Thanks to a new, free smartphone app called Smart Charts AIS, recreational boaters can realize the safety benefits of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) without having to buy a receiver or transmitter.
The Smart Chart AIS also enhances social networking on the water, letting users chat boat-to-boat with friends…
Not only does the app enable users to view AIS Class A & B traffic, it also introduces a new cellular-based AIS capability, called AIS Class E, that’s tailored for smaller, recreational craft. In addition to identifying vessels, AIS provides information on their type, size, speed, and heading.
The Smart Chart AIS app includes an Augmented Reality feature that allows boaters to “see” in fog, darkness, and other low-visibility situations. Employing satellite positioning and orientation data, the app displays on the device’s screen the locations of buoys and channel markers, overlaying the navigational information on the view as seen through the camera. All of this information, plus Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) live weather overlays, can be superimposed on the free NOAA electronic charts included in the app.
The Augmented Reality capability, combined with cruising information provided by the interactive, on-line cruising guide ActiveCaptain, also allows users to view the location of such points of interest as recommended anchorages, docks, restaurants, and marinas—and to see each marina’s current fuel and dockage prices, as well as reviews of their services.
The Smart Chart AIS also enhances social networking on the water, letting users chat boat-to-boat with friends, send photos, share waypoints, arrange rendezvous points, and find friends in a large or crowded harbor. This chat capability also allows communication with strangers on nearby boats, sending them a snapshot of their vessel or providing local knowledge of possible hazards.
Smart Chart AIS offers a spectrum of safety features. With its Instant Positioning capability, users can transmit their location immediately in the event of an emergency. Smart Chart also stands ready to play a prominent safety role in the event of such emergencies as dangerous weather events, an oil spill, or law enforcement response action. In such instances, authorities can quickly indicate on the app’s charts areas to be avoided or evacuation routes.
Smart Chart AIS has been released for Android smartphones and can be downloaded without charge from the Google Play Store. The app will be available for iPhones, iPads, and other tablets in the coming months.