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Cautious sailors understandably worry that the trend toward networked multifunction electronics could lead them to simultaneous multifunction failures. But the solution may be improved system architecture—as seen in Northstar’s new 8000i, diagrammed at right—not in running separate machines. Notice that the Northstar system is “masterless”—sounder, radar, cameras, and even the various sensor sub-networks go directly to an Ethernet hub. If one do-it-all display craps out, other displays carry on unaffected. Other systems are at least partially masterless, and many employ NMEA 2000 (coming to version two of the 8000i), which permits redundant sensors online; the control heads can pick the one that’s working the best. Other trends this year are the way that some plotters are coming already loaded with charts and the way that some chart vendors will let you choose from various levels of extras and cost. And 2006 is not without its unusual gadgets, be they wireless, ultrasonic, or just entirely different.

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