Chartplotters have become user interface to a modern boat's marine systems or multi function display (MFD). A Chartplotter is a device used in marine navigation that integrates GPS data with an electronic navigational chart (ENC). The chartplotter displays the ENC along with the position, heading and speed of the ship, and may display additional information from radar, automatic information systems (AIS) or other sensors. The major manufacturers: Raymarine, Garmin, Furuno, and Simrad produce similar chartplotters.
The chartplotter can drive an autopilot system, plotting a course with multiple waypoints, automatically transferring it to the autopilot. The "chart" becomes an intuitive way to access most of the information one needs for navigation. In addition to combining information with charts, the chartplotter can act as display for sonar, instruments, cameras, monitoring systems, electrical distribution, and unrelated computers.
The purpose of the NMEA2000 (N2K) network is that N2K compliant devices can share information. A GPS antenna made by one manufacturer can be displayed on a chartplotter made by another manufacturer. This works with GPS, heading sensors, depth transducers, and more. However, sensors that require big data sets, like radar, cannot be transmitted over N2K. Radar requires a proprietary wire from the system to the chartplotter. Fortunately, several manufacturers have sonar processors built into their chartplotter unit.
Manufacturers of chartplotters are beginning to support third party systems. For example, Garmin has a OneHelm system that allows the user to access power distribution from Czone and Optoplex, as well as lighting, and monitoring from other manufacturers. This technology further supports intent for the chartplotter to become the source to link all necessary navigational equipment. In cases where a manufacturer makes a clearly superior product, there are ways to combine equipment. However, choosing a single manufacturer for most of the electronic equipment would be the ideal setup for seamless operation.