Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The GSM Module

It was always our plan to make Waiouru an intelligent boat.  The advanced Empirbus DC distribution system is flexible enough to allow us to reconfigure the consumable control system.  This makes it possible to reconfigure any 12v DC switch to control any 12v power consumer.  We also decided to include the optional GSM module.

The module enables communication with the boat by TXT message.  Effectively we can send a text message to the boat to activate or deactivate any configured consumers.  For example; we could turn on the central heating prior to arriving.  The module can also be configured to send us text message warnings.  By adding the GPS option we can remotely monitor where the boat is located.  The module also links into the burglar alarm.  So Waiouru can tell us if she in the process of being burgled and whether she has been moved.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to fit an engine immobiliser to the system which we could also control by TXT message.  Another option we are considering is controlling the webcam from the module with the video being streamed to our mobile phone.  A possible scenario is; a nefarious individual breaks into Waiouru and attempts to steal her.  Waiouru will send us a TXT message warning us she is being burgled.  We can TXT her to activate the webcam.  Having decided the person onboard is up to no good we can contact the police and tell them where Waiouru is going using information from the GPS.  When they arrive at the location we can immobilise the engine.

The bottom left arrow is pointing at the antenna outlet.  I wanted to know the specifications for the outlet in order that I could purchase an extension lead so I could connect the GSM Module to the mobile phone antenna on the roof.  However Mark Zimmerman from Atlantis Marine  informs me the module comes with an external antenna.

The arrow in the top-middle of the photo is pointing at the SIM card slot.  As constant cruisers I don’t believe we will be making or receiving too many TXT messages between Waiouru and ourselves so need to identify a cheap, TXT only, SIM card service provider.

If you want to know more about the Empirbus system there is a link to Atlantis Marine on the top left of the blog.


Peter and Margaret said...

Hi Tom, this is all impressive stuff. I have read about digital narrowboats in Waterways World magazine. At the moment I think they are still very much in the minority. I would be interested if you keep posting on how it performs in use when you get here. My own concerns would be that electronics and boat atmospheres, such as cold & damp in winter, don't always mix well. The only high tech equipment I have is a digital LCD hour meter built into the tacho. This stopped working properly 2 years ago due to damp and I have replaced it with an analogue gauge! My only other concern would be are there enough people out on the system who could identify and repair a fault if need be at this time? As for mobile text only sims. I haven't ever looked in detail, but I am not aware of a text only provider. There are however free sim options from all the UK providers who are: orange.co.uk o2.co.uk t-mobile.co.uk vodafone.com virginmobile.com and others. One of the best value others at the moment is tesco.com who are essentially a supermarket chain.
Reagarding your thoughts on security, I would have said, as a retired police officer, that narrowboat related crime is very rare. Having said that, there have been a number of recent break ins to narrowboats in and around Middlewich and Nantwich, which I would put down to easy pickings in the current financial downturn, where people are genuinely struggling for cash. Recent thefts have been the restricted to the boats batteries, probably for re-sale. Also, you will probably be travelling along urban stretches of canal, which I wouldn't. I certainly wouldn't stay overnight in certain districts around Manchester or Birmingham, but would arrange my journey so that I passed through to find a quieter rural mooring.

Tom and Jan said...

Hello Peter,
I'm not worried about cold and damp. The following is from the Atlantis Marine website "The EmpirBus system is not 'vapourware' it has been installed on the Swedish equivalent of the RNLI for 6 years -so impressed are they that it is now installed in all vessels from small RIB’s to full cruisers. EmpirBus has already withstood the rigours of extremely harsh environments and is now available for all boat owners.
I rather like the idea of being able to communicate with the boat and the cost of adding the gps option to the GSM module wasn't great. The system also gives you remote keyless entry (like your car).
Fault finding is relatively easy. Plug in your laptop and the system will tell you where the fault is. Go to the relevant node and press the reset button. I wouldn't be surprised if shortly it will be possible for the tecnician to remotely login to the system and fault find/repair for the owner.
Incidentially, all the external hatches and lockers can only be unlocked from inside the boat.
Thanks for the info regarding the sims.

NB Willawaw said...

We already have a GSM modem onboard, although it doesn't use Canbus.

You can buy a Pay-As-You-Go SIM card for next to nothing and each text costs just a few pence. I top ours up with £5 credit every once in a while.

Tom and Jan said...

What does your GSM module control?
Thanks for the advice regarding "Pay-As-You-Go. I must get onto Google.