Thursday, November 30, 2017

What features do you want in an iPad nav app?

For the last two months, I have been working with the developers of AquaMap which is based in Italy to add features I think are important to coastal cruisers. I think I have a pretty good idea of what's needed but I am just one person. I'd like to give you an outline of what features the app now has to see if there are additional capabilities I may have missed - which is the purpose of this post - to solicit your inputs.

As background, here's how AquaMap stands so far (in addition to the usual navigation capabilities):
- Six shades of blue depth shading to better highlight water depth
- Added destination ETA display on the nav box on the chart display along with distance to destination, distance to next waypoint, time to next waypoint, compass direction to next waypoint
- On the display of route detail screen, included ETA to each waypoint to better track your progress to that bridge you need to open. The usual display of distance and time to waypoint is also included. If you’ve named waypoints in a route, the waypoint name will be shown. For example, you might want to name bridges that you need to open or the start of a difficult passage (e.g., Mud River north).
- Track time and date and speed at any point (by tapping at any position on a track) from either a recorded track or an imported track (e.g., from tracks recorded by your chartplotter)
- NOAA ENC charts plus updates as issued by NOAA as they occur for any chart you’ve downloaded. You have a choice of overlays:  satellite or a roadmap or just the NOAA chart. When you choose the satellite view, there’s a slider to fade the satellite view in or out. All data is stored on the iPad, no internet connection is needed. The satellite capability is great for looking ahead for a sandy beach for pet relief or for looking ahead for dock layout at a marina. 
- Full support for GPX importing and exporting on the iPad without the use of a PC. Unlike other apps, there’s no restriction on the number of routes, tracks, or waypoints. You can export individual routes or all user data via email or directly to any app using the GPX format right on your iPad. 
- Full Active Captain support with a nice display of description and comments - not a cramped box like some apps. Ability to add new hazards will be added later. You can choose to retain all AC downloads so Apple won’t erase “temporary” user data.
- Time format display will be whatever you selected as your format on the iPad (12 or 24 hrs format)
- Running time and fuel usage is displayed for a route in planning mode and when underway.
- Route and tracks line widths will be user selectable
- There’s an option to take a photo within the app. If you do, an icon will be placed on the chart showing the location of the photo.
- The chart can be heads-up or north-up. In the heads-up position, the heading can be either the direction as given by the GPS track or the internal compass of the iPad.
- Distance measurement is an option. 

- When editing a route you can actually see the cursor crosshairs when you move a waypoint, it’s not hidden under your finger. Much more accurate.

The above is a short list of added capabilities. I would like input from my readers on what other features ought to be added. This is a critical time since the developers are trying to add features needed in the US market. They have already implemented a dozen features I requested in the past month - they are very receptive at this point in time.

In the back of my mind, I'm concerned that other apps owned by Garmin will also be pulled or at least charged a lot more for charts like what happened to Garmin Bluechart Mobile. It was replaced with Garmin's version of Active Captain where the charts have to be purchased at full list price from Garmin unless you already bought a Garmin chart in the past, typically over $100. With Garmin's purchase of Navionics, I'm afraid of the same scenario playing out so I'm looking ahead to other options, hence my involvement with AquaMap. 

I'm not asking for a review of AquaMap - rather I'm asking for input of features you would like to see in a nav program. A good place to start may be just a list of additional features you would like to see on your favorite nav app that you've used in the past.

Just make inputs in the comments section of this post. That way others can see your ideas and perhaps add or expand on them. Thanks!


Unknown said...

AIS overlay is important. The AIS on my boat is provided over WiFi from my Vsper XB8000, which also provides all the NMEA 2000 data from my instruments.

Bob423 said...

Steve, I asked AquaMap development what their plans are they are in the process of evaluating how to do it. They are presently looking at three techniques by using:
- WiFi output from an AIS receiver like Vesper
- Signal-K interface
- A website off the internet that broadcasts AIS positions

AquaMap seems to have a robust development team, I'm encouraged by that.

Dave said...

Any plans on making the useable with Android, Simrad? That would be amazing. said...

How about being to see the stage of the tide at the boat position in real time? said...

How about being to see the stage of the tide at the boat position in real time?

Bob423 said...

Rmegee, tides and currents will be in a future release, sometime next year. It's a big job to provide tides and currents for the entire world. They will have an icon at each tide station showing the height of the tide in real time (an arrow for currents). Tapping on a tide or current icon will bring up a small chart with a moveable cursor to show the tide or current at any time.

Dave, I asked AquaMap about their plans for an Android version. They are off now for the weekend so I should have an answer on Monday. AquaMap is presently an app for the tablet format, I doubt if they will be actively interfacing with chartplotters but I'll ask that too.

Anonymous said...

Bob, not a texhnical suggestion here. What I really value on the old Blue Chart is the persoanl comments and notes placed by fellow cruisers for the various anchorages and marinas. These comments often make the difference in deciding where to go and what to do. Hope that will be a part of what AquaMap can do.
Steve Bruckner

Bob423 said...

Steve, I assume you mean the Active Captain reviews on Hazards, Marinas, Anchorages, and Local Knowledge. That feature has already been implemented in the present version. The Active Captain database is stored on the iPad, no internet connection needed except for an update.

Bob423 said...

Dave, AquaMap replied that they already have an Android version although it lags behind the Apple version in updates. The same features will be included, the ensuring that buoy numbers appear on every buoy has already been implemented - for example.