WeatherNet Version 4.16 features Popular Products

Version 4.16 of WeatherNet adds the Popular Products feature to Portal and Library modes.

The Popular Product appears in the upper right corner of the Portal mode map and appears as a pre-defined batch in Library mode.

What are Popular Products?

The Popular Products (PP) button is a WeatherNet community feature. It draws upon the past history of requests made by the community of WeatherNet users for the area in which you are or will be working or playing. Popular Products is a terrific way to get to know the weather and ocean data available for a location which is new to you. For new WeatherNet users it is also a quick way to begin to understand the range of content available to you in WeatherNet. Since there is no fee until you have actually downloaded products which appear on the PP list, the list can get you up and using WeatherNet in a meaningful and productive manner in very little time.

How does it work?

When you click on the Popular Products button, WeatherNet reaches out and queries the OCENS Everon servers and compares your request box to requests for weather and ocean data made for the same or any overlapping boxes used by other community members in the past.  It produces a ‘Top Ten’ list of those requests and downloads the product names to your PC or Mac.  The Popular Product list is posted at the top of the Portal mode Content Tree (to the left of the Portal mode map).  Review the list and select none, one or more of its products for actual download.

Your Popular Product list is also preserved as a batch in Library mode. To download products in the Popular Product batch, Enable the batch first, then check the product(s) of interest to you in that batch. When satisfied, press the Start Transfer icon in Library mode to retrieve the Popular Products.

Whether in Portal or Library mode, the Popular Product list may include GRIBs, weather charts, text forecasts or any other product requested enough by the WeatherNet community to reach its ‘Top Ten’ for your target area.

It’s noteworthy that the request for the Popular Product list only downloads the list. It does not download any products themselves until you actually go into the list, check one or more of the product boxes and start a fresh Download.  Any Popular Products so checked will download along with other products you may have selected from the Content Tree.

The Popular Product list refers specifically to the geographic box you have drawn on the Portal mode map. If you change the location of that box, you must again click on the Popular Product’s button to get a fresh list for the new area.  Products selected and checked for one boxed area will NOT be memorized or downloaded later if you move the box to a new location.

If on a satellite phone, the request for the Popular Product list for your target box will consume some airtime.  Be sure to specify the Default Connection and Type of connection you will be using when you request the Popular Products before striking the PP button. You can choose those selections in your WeatherNet Account Control settings.

See more details on WeatherNet 4 here: http://www.ocens.com/WeatherNet-4-P514.aspx

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATPHONE CONTINUITY? Published in Latitude 38

201412The following dialog between Jeff Thomassen of OCENS and the Editor of Latitude 38 was published under the title: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATPHONE CONTINUITY?

Published November 2014
⇑⇓WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATPHONE CONTINUITY?
After reading letters about Iridium and other satellite communication services in recent Latitudes, I noticed some misconceptions in the letters and the answers that were provided by the satellite phone store. I hope I can clear some of it up.

Before anyone heads offshore, they should consult their airtime provider to verify the details of their account. They will want to confirm minute balances and expiration dates or terms of their airtime package, and/or confirm that their account is set up for automatic renewal if it runs low.

In the case of Iridium, there are two kinds of plans: post- paid and prepaid. With postpaid plans, you pay a monthly fee, plus minutes. There can be many different variations on this depending on how the dealer wants to market it. So pay attention to the details.

The other type of plan is prepaid. With these you pay a one-time fee for a block of minutes that are valid for a set amount of time. If you have a prepaid airtime account, you can call or send a text SMS from your Iridium phone to the number 2888, and the system will reply with information on your remaining airtime balance and term expiration date.

If your prepaid minutes run out, you will not be able to make any further calls. Some but not all carriers offer a number that you can call, even after your minutes have been used up, that will connect you to customer service and may allow you to have more min- utes added to your account. However, this is not a foolproof method and can vary dependent on the provider. It’snot something that I’d want to rely on in an emergency.

