource. I found several more that have this literature, but they all seemed to obscure the download of it with advertisements for all sorts of junk.
After a lot of searching, I found a good download of the literature called "A Complete Guide" (to Smartcraft) from
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j& q=smartcraft%20complete%20guide%20891965&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCkQFjAA& url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.boote-forum.de%2Fattachment. fphp%3Fattachmentid%3D263018%26d%3D1297454599&ei=NpmkUpOrLum9yAGgyIGACg& usg=AFQjCNGTLr17Hvh4GHCIxSLtLskCGF9dDg&sig2=wcM3nTlnDGL-C3FY69Wfag
This literature is dated 2003, so it may not be appropriate for the present day generation of engines and devices, but it may be useful to gain an understanding of Smartcraft wiring and devices, particularly with older c.2002 engines.
posted 12-09-2013 05:54 AM ET (US)
A cautionary note. Just because the website says Mercury or Brunswick or any company for that matter, Make sure that is a legitimate website. I ended up downloading a browser hijacker from a fake Mercury site.
posted 12-09-2013 08:37 AM ET (US)
You don't have to be careful with the domains
Those are very legitimate domains. Can you give a list of the domains you found that are somehow related that are not legitimate?
posted 12-09-2013 11:38 AM ET (US)
Myakka, I found Don Weed at European Marine (Greenville, South Carolina) very helpful with my Smartcraft questions. You could tell that he was very familiar with the system, as not only could he provide several different ways to do what I wanted, but he also was able to go over pros and cons of the different approaches. You don't get that familiarity with it without a lot of practice.
(As an aside, he has also been great on getting Mercury parts. My nearest dealer is over an hour drive away, and to be able to email or call European Marine and have a part arrive in a few days is great.)
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