FAQ & Support

    • What is an MMSI and do I need one to use Boat Beacon?

      You can use Boat Beacon without an MMSI and you can be seen in real time on Boat Beacon by other Boat Beacon users if you enable transmit.

      If you want to be seen on Global AIS systems like Marine Traffic, ShipFinder and AIS Hub, then you will need to have and use an MMSI number.

      Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is a series of nine digits which uniquely identify ships, coast stations and Navigation Aids.

      If you have an MMSI or obtain one you will also be able to use Boat Beacons’ advanced features for adding your own waypoints and routes and sharing your current track via Google maps.

      In the US you can obtain an MMSI for free in minutes by visiting the USCG approved agent and using their online form. In the UK visit Ofcom MMSI

      If you have an mmsi assigned you can also share your current track on google maps by browsing to http://boatbeaconapp.com/go/mmsi where mmsi is your mmsi number.

    • Does Boat Beacon work in the background?

      Yes, if you are in transmit mode (tap the aerial symbol), Boat Beacon will continue to transmit your position even when you leave the app. .

      Collision Detection, Anchor Alarm and Theft alarms also work in background mode. Collision Detection will sound an alarm once every 5 minutes when a potential collision is detected. N.B. When these modes are enabled the GPS system is active and will use more battery power while the app is running even in background. It will last upto 4 hours on a full battery charge.

      On iOS the application icon shows a 1 on it to remind you that it is transmitting. The app icon will show 111 on it if a CPA alarm have been fired.

      On Android the Boat Beacon icon will appear in the Notification bar at the top if it is running in background. Additional notifications will appear if a collision alarm fires.

    • How do I enable Collision detection?

      Tap the (i) button at bottom left of screen to open Settings, and set Collision Detection on. Boats that are going to be within 200m of your position in the next 10 minutes will start flashing on the screen and sound an alarm. If you tap on one ofthem it will show the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) distance and ETA. Collision Detection also works in background mode if you are transmitting your position.

    • How real time is Boat Beacon?

      Boat Beacon receives data from a collection of different sources. All the data is timestamped.

      The majority of the AIS data is fed directly as it is received by the shore stations and typically there is less than a 1 second delay between the ship sending the transmission and it being available to Boat Beacon via the internet. You can check which areas have direct feeds on this map Direct coverage

      The other stations report once a minute, they accumulate the data over a minute and then send it to us. So on average these reports are 30s behind real time.

      The AIS standard has different reporting times. Boats at anchor and travelling at less than 3 knots only report their position every 3 minutes. Ships moving at over 23 Knots send updates every 2s.

      A boat travelling at 30 Knots would have a placement error of about 14 meters after 2s and 200m after 30s.

      Boat Beacon interpolates the positions between updates to improve the placement for boats on a slow refresh rate.

    • How do I enable Anchor and Theft Alarms?

      Turn on Anchor Alarm in settings (i button). This will raise an alarm on your iPhone if your boat moves more than 50m from your current position or travels at over 0.5Kts for more than 15s The alarm works in the background too. You can also use the Anchor Alarm as a remote Theft alarm. Tap Anchor Alarm in settings

      and set up an email address to send the alarm to. If the alarm fires you will receive an email with the current position, speed and course plus a google map of the location. You can test the alarm function on land – drop the anchor (turn on the Alarm in settings) and walk away with your phone until the alarm fires.

      N.B. This feature is only available on iOS at present.

    • What does Man Overboard do?

      When you set Man Overboard on Boat Beacon marks your current position with a lifebuoy icon and maintains a bearing line including distance, speed and ETA between you and the mark. This can also be used to just mark a position that you want to return to or watch your distance and bearing from. Man Overboard also continues to work in Background mode and does not require an internet connection to work.

      N.B. This feature is only available on iOS at present.

    • Can I add my own waypoints and tracks?

      Yes. If you have an MMSI assigned in Boat Beacon you can display klm or klz waypoint and route overlays in the app. Create the waypoints and routes in an app like Google Earth or Navionics and then email them to your mmsi number @ boatbeaconapp.com (e.g. 123456789@boatbeaconapp.com). On the next map refresh your waypoints and route will appear (the waypoints are clickable too).

      N.B. This feature is only available on iOS at present.

    • How do I use zoom?

      Use your fingers to pinch in and out. Tap the compass icon to toggle pan mode which lets you pan around.

    • How do I delete messages?

      Swipe backwards on a message in the list to reveal the red delete button.

      N.B. Free Ship to Ship Messaging via Boat Beacon is only available on iOS at present.

    • “I see no ships”?