Satphone owners should keep in mind that there are a number of entities between the end user and the network provider, be it Iridium or Inmarsat. For example, Iridium sells its airtime to distribution partners (DPs) that may add a layer of services and features to the package. These DPs then sell the airtime plans to the dealers, who may also add to the offering before finally selling the plan to the end user.
Trying to coordinate adding airtime or reactivations, and having that filter through the system so that the Iridium net- work will allow you to make a call, can take time, especially if it’s not a standard new activation or just adding minutes to a regular account in good standing. Also keep in mind that the dealer is on the hook for the airtime charges. If the end user does not pay or defaults on their account, the dealer still has to pay for the airtime. Thus the dealer is going to be very concerned about adding airtime if there is any uncertainty about payment.
In addition, dealers may have access to multiple DPs to tap into for airtime. SIM cards, and thus the plans, are tied to specific DPs that cannot be mixed. The dealer cannot sell you a plan (SIM card) that was sourced from one DP and add minutes to it from another DP. So if your dealer switches DPs, they may ask you to switch out your SIM card or refuse to add minutes to your older card.
As both a sailor and a satellite solution provider, I highly recommend that end users make a test call from their sat- phone each month as a best practice. Making a test call will do the following:
• Make sure the battery is charged. It is a good idea to fully discharge the phone a few times per year to keep it in top condition.
• By making a call you are verifying that your airtime plan is still active. If your phone will not register on the network, or gives you an error message, it may indicate that your air- time plan has expired. You will need to contact an airtime provider to obtain new service. This will most likely require that a new SIM card be sent to you.
• Making a successful call verifies that you remember how to make a call. Most satellite phones are treated as international, and require you to call all numbers as if you are making international calls — no matter where you are or where you are calling.
• The test also confirms that the phone is in operable condition. Verify that you are receiving a good signal, that you can hear the voice on the other end, and that they can hear you.
Many carriers have a dedicated number for making free test calls, but I recommend calling someone you know for better feedback.

Jeff Thomassen
OCENS, Ha-Ha Sponsor
Des Moines, Washington

Jeff — Everybody knows that satphones are frequently relied upon in life-and-death situations, and that 99% of the end users can’t remember the expiration date of their plan — let alone the very fine details of whatever plan their particular retailer talked them into. So we think it’s incumbent upon the vendor who sells the time to alert the end user a month in advance of the expiration of their plan and/or when 90% of their usage is up. If AT&T can do it by MTS and email with their cell-phone service, why can’t satellite time providers do the same? Besides, isn’t it in the best interest of the vendor to do this? It gives them the opportunity to sell more time and keep from losing a customer to a competitor.

Published December 2014
⇑⇓DIFFICULTY IN CONTACTING SATPHONE SUBSCRIBERS
I first want to thank Latitude for including my ‘Who Is Responsible For Satphone Continuity’ letter in the November issue. I am happy to assist in bringing this information to light, and hopefully assist users in their understanding of how the current satellite phone systems operate and what things to look out for. We’ve had many conversations with boatowners at the last few boat shows regarding all of this, and know that this is a hot topic in light of the Rebel Heart incident that kicked off all the publicity.

In response to my November letter, the Latitude editor replied as follows: “Everybody knows that satphones are frequently relied upon in life-and-death situations, and that 99% of the end users can’t remember the expiration date of their plan — let alone the very fine details of whatever plan their particular retailer talked them into. So we think it’s in- cumbent upon the vendor who sells the time to alert the end user a month in advance of the expiration of their plan and/ or when 90% of their usage is up. If AT&T can do it by MTS and email with their cellphone service, why can’t satellite time providers do the same? Besides, isn’t it in the best interest of the vendor to do this? It gives them the opportunity to sell more time and keep from losing a customer to a competitor.”

