Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boat Watch

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch iOS 6.1
Function: AIS vessel tracking and details
Cost: Free, $2.99 in app purchase for boat details

Boat Watch is another great app developed by the Electric Pocket Ltd. group.  Steve Bennet and his company have developed other great apps including, SeaNav, Boat Beacon and Compass Eye.  I have reviewed all of these apps in this blog over the last few years. I guess I have been giving them so much press because they create some pretty cool and useful apps for mariners!

  • Display Boats and Ships via real-time AIS
  • See the Name, Type and Destination of each vessel
  • Map, satellite or hybrid display options
  • Metric or imperial units
  • Set any boat as your favorite to automatically track it on the map
  • Search to find boats and locations
  • Share boats on Facebook, Twitter or by email
  • Optional one-time in-app purchase to upgrade
  • Get alerts when your favorite boat arrives or departs
  • Full boat information – speed, course, country, etc.
The ships displayed are being tracked through land based AIS receiving stations. This data is then uploaded to the Internet for display. There are many of these receiving stations around the world so the coverage is pretty good for the major ports.

AIS stands for Automatic Identification System.  Large ocean going vessels are required to broadcast AIS data for collision prevention purposes.  Many recreational vessels are also installing AIS so they can see ship traffic and be seen by other larger vessels. 

The app has a menu bar across the bottom. The Binoculars icon on the far left is used to keep track of your favorite vessel. To mark a favorite select a ship and tap the star located to the left of the vessel name.  The Location icon, second from the left brings your current GPS position to the center of the map.  The Search icon allows a search for a specific ships name, MMSI or location. The Arrow icon creates an email or text with a link to the Boat Watch app.  The last Info icon on the right contains settings for units, maps and vessel display options.  The display can be change between a map, satellite or a hybrid display.

At first look, I thought the Boat Watch app was not that much different than the Boat Beacon app.  While it has some of the same capabilities, Boat Watch only provides AIS ship position data and a few details about the vessel.  An in-app purchase for $2.99 will allow you to get the detailed information about the vessel.  This data includes boat name, type, destination, speed, course, country and more. The app has the ability to make a vessel a favorite which will automatically track it on the map.  Additional push alerts are provided when your favorite boat arrives or departs.

If your vessel is quipped with AIS, Boat Watch would be fun for your friends and family to have to keep track of you on your travels.  It will provide them your position and alert them when you reach your next port.  The only drawback that I can see is that many ports do not have land based AIS receivers yet.

Most European ports use AIS extensively and have many buoys and lights marked as AIS targets.  The image above shows the Southampton entrance and buoys shown as AIS targets.

AIS is becoming more popular and new land based receivers are added each day. It is only a matter of time before all major ports in the world are covered.

This one is a no brainer, pick it up for free and keep it in your marine apps folder. The next time your out yachting or on a cruise, pull it out and see what vessels are in your area. You might be surprised how useful it can be.  Be sure to check out the Pocket Mariner website and their other apps.

~~~ Sail On~~~  /)