      Boat Beacon shows all other Boat Beacon boats on its maps. To show boats that are not using Boat Beacon it uses ship data provided by a network of shore based AIS receiving stations. The best coverage (over three fold increase) is enabled if you have AIS sharing on. You can check the coverage for your area on Boat Beacon or via this web site Total coverage

      We have coverage for most of the popular coastal areas and coverage is constantly increasing. If your area isn’t covered, please let us know by emailing boatbeacon@electricpocket.com – especially if you would like to share your AIS data with us to improve coverage.

    • I can really see no ships?
      Please upgdate to the latest version and check the time on your device is set correctly.
    • How much data does it use?
      The data rate is low – it depends to a certain extent on how many boats are in view and how much you change the map position/scale. On average it receives about 3 kbytes and sends about 1/2 kbyte every minute. Although it’s a pretty low data rate (500bps) it can mount up if left on continuously. e.g. if left on continuously for a 6 hour trip that would be just over 1 Mbyte of data.If you are worried about the cost of mobile data when travelling abroad you can normally get deals at around $3 for 30Mb per day or $5 for 70MB per week using a local PAYG sim.
    • Sharing AIS Data

      Boat Beacon relies on data from AIS base stations all over the world. Sharing with us is easy.

      If you have an AIS base station and want to see your data on Boat Beacon please contact us as at boatbeacon@electricpocket.com and we’ll send you simple instructions on how to do this.

    • How do I turn the gps information on and off?
      GPS info is displayed at the top of the screen when you are in compass mode. It displays your current longitude, latitude, heading, map scale (from the centre to the compass red ring), Course (cog) and Speed (dog) N.B. When GPS data is showing the iPhone GPS system is active and will use more battery power while the app is running.
    • Must I be connected to the internet to use Boat Beacon

      Boat Beacon requires a data connection to receive and send boat and location information. Fortunately cellular data coverage extends over 12 miles out to sea in popular coastal areas. N.B. Anchor Watch and Man Overboard tracking do not require an internet connection.

    • I want the compass to show True North readings rather than Magnetic?

      Go to settings (i button on bottom left of screen) and set the “Adjust for True North” switch as you require. The label shows the current magnetic variation for your locale in brackets (e.g. (2W)). All bearings as well as the compass display are automatically adjusted to the new setting. When True North is set on the compass and bearing readings will show a N after the number.

      N.B. Using True North requires the iPhone GPS system to be powered up and will consume more battery power.

    • Will Boat Beacon work on an iPad?

      Yes as long as it is not a WiFi only iPad. GPS is only available on iPad’s which have a GSM or CDMA phone chip in it – the GPS and Cell phone receiver is in the same chip. It does not actually require a cellular data connection to work.

    • Calibration

      When using the compass you may see the message, “Move away from any interference, or re-calibrate by waving in a figure 8 motion.”

      The built-in digital compass works just like a magnetic-needle compass. The accuracy of digital compass headings can be affected by magnetic or other environmental interference, including interference caused by proximity to the magnets contained in the iPhone earbuds. The compass may need to be calibrated from time to time.

      When the device displays the calibration alert, rotate the device in a figure 8 motion until the calibration screen disappears. See iPhone Compass Calibration for additional information.

    • Will Boat Beacon run on an iPhone 3GS?

      Yes, but some folks have had a problem getting the app to launch for the first time. There is a bug in the location services on the iPhone 3Gs which can cause the app to crash on first launch on some devices. The good news is

      this is fixed for version 2.1 (available from 15th June) and in the mean time there is a workaround to fix this:-

      Turn off Location Services for Boat Beacon in the Settings app.

      Launch Boat Beacon.

      Go back to the settings app and enable Location services for Boat Beacon.

      After that Boat Beacon will run fine on the 3GS – you should not need to repeat the procedure.

    • Can I take a picture?

      Yes, press the iPhone power button at the top and the square button at the bottom at the same time. Your picture will be in the iPhone photo album and you can select it from there to share by email etc.

    • Navigation Safety?

      This application should only be used for basic navigation assistance. Never rely solely on the digital compass for determining direction, proximity or distance. The user is responsible for the prudent use of information provided by this application and must not use it for direct navigation. The accuracy of digital compass headings can be affected by magnetic or other environmental interference, including interference caused by proximity to the magnets contained in the iPhone ear-buds.

      Location-based applications depend on data services. These data services are subject to change and may not be available in all geographic areas, resulting in digital compass headings, directions or location-based information that may be unavailable, inaccurate, or incomplete.

      You assume all responsibility and risk for the use of this software. The author assumes no liability for damages arising from use of this program.


    • Can I send you feedback and ideas?

      Yes, definitely – we’d love to know what you like (and don’t like) about Boat Beacon – the best way is to send an email directly to boatbeacon@electricpocket.com. We’ll do our best to get back to you quickly!

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