I agree that most satellite phone users do not keep very close tabs on the status of their accounts. In the case of Iridium prepaid plans — the primary airtime plan being faulted in this discussion for mariners’ being unable to use their phones because time ran out or expired — keep the following in mind:
1) Each time you make a voice call, you get a voice prompt with your current balance and expiration date before the call is completed.
2) Prepaid plans do not require monthly billings that might keep the user up-to-date.
3) Prepaid plans do not autorenew unless specifically requested by the end user, where an agreement must be in place between the customer and the vendor. Keep in mind that the dealer is responsible for the airtime. If they were to auto-reload a customer’s account without the customer’s fully agreeing to it, the customer could refuse to pay. Because these are prepaid minutes, the minutes cannot be retracted, so the dealer would be left on the hook.

Also keep in mind that satellite phone users are typically remote. This means that in most cases they are not getting regular email, phone calls or physical mail. Nor, in many cases, do they want to. So getting in touch with them can be rather difficult. Thus it is not quite fair to put all of this burden on the airtime vendor, but as you can see, it is important to pick your vendor carefully.

As an airtime vendor, we at OCENS truly understand why customers have satellite phones. And we understand the nature of how and where these devices are typically used. This knowledge is evident in all the products and services we both design and offer. Our goal is to help customers to get the most out of their equipment and service, so we make every effort to alert the customer as to the status of their accounts — even prepaid accounts. We send out a number of notices when their balances get low or expiration dates get near. We send alerts via the email address provided by the customer, and then again via SMS directly to the phones. We want to not only keep our customers, but also keep them safe and happy.

Jeff Thomassen
OCENS
Des Moines, Washington

Jeff — If you use email and SMS alerts to customers to alert them that their plan — even if it’s a prepaid plan — is about to expire, we think you’re doing everything that you legally and ethically should be obligated to do. We think that what you’re doing should be an industry-wide requirement.
When Profligate crewman Fin Bevin does the Ha-Ha, he always brings his Iridium/OCENS combo to produce GRIB files on the computer screen. It’s one of several great ways to get weather when far offshore.

Product Review: New IsatPhone Pro 2

The new IsatPhone Pro 2 was recently released by Inmarsat, and the second generation handheld phone includes some new and very compelling features and improvements:

IsatPhone Pro 2

IsatPhone Pro 2

1. Speed. In terms of the time it takes to register the phone with the network, The IsatPhone Pro 2 is night and day compared to the Generation 1 IsatPhone. The phone registers to the network within a couple of seconds, practically instantly, compared to the 1-2 minutes or more it would take with the Gen. 1.

2. New antenna design. What is important about this feature is that the new antenna design allows it to be exposed while stowed, so this phone will receive inbound notifications without having the antenna deployed. The way this works is if there is an inbound SMS or phone call, the phone alerts you that there is an inbound call or message and gives you a 10 second period of time to deploy the antenna and receive the call or message. You can also reject this notification in which case a call would go through to voice mail and a message would stay on the network server until the next time you connect. The phone includes a specially designed holster that allows this function to work with the phone stowed in the holster.

3. Built in tracking. The Gen. 2 phone now has automated tracking built into it, and it is fairly easy to set up. It also has a switch built in that allows you to turn tracking on and off. The previous generation phone was limited to manual GPS position reporting.

4. Built in SOS/Emergency Alert button. The Emergency Alert button is on the top side of the phone underneath a weatherproof cap. You are able to set up emergency contacts that can receive an email or SMS message with your GPS position, and it can simultaneously place a phone call with speakerphone automatically enabled as well.

5. Weatherproofing. The IsatPhone Pro 2 has a much higher grade weather resistant design and has been tested to IP65 standards.

6. Battery life. The IsatPhone Pro 1 already had the largest battery capacity in the market, and the Gen. 2 has exceeded it with a battery that provides 160 hours of standby time and 8 hours of talk time.

7. Upgraded screen. The high visibility, scratch-proof, transflective display makes it easy to view whether in the dark or in bright sunlight.

8. Form factor. This phone version is a bit thinner than the previous design at 29mm (Gen. 1 is 39mm). It is, however, wider at 75mm (compared to 54mm) as a result of the antenna being off to the side which is what allows the incoming alert feature. One thing they couldn’t do with this model is cut out weight, and in fact the Gen. 2 phone weighs in at 318 grams compared to the Gen. 1’s 279 grams.

