Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vesper Marine AIS WatchMate App

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch requires iOS 4.1
Function: Vesper XB-8000 Remote Display and Control
Cost: FREE
Rating: ****

Vesper Marine was started in 2007 by two New Zealand sailors, Deirdre Schleigh and Jeff Robbins.  These guys spent several years sailing and cruising and learned first hand the need for collision avoidance.  Their products are designed by sailors so you know their going to be user friendly. They are based in Auckland, New Zealand where their products are designed and manufactured.

Before we cover the app, lets talk a little about the AIS hardware. Their latest offering is the Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS class B transponder. This device not only receives class A and B AIS signals from other ships but also transmits your ships information and position so others can track you.  The hardware incorporates WiFI, NMEA 2000, 0183 and USB connection options.  It can easily be connected to your present onboard networked instruments, chart plotter or computer. Simply provide power, dedicated VHF and GPS antenna connections, NMEA neworks and your ready to go.

The integrated WiFi allows the device to be configured as a server for up to 5 wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers.  It can also be connected as a client to your existing yacht's WiFi network.  It is the wireless options that allow the WatchMate app to connect to and control the XB-8000 AIS hardware. The XB-8000 unit retails for $799.00.

Hardware Features:
  • NMEA 2000 & 0183
  • Waterproof
  • WiFi and waterproof USB connectivity
  • High-performance parallel two channel AIS transponder
  • Received class A and B AIS signals
  • Transmits class B AIS
  • Transponder "Silent Mode"
  • Supports third party AIS applications
  • 50 channel GPS receiver with external antenna
  • Low 4 Watt power consumption
  • WiFi configured as Access Point or Client
  • WiFi security WPA/WPA2 protection
  • View AIS and navigate from your computer
  • Free Watchmate smart phone or tablet
  • Connect up to 5 devices
  • Monitoring and interactive remote control with smartphone app

The WatchMate App connects with the Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS Transponder through the WiFi network. The app allows you to view AIS targets on remote devices but the real power of the app is the remote control functionality that is offers. The WatchMate App becomes the user interface for configuring and remotely controlling the AIS transponder.

WatchMate Features:
  • View AIS received targets
  • View your AIS Transponder's own GPS Position, Course and Speed
  • Check status of your AIS transponder
  • Adjust any of your AIS Transponder settings
  • Silent Mode and Normal Transmitting mode
  • Configure your Vessel's AIS MMSI, call sign, vessel type, vessel size
  • Connects to your WatchMate device's WIFI access point 
  • Supports Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS Transponder
  • Supports Vesper Marine WatchMate Vision

The app has five soft keys at the bottom of the display. They include Alarms, Targets, My Vessel, WatchMate and Settings.

The Alarm key takes you to the Alarm Monitor page.  Select the Edit button to select the different profiles.  Profiles adjust the distance at which notifications are made for surrounding ships.  Profiles include Anchor, Harbor, Coastal and Offshore modes.

The Target display lists the AIS targets along with bearing, range, speed over ground, closest point of approach and time to closest point of approach. Targets are listed from closest to farthest in the list.

Simply click on any of the targets to get the details for that specific ship. The targets are only listed in tabular form. One display that I wish it had was a graphical radar or map display showing the targets in relation to the yacht.

The My Vessel screen simply lists the current AIS data for your yacht. Latitude, longitude, Course Over Ground, Speed over Ground and Heading are all shown.

TheWatchMate screen includes a selection for Silent Mode which allows you to turn off the transmission and receiving of the AIS signals. (Correction see Jeffs comment below: Turning on Silent Mode stops transmission but not reception of AIS signals.) This would most likely be used at anchor when there is no need to broadcast or receive AIS data.

One added feature that would be nice is the ability to turn on and off the transmit and receive signals separately.  There may be times when you want to see nearby yachts but keep others like, pirates, from seeing your position.

The Vessel Details is where you  add data to identify your yacht. These include an MMSI, Name, Call Sign, Type and GPS Antenna Position.

IO Ports, Status and Advanced pages are used to setup and monitor the status of the transmit and receive functions of the XB-8000.

The Settings page allows you to edit the IP address of the network connection and Enable the connection.

Other third party iPad apps like iNavX, Digital Yacht Systems, iRegatta and SEAiq can also display AIS data. Simply enter the XB-8000's IP address and Port number 39150 and start receiving data from the XB-8000 transponder unit.

The initial release of the app is basic in its function and control. I am sure there are features that will be added in the future to make it more functional. Are there any other features you would like? Make your comments here or contact Vesper Marine directly.

I like the ability to change settings and control the hardware with the app. The WiFi connectivity is an added bonus giving mobile devices access to AIS data anywhere on your yacht. 

With some added graphical displays this would be one sweet AIS app.

~~~Sail On~~~ /)


  1. Do Vesper Marine not have a website?

  2. Thanks Mark for the nice write-up and our website is www.vespermarine.com

    One correction though... Silent mode turns off transmission but not reception as stated above. As a result, it does what you've suggested with regards to privacy. It keeps on receiving both AIS and GPS but doesn't transmit your information.

    You can set the transponder into Silent Mode by using the WatchMate app, or a free downloadable PC application (connected to the transponder via WiFi or USB) or by hooking up a physical switch to the transponder.

    - Jeff Robbins from Vesper Marine

  3. Jeff, thanks for the follow up comments. Glad to hear that is the way you set up the silent mode. That make perfect sense to me.

    I am glad you found my blog. Consider becoming a follower if you are not already. It is great to get comments back from the developers to clear up any misunderstandings. I try my best to explore all the features and give you some good press. I also try to make suggestions for added features and functionality. In this case we were both thinking along the same lines which is good.

    Keep in touch!

  4. Hi Guys,
    I would like to know more about the wifi capabilities of the xb8000.
    Will other nmea messages (depth, wind etc) from other hardware on my nmea network be sent through the xb8000 wifi network to for instance inavx?
    In short does the xb8000 also functions as an nmea mux to wifi.

    1. Robin,

      It appears the XB8000 can connect to your other NMEA 0183 or 2000 data and provide it over WiFi to your favorite iOS app.

      Check out this link on to their site

      Thanks for checking out the site. Consider becoming a follower to keep up on the latest posts. I would appreciate your support by checking out a few of the Google Adds and sharing the site with all your friends.

      Stop back soon

  5. Hi Mark, Vince here from sailboat2adventure.com I am about to do another post on AIS and reading your in depth post with interest. I would like to reproduce some of it in my post and am seeking your permission to do so? Naturally I would include a credit for you with a link to your site.
    Please email your reply to vince@sailboat2adventure.com
    Many thanks \
    Vince Bossley

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