Innovation in Action: Marine Navigation with ARCNET

Contemporary Controls Provides PC Card Interface for Marine Navigation

Thousands of boaters are placing ever-increasing demands on their electronic equipment used in navigation systems to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience on the water.

To meet this demand, Raymarine Incorporated in Nashua, New Hampshire, designs and manufactures the world's finest electronic equipment for recreational boating and light commercial marine markets.
The Raymarine radars, chartplotters, fishfinders and a personal computer comprise Raymarine's onboard instrumentation systems—all connected to their hsb2 (high-speed bus) token-passing network that is similar to ARCNET technology.

Contemporary Controls, Downers Grove, Illinois—a leader in ARCNET connectivity products, was selected by Raymarine to develop a PC Card interface to the hsb2 data network. This interface would connect laptop computers to the navigation system providing flexibility and easy access for the user.
Contemporary Controls' engineers understood the problem and modified existing hardware to design the PC card. "Once the card was manufactured," says Matthew Thompson, Software Development Manager for Raymarine, "Contemporary Controls' networking expertise allowed us to get the product up and running quickly on the hsb2 network."

The hsb2 interconnects all devices in the system so that they can share radar, sonar and charting information. The hsb2 PC interface allows systems to transmit high-speed data between the PCs and interact fully with all other devices on the network. Twisted-pair cabling is employed with proprietary waterproof connectors for protection against marine conditions.

Thompson says since most systems configured are relatively small, between three and five nodes, Raymarine chose a bus architecture not requiring hubs.

A key ingredient of the architecture is that multiple hsb2 devices can be attached to one system, including multiple PCs. It's not unusual for a boat to have several PCs installed in a flybridge and several more at a lower helm station. Why? The skipper of a boat must have access to information anywhere along the navigation route so appropriate action can be taken, especially in severe weather.

The way to express Raymarine's relationship with Contemporary Controls is summarized best by saying "it made sense." Thompson emphasizes that his company is pleased with the work accomplished by Contemporary Controls. "Initially, we evaluated whether we should build our own interfaces or use existing products. It became clear that working with Contemporary Controls would substantially shorten our development time and reduce our costs. This has been primarily due to Contemporary Controls ability to modify existing hardware to suit our needs and provide complete Windows drivers for that hardware, allowing us to easily interface to it."

By working in conjunction with Contemporary Controls, Raymarine was able to reduce their time to market and provide new connectivity solutions for their marine navigation system.