9. Finish. The sleek black finish is definitely an improvement over the previous “Inmarsat royal blue” and the designers gave it a textured finish as well as some handy rubberized grips on the side walls.

Overall, for the amount of additional features, increased functionality, and improved durability, the IsatPhone Pro 2 is well worth the additional cost or simply as an upgrade from the IsatPhone Pro 1.

 You can see more details on the IsatPhone Pro 2 here.

Firmware Updates

From time to time satellite phone manufacture’s & carriers come out with updates to their devices. These updates are called firmware updates since they change the devices core functioning software. The updates can do anything from fix bugs found in the previous firmware release(s) to adding new features & tools. Running an outdated firmware means you’re not only missing out on these updates, but can also produce incompatibilities with value-add equipment like docking stations.

As of April 1, 2014 the following are the current firmware versions for these common satellite products:

  • Thrane & Thrane FleetBroadband –           v1.19
  • Skipper FleetBroadband 150 –                    v1.7
  • Hughes BGAN 9202 –                                 v5.8.1.1
  • Hughes BGAN 9201 –                                 v3.8.1.1
  • Sabre 1 BGAN –                                         v14.4.6
  • Safari –                                                       v1.2.0
  • Thrane Explorer 700 –                               v3.08
  • Iridium Pilot –                                             AO12003
  • Iridium 9575 –                                            HL11013
  • Iridium 9555 –                                            HT11001
  • Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro –                         v5.3.0

Listed below are the websites where the latest firmware is available. Always consult your owners manual for the steps to take to check the firmware of your satellite device, as well as the procedure on how to update it. Of course, always feel free to contact OCENS if you need any assistance.

INMARSAT

FleetBroadband

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/fleetbroadband-firmware

BGAN

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/bgan-firmware

ISatPhonePro

http://isatphonelive.com/support

 

BEAM Communications (Inmarsat/Iridium SatPhone Docking Stations)

http://www.beamcommunications.com/common-resources

NOTE- BEAM firmware is located on the support page for each individual BEAM product associated with this link.

 

IRIDIUM

Iridium firmware must be downloaded from the carrier providing airtime. Please contact OCENS for assistance in getting the latest firmware for your phone.

The New IsatPhone Pro 2 from Inmarsat Just Released

Inmarsat just released its 2nd Generation handheld satellite phone, the IsatPhone Pro 2, which is now available from OCENS.

In a nutshell, it does everything the IsatPhone Pro Gen. 1 does, along with the following additional features and improvements:

  • SOS (assistance) button: sends GPS coordinates and message to emergency contacts
  • Automated GPS position reporting (tracking) [Gen. 1 can only report manually]
  • Receives calls with the antenna stowed [Gen. 1 requires the antenna to be deployed]
  • Extended battery capacity: 160 hrs. of standby time [Gen. 1 has about 100 hrs.]
  • Improved weatherproofing: IP65 [Gen. 1: IP54]

It also has a sleek black finish, so unless you are big fan of the Inmarsat royal blue, this is also a design improvement.

See complete details on the phone here: http://www.ocens.com/IsatPhone-Pro-2-P544C61.aspx

IsatPhone Pro 2

IsatPhone Pro 2

 

New divider system adds more stability, better configurability for Pelican case kits.

We recently implemented a new divider system from TrekPak into our communications and rental kits that use a Pelican case. We are very happy with the new system because it greatly improves the quality and functionality of our kits and thus adds value for the end user. This system offers a significant advantage over the stock foam because it is a lot more rigid and durable, the pin system is more configurable, and overall it frees up more space within the case. Below is a picture of our standard BGAN rental kit which incorporates a Pelican 1450 case and Hughes 9202 BGAN terminal.

1450_cutout_2

If you have any questions about this new system, or are interested in a customized case or divider system for your satellite communications equipment, please contact OCENS here.

For more information on Trek Pak, please visit their website here.

