Best network gateways for 2021
1/11/2022

A few years ago the mere mention of a computer gateway drew mostly blank stares. That has changed to some degree thanks to the growing sophistication of boaters and others who spend a fair amount of time online or researching new computer equipment and software. Gateways are simply devices that bridge between computer networks that are governed by different protocols in order to permit communication between them.

For example, a gateway may link a personal computer to the NMEA network and, if needed, convert NMEA 2000 data to NMEA 0183 format so it can operate with PC-based navigation software. A gateway can also convert 2000 and 0183 data in both directions, permitting newer NMEA 2000 devices and sensors to be integrated into older systems. There are other types of gateways that perform a variety of useful functions as well.

Describing a variety of products is part of an exercise Marine Electronics Journal does every year in our Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask the top manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category (17 in all) that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters. Over the past several weeks, we rolled a wide variety of vessel monitoring equipment and systems that manufacturers told us about.

Actisense NGT-1 (NMEA 2000 to PC)

The NGT-1 is an intelligent NMEA 2000 gateway able to precisely transfer messages between the NMEA 2000 network and a computer, while acting as a firewall, enforcing the rules to keep the network safe. It is compatible with a wide range of chartplotter, display and configuration applications available for both Windows and Mac PCs. NMEA Reader, the Actisense diagnostic tool, allows full decoding of NMEA 2000 messages and configuration of NMEA 2000 products from Actisense and other manufacturers. Available in two variants that offer full opto-isolation to suit all installation types: The USB version keeps a computer safe from dangerous ground loops while offering easy connection. The ISO version protects while safely interfacing to an RS232- or RS422-capable device.

Actisense NGW-1 (NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000)

The NGW-1 provides an uncomplicated link between a boat’s data networks, effortlessly converting NMEA 0183 data into NMEA 2000 data and vice-versa. Multiple NGW-1 units can interface NMEA 0183 devices to the NMEA 2000 network, using the power of an NMEA 2000 backbone to combine and share data between all devices. Use Actisense’s free NMEA Reader software to view and understand (in detail) the translated NMEA 0183 sentences output by an NGW-1, with the largest collection of trusted NMEA conversions available. The latest firmware offers a two-click AIS, Standard or Fast Heading configuration option, plus fine control over every aspect such as the baud rate and much more. Remote configuration (and diagnostics) is also possible using the Actisense NGT-1 to significantly reduce installation time.

Maretron J2K100

Maretron’s J2K100 gateway attaches directly into J1939 networks of compatible engines, transmissions, and gensets and converts the J1939 engine data to the NMEA 2000 marine digital interface. Critical engine, transmission, and genset data is then distributed throughout the vessel over a single cable where it can be monitored by any NMEA 2000-compatible display. The J2K100 only listens to the J1939 network and draws no power from it (power is derived from the NMEA 2000 interface). The J2K100 can also be used as part of a complete fuel computer. Simply connect the J2K100 to a Maretron universal display (DSM Series or TSM810C) or N2KView and a GPS antenna/receiver (GPS200) to create a system capable of displaying gallons per hour and/or miles per gallon.

Digital Yacht LANLink

LANLink provides NMEA 0183 or NMEA 2000 to Ethernet connectivity. Connect your boat’s NMEA networks to Wi-Fi routers with a simple RJ45 wired connection and distribute data over Cat 5 networks. NMEA-certified iKonvert NMEA 2000 interface included.

Kvaser U100

The new Kvaser U100 is a robust, single-channel CAN/CAN FD to USB interface. Compatible with CANopen, NMEA 2000, J1939 and DeviceNet, its reinforced galvanic isolation, IP67-rated vibration, shock and drop-proof housing and high-quality cabling are ideal for marine environments. Whether you are developing a CAN-based marine network or diagnosing problems in one, the Kvaser U100 is a CAN connection you can rely on. Innovations include two high-vis LED bars showing CAN traffic status at a distance. Cable replacement can be carried out by an authorized Kvaser party without compromising IP67 integrity, reducing cost over the product’s lifecycle and enabling fast delivery of custom configurations. The Kvaser U100 has a nine-pin D-SUB connector. J1939-13 Type II, M12 and OBD-II connectors are coming soon.

ShipModul MiniPlex-3

ShipModul’s MiniPlex-3 Series of NMEA 0183 multiplexers combines data from multiple navigation instruments. Through an advanced filtering and routing system, this data can be sent to other navigation instruments and to computers, tablets and smartphones. A bi-directional SeaTalk1 interface enables conversion between SeaTalk1 data and NMEA 0183 sentences. This conversion works both ways, allowing the MiniPlex-3 to replace Raymarine’s SeaTalk-NMEA bridge. MiniPlex-3 models with an NMEA 2000 interface (-N2K suffix) connect directly to an NMEA 2000 backbone and convert between NMEA 2000 PGNs, NMEA 0183 sentences and SeaTalk1 datagrams in all directions. Bi-directional computer interfaces offer connectivity via USB, Ethernet or Wi-Fi, all at the NMEA 0183 level. Two special NMEA 0183 sentences offer translation to and from raw NMEA 2000 or SeaTalk data.

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