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Tips and questions on AIS

AIS in de Waterkaarten-app, op de Waal bij Zaltbommel.

Linking an AIS device to the app is a fairly straightforward process. Nevertheless, there are a number of things to bear in mind after linking. Below, we’ve listed common questions and issues. You can find more on how to connect an AIS device via a wireless network in the FAQ section of our website.

AIS is designed for sailing

AIS is designed to be used when sailing. If you are stationary, for example, your transponder works differently to when you are sailing. A stationary ship transmits few updates. And, if you sail slowly, your device will transmit fewer updates than if you sail fast. That’s how it works for all ships with an AIS device.

Do you think there are problems around AIS pairing with your device? If not already, go sailing first to see if the problem persists.

The start-up order is important

When you launch the Waterkaarten app, it is important that your AIS device is switched on. This sounds logical, but if you start the app first and then start your AIS device, chances are that the pairing will not work properly.

If you have successfully paired with our app before, and you have closed the app in a working state, the app will later start up again in that same state, i.e. with the connection on and the AIS button activated. The AIS button will then show the text ‘AIS’ with the hyphen (a chain) behind it.

Connect and activate

There are roughly two things that need to happen to see ships sailing in our app via your device: connect and activate.

To connect, after entering your IP address and port, slide the slider behind the name of your device to the right under AIS devices (on the profile page). This happens automatically the first time you enter your IP address and port. If you have no connection, check that the slider is to the right.

To activate, tap the AIS button, top right in the chart view, so that it turns blue.

When you connect to your AIS device, we immediately use the GPS data from your AIS device, if available. Activating will also display the AIS data on the chart. When connection fails, the AIS link sign in the AIS button on the chart changes to the AIS+ sign.

Sailing boats don’t look as fluid

Commercial shipping AIS equipment does not constantly share its location via GPS, but once in a while. That can vary from once every six seconds, to once every three minutes. That is why a ship’s course on the chart sometimes looks less fluent: boats jump across the chart every few seconds. Such a ship is probably not travelling very fast, say 8 kilometres per hour. In upstream (i.e. with the current against) on a large river, this is not at all unusual.

Not all brands are easy to pair with

Raymarine and Garmin AIS devices do not transmit AIS data over wifi. If you want to view your AIS data from your Garmin or Raymarine AIS device in our app, you need a multiplexer to connect to our app. To also use GPS from a Raymarine and/or Garmin device, you will need a plotter.

The app uses AIS and GPS from your device

Via the link with your AIS device, we of course retrieve AIS data from your device, but also GPS data, which allows us to better determine your location.

The GPS positioning of a smartphone or tablet is often good, but if you have your own antenna connected to your AIS device, it is often slightly more accurate. You don’t have to do anything for this: it happens automatically.

Do you get the message that no GPS has been detected or that no GPS data is coming into our app? This may have several causes:

  • You are stationary and your AIS device is logically not transmitting GPS updates
  • You are sending too much data over your NMEA network
  • You have multiple GPS sources (antennas) in your NMEA network
  • You have the GPS on your phone/tablet switched on: this sometimes causes problems
  • You have Bluetooth enabled: this can cause problems with Em-trak equipment
  • There is a technical fault such as a non-functioning antenna, cable break and so on
  • Restarting the app, your phone/tablet and AIS device is often the solution

Em-Trak and GPS

You have a new Em-trak AIS device and you get the message: ‘No GPS detected’ even though you are connected to the app. This is probably because your AIS device is not sending out GPS. To make sure it does, you can connect your AIS device to a laptop via USB and use the program ‘Pro AIS2’ to adjust the settings of your AIS device.

  • Make sure the Baud rate of NMEA 1 is set to 38400
  • Make sure the four boxes at ‘Output GNSS Sentences’ are checked

AIS and/or internet?

Via the wireless network of an AIS receiver or AIS transponder, you can connect to a smartphone and/or tablet. In other words, via wifi. People often think of a wifi network as an internet connection. Of course, this is often the case, but an AIS device is not connected to the internet by default. Yet there are AIS devices that can connect to an internet hotspot or router, such as Quark-Elec and Em-trak devices.

Will I see live data if I connect my AIS device to the app?

Yes. There is no internet required. The data comes in through the antenna, and then into the transponder which then sends it out again via wifi. This process takes 0.1 seconds. 

Compare it to video calling over the internet, which is arrow-fast these days. And that is even over the internet, the AIS connection is not. By the way, our app obviously also works without an internet connection.

Can you help me set up my AIS device?

We don’t do that ourselves, but we do cooperate with Smartmarine.nl, a company that focuses on selling nautical equipment.

We started working with Smartmarine because, having bought an AIS transponder there ourselves, we were impressed with the service and after-sales we received. When we started working on the AIS link in our app, we asked Smartmarine for help a lot. This eventually resulted in good cooperation.

That’s why we guarantee the operation between the AIS devices Smartmarine sells and our app. So if you have bought your AIS device from Smartmarine and there is an unexpected problem or you have a question, we will always look into it together. This way, we always have short lines of communication and come up with a solution quickly.

Smartmarine has put together several ‘Waterkaarten deals‘ especially for Waterkaarten users. Competitively priced and with guaranteed operation and extra service. For example, Smartmarine can pre-programme your transponder (think of your MMSI number and ship’s name), or enter your wifi hotspot data into your receiver.