 

 

Mandatory Isatphone Pro firmware update

All IsatPhone Pro users must ensure that they update their firmware to version v 5.3.0 before network enhancements are carried out in early 2014.

Features introduced in firmware v 5.3.0 are vitally important for continued use of the IsatPhone Pro service, and users who have not upgraded to the new firmware by the time network enhancements take place, will not be able to register on the network to make or receive calls.

The network enhancements are scheduled to take place on the following dates:

13th January – I-4 Alphasat (EMEA)
27th January – I-4 F3 (Asia-Pacific)
10th February – I-4 F1 (Americas)

No service outages are expected during the network changes.

Firmware version v 5.3.0 is available for download from the Support section of the Inmarsat website:

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/isatphone-pro-support/

To check what version your Ph has please do the following: Menu +> Settings +> About +> Firmware needs to be 5.3.0

 

 

Emergency with a good ending…

There is more to satellite phone communications than just having the satellite phone. We at OCENS strive to provide not only the best equipment for the application, but the follow up service that customers need to actually make it all work and keep it going. Thank you to Dave for letting us know how this event turned out and we are very thankful that you all made it back ok.

“Thank you very much for your assistance when my wife called you during a medical emergency at our hunting camp. She said you were most helpful in obtaining more minutes for our sat phone.

Between the air force C130 and a Blackhawk helicopter which we wouldn’t have been able to get without the sat phone we saved the live of a fellow hunter who was having severe breathing and heart problems.

It is amazing how fast the minutes of use add up when you are trying to coordinate between state troopers, air force personnel, medical people and giving weather reports to flight crews and everything else. The event started at 9:30pm on 9/17/13 and took two different rescue attempts by four different crews because of severe weather (snow, wind, rain, and darkness). It took thirteen hours to finally get to us and airlift him out. The Blackhawk landed and picked him up, flew him to Gakona where he was transferred to a C130 which flew him to Anchorage to Providence hospital. He spent five days in the hospital and was released on the sixth day. Thought you might like to know the results of your help. The sat phone worked great.

Again thank you so much for your help.”

Gratefully,
Dave Carroll and Ben Cabo Alaska hunting crew

Satellite Tracking Platforms

An attribute inherent in most satellite communications devices is the ability to use them for asset/personnel tracking. I will discuss the various satellite communications platforms and how to implement tracking with each one.

First is a brief summary on how tracking works. The device used for tracking needs to be able to perform two basic functions: 1) acquire a GPS position and 2) send the position report to the internet. Of course, if the position report is being sent, it also needs to be received on the other end. The internet makes this possible and most tracking platforms are web-based, including our own OTrak portal. The portal will receive the report, and plot each position report on a map, and can also perform a myriad of other functions such as geofencing, alerts, speed changes, altitude, heading, etc.

There are many GSM devices that can be used for tracking, but satellite tracking devices are used when GSM is not available or when an asset moves in and out of GSM coverage in order to provide consistent and contiguous reporting. Satellite devices have coverage virtually anywhere since all they need is a line of sight to the sky.

Within satellite platforms there are many different options, but we can break the whole group up into two broad categories: 1) Tracking as an “add-on feature” and 2) Dedicated tracking devices.

Tracking as an “add-on feature”

Several of the handheld satellite phones and most of the larger satellite terminals have built in tracking capabilities.

Handheld Satellite Phones

The Iridium 9575 Extreme is the only handheld satellite phone that can provide stand-alone automated position reporting. It has a built in GPS engine and uses the Iridium SBD (Short Burst Data) service to send position reports. It can also send reports manually via SMS. The Iridium 9555 is capable of sending position reports, but only in conjunction with a docking station that has a built-in GPS engine, such as the Beam 9555SD-G.

The IsatPhone Pro from Inmarsat, on the other hand, can send manual GPS position reports via SMS as a standalone operation and can perform automated reporting when used with a GPS enabled docking station, such as the Beam IsatDock Drive.

