Here are the answers to some of the questions users have been asking. Tap on the questions to reveal the answers...
What is an MMSI and do I need one to use Boat Beacon?You do not need an MMSI to see and be seen on Boat Beacon.
Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is a series of nine digits which are sent in digital form over a radio frequency channel in order to uniquely identify ships, coast stations and Navigation Aids.
If you have an MMSI or obtain one you will be able to use Boat Beacons' advanced features to share your location and be seen on other Global AIS systems maps like AIS Hub, Marine Traffic and ShipFinder etc.
Having a MMSI assigned in Boat Beacon also allows you to upload klm or klz waypoint overlays to your map - email the klm file as an attachment to your firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view your current track on google maps by browsing to http://boatbeaconapp.com/go/mmsi where mmsi is your mmsi number.
In the US you can obtain a MMSI for free in minutes by visiting the USCG approved agent and using their online form. We can provide you with a free Boat Beacon MMSI, email us at email@example.com. In the UK visit Ofcom MMSI
You can also use a Marine Traffic pseudo MMSI number after having registered your vessel for a unique vessel's ID at this form on marinetraffic.com. Please note that the Boat Beacon and Marine Traffic MMSI numbers are not official MMSI numbers and are only used for position reporting at MarineTraffic.com and Boat Beacon. This number is NOT to be programmed into any radio equipment such as AIS transponders or DSC radio.
Does Boat Beacon work in the background?Yes, if you are "On your Boat" - have the Sail Boat Symbol, bottom left, selected - Boat Beacon will continue to transmit your position even when you leave the app. The application icon shows a 1 on it to remind you that it is transmitting. 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. The app icon will show 111 on it if a CPA alarm have been fired.
If you want Boat Beacon to stop and not use any power when you close the app or switch to another app make sure the "On my Boat" symbol is off - greyed out.
N.B. When these modes are enabled the iPhone 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.
How do I stop Boat Beacon running in the Background?Tap the sailboat icon at the bottom left to turn transmit and collision detection on and off. When on - it will also run in background - when off it wont.
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.
How real time is Boat Beacon?
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.
Boat Beacon receives data from a collection of different sources. All the data is timestamped.
Around 50% 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. A boat travelling at 30 Knots would have a placement error of +/- 200 meters.
Boat Beacon interpolates the positions between updates.
How do I upload/attach a boat photo to its information page?Please send us a copy of your photo and your Boats MMSI number to firstname.lastname@example.org. and we will add it to our service for you.
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.
Searching for places isn't working?
Please try re-booting your device (battery pull). Apparently the Google Geocode service that we use to search for places requires a re-boot of the device to work correctly after a recent OS upgrade.
"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 email@example.com , especially if you would like to share your AIS data with us to improve coverage.
One other possibility is the app is not authorised - check the item about "...un-authorised.." below if you see the app not authorised message
How do I get the screen to rotate with the compass?
There is an option in preferences in Boat Beacon - Rotate Map with compass - check this to turn rotate on.
However....The minimum OS version that supports rotation is 2.3. Further there is an Android OS bug with Google MapKit on devices with xhdpi graphics(High Density displays as on the Samsung Galaxy S3) on Ice Cream Sandwich (OS 4).
We currently can't rotate the display on these xhdpi devices and so hide the rotate option - we will enable it as soon as Google fix the bug.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 and Transmit mode. It displays your current longitude, latitude, heading, map scale (from the centre to the compass red ring), Course (cog) and Speed (sog)
N.B. When GPS data is showing the Android 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.
If your compass reading is wrong try re-calibrating it by rotating the phone a few times in each axis and then 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 Android earbuds. The compass may need to be calibrated from time to time.
Support for VGA/TV out e.g. for MFD's
Some devices like the Samsung Galaxy S range support video out. Check out
for more details
"...this application is unauthorised..."
This is a Google Play store issue and should be able to be corrected by checking the following. There may be something here which should fix the problem: Thanks for your email and sorry to hear you are having problems with the Play Store. This is a general play store error that occasionally affects purchased apps. There are two suggested solutions on the web
- Try clearing data AND cache for Google Play, reboot, and then try again. Settings>Applications>All>Google Play>Clear Data and clear cache.
- Settings > Application Manager > All > Locate Download Manager (will be at the the bottom of the list when it's disabled) and make sure it is enabled.
If these two don't sort things out try the following:-
- Ensure your WiFi connection is stable
- Uninstall Boat Beacon
- Close all applications
- Reboot your device
- Ensure you are logged in using a valid g-mail account. We have had reports from other players that using a "googlemail.com" e-mail account was the problem, which was corrected after switching to "gmail.com"
- Check to see that you have approx. 2 GB of free internal storage space
- Clear your cache
- Re-download/install the app.
- Remain connected to the internet while starting the app and still logged in to your valid g-mail account. (must be @gmail.com not googlemail.com)
Please note that uninstalling the app will erase your current boat data. If you have already set this up before experiencing this issue and do not wish to lose your saved data, please try the rest of the steps without uninstalling/re-installing.If you're still having trouble, please contact with the following information so that we may investigate the problem for your device:
- Confirm the model of device which you are using.
- What version of Android is installed on your device?
- Is your device rooted?
- How are you connected to the internet?
- Where you download Boat Beacon from?
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 Android 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.
DO NOT RELY ON THIS APPLICATION FOR DECISIONS THAT CAN RESULT IN HARM TO ANYONE OR ANYTHING.
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 email@example.com. We'll do our best to get back to you quickly!