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ECDIS and ECS

Commercial shipping has a requirement to carry up to date official charts. Traditionally these have been paper charts. Every few weeks a chart agent will visit the vessel bringing new charts and also updating the charts on board. Updating consists of adding pencil annotations, overlaying bits of tracing paper and even pasting on a small, new pieces of chart. This is all tedious and time consuming so it is easy to see the appeal of digital charts and automated updating. However commercial vessels cannot simply switch over the digital charts. The official part of the requirement is important.

After quite a lot of wrangling and discussion between the International Hydrographic Office (IHO), other international ship controlling bodies, various national Hydrographic Offices, chart producers, equipment manufacturers and an assortment of other interested parties some standards emerged. S-57 was designed as a standard for transferring data between hydrographic offices but it got co-opted for sending charts to ships using a product specification called ENC. There are some other S-57 products such as AMLs and AIO but these came later. S-63 was designed as the license enforcement and encryption layer. Unfortunately this was published with errors in it which are still propagating issues today. S-52 was an attempt to decouple the presentation (symbol) for an object from the data representation. This started quite well but then got terribly complicated so that now S-52 is almost like a small programming language in itself. In consideration of the overall system requirements ISO61174 was produced. This describes equipment and software performance standards and is the main standard against which equipment is tested. A navigation system, hardware and software, which complies with all these standards is known as an ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System). An ECDIS can be used , with some qualifications, on a commercial vessel to satisfy the chart requirement.

Unfortunately the ECDIS standards are quite old. S-57 was frozen in 1996 and ISO61174 dates from 1997. Now old, as such, is not necessarily a bad thing, but these standards prescribe the behavior and performance of computer equipment which had not even been invented at the time. They are standards based on a prediction of what the future would be like. As such they are not a bad guess but are still well short of the mark when it comes to contemporary approaches towards interacting with computers. Nuno Navigator is not an ECDIS. At CherSoft we have developed software for ECDIS. In fact we have quite a long history of this. However in Nuno Navigator we have taken the best features of ECDIS, the bits that actually work, and brought them into a thoroughly modern and genuinely user friendly environment. Nuno Navigator is classified as an ECS (Electronic Charting System) rather than an ECDIS. It is not really intended for commercial vessels.

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