Fleet Broadband

Any of the Thrane&Thrane Fleet Broadband terminals can send automated position reports with the latest firmware version. You simply have to go into the tracking menu  in the User Interface (UI) and configure your terminal to report to the tracking portal and then register your terminal’s IMEI in the portal.

BGAN

Similar to Fleet Broadband, any of the Thrane&Thrane BGAN terminals can provide position reporting simply by setting it up in the UI. The Wideye Safari vehicular terminal can also provide reporting directly via the terminal.

Optimizer 102

If you are using or plan on using the Optimizer 102, it has position reporting capabilities already built in that work with virtually any of the terminals that are capable of generating GPS information. To set it up, it is simply a matter of checking the box for the type of terminal you are using in the Optimizer’s configuration settings and then registering the IMEI number of your terminal in your tracking portal.

Dedicated Tracking Devices

Iridium SBD

Iridium can provide dedicated tracking via its SBD service. Terminals are available from both ASE and Beam. The terminal requires an antenna, of which a large variety exist, and an antenna cable which connects the antenna to the terminal. The antenna needs to be installed so that it will have visibility to the sky and the terminal requires a DC power source.

Isat Data Pro

Inmarsat’s small packet data platform, the IsatData Pro, is also frequently used as a dedicated tracking device. The IsatData Pro is a one-piece terminal with a built in omnidirectional antenna and is available in three configurations: Marine, Vehicular, and Dual-Mode. The Marine terminal is slightly taller and provides lower look angles to account for pitch and roll, whereas the vehicular version has a lower profile antenna. The dual-mode terminal incorporates least-cost-routing with GSM as the primary service and satellite as the failover. The IsatData Pro is highly configurable so can be set up to receive and transmit a large variety of data input.

For whatever your tracking needs are, there is most certainly a solution to fit them. If you already have a satellite device and are not using it for tracking, then there is more than likely a way to utilize it as a tracking device in addition to any of the other functions it performs.

Please contact OCENS for more information and to get help with setting up your tracking services.

 

 

Critical firmware update for Fleet Broadband SAILOR and Thrane BGAN Terminals

OCENS has been informed by Inmarsat that the latest firmware version 1.16 will be feature critical for all Thrane & Thrane FB SAILOR 150, 250, 500 and BGAN units by 1st June 2013.

Terminals not upgraded to this firmware version will not be able to receive calls on the IP handset. Only the terminals listed above using the Thrane & Thrane/Cobham IP handset will be affected. Terminals with a standard two wire handset will continue to work as normal.

Other features included in this release:

•    Support for Fax and 3.1kHz Audio on SAILOR 150
•    Restoration of an open PDP context on a UT power cycle
•    Support to ThraneLINK, a sophisticated communication protocol that connects the SAILOR products in a network

To Upgrade your firmware, follow the steps below:

1.     Download from the link below the latest Thrane and Thrane firmware to a zip disk:

http://www.inmarsat.com/Support/detailsupport/FleetBroadband/Firmware/index.htm

FILE SIZE is approximately 7 MB. DO NOT download over your satellite connection. Download over wifi or other connection to an external zip disk and carry to the boat.

2.     Unzip and extract the contents of the downloaded file to a known location on the computer attached to your Sailor or BGAN terminal;
3.     Launch your web browser and load the Dashboard by typing into the address bar:

http:// 192.168.0.1

4.     Click on ‘Settings’ on the left side of the Dashboard
5.     Click on the ‘Upload’ menu and in the section ‘Upload Software to Terminal’, click on ‘Browse’ button
6.     Point your cursor to the location on your computer to which you extracted the file in Step 2 above
7.     Highlight ‘bganx_bdu.ao_1_16-0012-bganx_bdu.dl’  and select (Open)
8.     This returns you to the Dashboard. Click the ‘Upload’ button to the right of the Browse button.
9.     The system will upload the new firmware and restart your equipment. IF it does not restart the terminal automatically, do so manually.

After the terminal has restarted, return to the dashboard and confirm that the software version on the main page reads:

1.16, build 12