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Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Sirius Weather Feed

If you’ve been keeping abreast of developments in navigation electronics you know the trend is toward multi-functionality, e.g. using one display for everything from engine data to soundings. Now we have Sirius Radio and WSI joining forces to bring live weather data to your dedicated plotter. Imagine that. A live weather satellite feed directly to your plotter. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, you have doubts about getting your data from the same people who bring you Howard Stern.

But wait. This isn’t just Sirius Radio at work here. It’s also WSI Corporation, the world’s largest commercial weather database, and The Weather Channel Marine Service.

These three companies are hoping to attract you with their special brand of value-added product. In other words, they collect the data, reconstitute it, and feed it back you in a way that makes it easier to digest. They’re banking on you being a niche consumer. Not too big you already have full download AND upload satellite capability. (Remember, the Sirius/WSI feed is download only.) Not too small you’re satisfied with the morning forecast and/or buoy report. They’re also figuring you prefer a sit-down dinner to a buffet, and that, either way, you don’t like to spend a lot of time chewing.

Truth is, you can get all this stuff yourself. You can go to any number of government and/or University Websites and surf the data and images online. You can even download free imaging software and personalize your weather and radar maps. This is why I mention buffet-style versus sit-down above, because if you do it this way, you’re going to be chewing on a great many more choices.

Furuno, Raytheon, and Northstar, are all on board with the new Sirius satellite feed. Furuno trails the others by a few months but says it will have a product available this spring.

So, is it worth the money? Costs will range anywhere from $29.00 a month (basic) to $99.00 a month (pro). And, of course, you have to buy a Sirius antenna and receiver.

My guess is day boat owners will say no, unless they’re gadget geeks or the type who need all the bells and whistles. Fishermen and yachtsmen who want full Internet capability will opt for broadband satellite (e.g. Sea-Tel) or cellular service (e.g. Sigma6) the latter limited to a range offshore of only 30 or so miles. Who does that leave?

Maybe just Howard Stern fans.

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