Surveying Boat Security
Ocean Navigator|January/February 2020
Important considerations to keep in mind when comparing security systems
John J. Kettlewell

Alarm systems come in three basic varieties: stand-alone systems that utilize sound alarms to alert those nearby, cellular network-based systems that can also alert you, and satellite-based systems that can provide worldwide coverage. Most companies offer a combination of local alarms and some type of connectivity, with some products that can utilize both satellite and cellular networks.

You might assume the advantage of satellite systems would only be needed by those voyaging boats that head well offshore, but in reality there are many coastal areas with poor or no cellular data service — as many of us who have cruised the Maine coast or the Bahamas can attest. If your primary needs are in a marina with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, however, the advantages of satellite communications may be overkill.

Can you hear me now?

Marine monitoring and alarm company Global Ocean Security Technologies (GOST) utilizes Inmarsat satellites for its communications. Both Yacht Sentinel and Siren Marine primarily use a cellular network but offer the option for Iridium satellite connectivity as well. C-pod and Flagship Marine Security similarly use cellular data networks to communicate with you. MarineGuard by Sure Action Inc. offers alarm options that don’t require any network, or you can choose to have cellular or satellite communications along with GPS tracking. Be sure to check into the cost of hooking up to the required service, which usually will require an annual service plan. Yacht Sentinel, for example, rolls the cost of cellular coverage into its pricing for the first two years. You’ll also want to do some research on the required networks, cellular bands and options for your particular region. You may also consider seeking out some local references for the companies so you can make sure real-world results match up to the marketing, especially if you will be depending on cellular coverage.

Once you’ve made the essential communications choice that suits your needs, you can begin to look at the many security options available. Just like smart home gadgets, most of these units are primarily controlled by smartphone apps that connect to the Internet. Again, this may or may not be good for where you will be located in the world. Even if your boat alarm system has connectivity via satellite, will you be able to get online with a smartphone to monitor things?

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