Data Collector Changes For The 2018 Season

We’ve made some changes to the Data Collector software for this year.

Our aim has been to make the software easier to use and understand. We have reworked the main screens to present the information in a more concise manner aiming to make most of the interesting numbers available with one click.

At the session level there is now a single tab on the home frame that contains the main data trends; boat speed, heading, true/apparent wind angle and wind direction. Port and Starboard sailing is now distinguished by showing port wind angles relative to the bow in a negative form. You can now see how much boat speed you are carrying through a tack a lot more clearly.

We looked at the way that we were displaying the information and realised that whilst the Session is interesting; on a day to day basis the cumulative stats for the boat itself are more useful. We now have polar data on the Boat Definition screen in addition to the polar information on the Session. So you can now look at the boats performance in three ways; the current session, a comparison session and the boats overall best data. The boat polar data is based on the maximum value for a given wind speed/angle combination so it also provides realistic target data for the boat crew. Obviously for the data to appear on the polar chart you have to have sailed that wind speed true wind angle combination; which is why the pink 25 knot line in the image below is incomplete. You can export the polar data for the boat to csv file for import into Microsoft Excel etc.

We also came to the conclusion that we weren’t using the Route and Boat Config screens that much; and consequently not updating the config information as we sailed. Changing the configuration of the boat whilst it was on the move was too time consuming. You had to open another screen, select the right record, edit it and save it. So we’ve added tabs to the Data Collector Session frame to show the current Route and Boat config. You can’t add new items in on this screen but you can make them active or inactive and change the values associated with them. So swapping from a No 2 to a No 3 headsail becomes a simple question of setting the active flag on one to yes and on the other to no. All done from the main data collector screen.

From the data management perspective the overall performance of the application has been improved. Recalculation of a sessions data is now down to about 15-20 minutes for a 4 hour recording session. This makes it a lot easier to edit the data and remove the invalid messages that might be distorting the view.

We have also worked on the import and export functions. These are now more logically located on the Session Edit screen and can be used to move data from one installation of the Data Collector to another. You export the NMEA Data and Boat Config info from one PC to a set of csv files. Create the session info record on the second PC. Load the NMEA data followed by the Boat Config data then run the session recalculation to rebuild all the summary data.

We’ve added a couple of extra sentences in. We can now process VWR (Wind Velocity Relative) and RMC/GGA GPS messages. As long as we have valid GPS data, boat speed and heading we can use the VWR to calculate the true wind values. These give more options on older boats where the instruments are producing those sentences.

Finally in a bid to reduce the complexity of the application we have switched to using an embedded database. The data collector now stores its data in an Apache Derby Java based database making it easy to install and run the data collector. The installation process is now just a question of downloading and unzipping the software followed by the entering of a license key. We have removed all the steps to do with installing and running the MySQL database. We will continue to support the MySQL platform but the download files from the website will all include the Derby database.

Follow this link for more information about the Apache Derby database project: Apache Derby Database Project

As in previous years we have been through a thorough test cycle. We bench test using a software package called NMEA Studio, that lets us simulate receiving data from a virtual boat. Once that looks OK we start to feed the previous years data into the collector to see what the results would have looked like. We then perform static tests on the boat without leaving the dock, finally when we are convinced everything looks good to go we actually go sailing. We conducted that penultimate stage in our testing a couple of weeks back.

Our final test will be the JOG Nab Tower race in a couple of weekends where we hope to capture the whole race as a profile with the data collector. After that we move onto the JOG Cowes-Yarmouth-Cowes where we can test some more. We have data from the 2017 race so we will be able to compare the boats performance then with what its doing now. We hope to see a big improvement.

There is already a Beta version of the 2018 Data Collector on the Ashtree Marine website. We aim to put the initial production version on there to download next week(before the 21st April). The documentation for the collector is now complete and is available here for download: Data Collector 2018 Release Documentation

We have also prepared a file that can be used to load the Solent racing marks into the data collector as Waypoints. This is here : Solent Racing Marks 2018

Going forward we have a few ideas to work on. That will probably include a version of the collector for Apple Mac OS X and potentially some more graphical representations of the data.

Watch this space.

Bill/April 2018