November 9, 2014

Siren Marine Boat Monitoring System [Updated May-2019]

Update 1-May-2019:

For those of you interested in our Anchor Watch methods, please also read our related post:
Sleeping Well at Anchor

Preface to the subject post, below:

We first went live with Siren Marine in 2014 with their original 2G monitoring device. 

In late 2017 Siren Marine launched the next generation of their boat monitoring system. Their new MTC device uses 3G cell data [instead of the now depricated 2G their original device used, and we installed as discussed below...] 

Their new MTC can also use wired or wireless sensors, and has what appears to be a much more elegant app and user interface for monitoring your vessel. 

We have not upgraded to the new hardware yet because we are looking for a WiFi version since we already have full time cell WiFi on our boat [and don't need to pay for a separate cell data subscription just for the Siren MTC (currently US$180/year.)] Since we are on our boat full time these days, our search for a replacement vessel monitoring system is not as urgent...

Our original post still applies with regards to how well we liked being able to monitor [and to some extent control] our vessel when away from it for brief or long periods of time. Therefore we are leaving it as written. Just be advised it discusses a now obsolete Siren model that no longer functions because 2G cell data has been depricated nearly worldwide by most cellular communication providers... [This is why the new Siren MTC models use 3G cell data...]


Original Post from Nov-2014:

[Read How Siren Marine saved our bacon at the end of this post.]

I just completed the initial installation of the Siren Marine remote vessel monitoring system mentioned in my Putting her to bed for the winter... post.  

This device sends SMS messages to our cell phones [up to 4 phones or email addresses] based upon how we configure it (and we can make programming changes from our cell phones...) [The SIM card is international and is supposed to work in 160+ countries without us having to do anything except make sure our cell phones are working...]

Of course, it is only useful when it [and your mobile phone] has a cell signal. 

Using this device, we actively monitor: [24/7/365 when we have cell signals...]

  • Temperature inside the boat [Another probe can be added. e.g., for freezer, etc.]
  • Bilge pump cycles and duration
  • High water alarm (in bilge) [based upon sensor placement]
  • Intrusion detection 
    • We use motion detectors, but pressure mats, canvas snap switches, sliding hatch contacts, etc. are available. 
    • It can be a silent (SMS only) or local alarm siren
  • House battery bank voltage
    • we can set hi/lo notification thresholds
  • Shore power on or off [set to notify when it goes off; notifies again when on...]
  • Location
    • and it will notify us if the boat has moved, and track it if so
    • we set those parameters
  • Count down timer 
    • We connected to the engine oil pressure switch and set an alert at 100 hrs for oil change reminders
  • It also allows us to control 2 electrical circuits [AC or DC- via relay] remotely via cell phone
    • We separately control our deck lights and main cabin lights as we depart/approach the vessel. 
    • They shut off automatically after a user configurable period- currently 5 minutes.
  • Remote main battery bank switch
    • normally on
    • we can disconnect the main battery bank remotely
This, not unlike various aides to navigation, will provide feedback that will help give us peace of mind and allow us contact the local person who will be watching the boat should anything need immediate attention...

The unit is 3.xVDC  with an internal LIon battery. I ran it for 20 hours on the internal battery right out of the box before installing and connecting it to the boat's 12VDC battery bank. [Can also connect to 24 VDC] This test on internal battery included both GPS and cell. I made it report every hour, and requested many ad-hoc reports during this period as well. In a 20 hour period, the internal batt went from 100% to 39%.  

It will run a long time on the boat's 900AH battery bank.

Following are some actual reports as sent by the unit: (SMS to my cell phone- either on-demand or automatically based upon configurable reporting thresholds.)

Here is the standard signal strength report:
09:47 DENALI ROSE GETSIG: 311:370, GSM  SIGNAL:4 bars. SSI = 24, SSILMT = 5. GPS SIGNAL: FIX = 3 SAT = 11

And a position report: (You can also activate a geofence to report change in location. e.g., Anchor dragging, theft, etc...)

Standard INFO report: [We programed unit to send twice daily...]
09:46 DENALI ROSE Backup batt % : 100 [the unit's internal battery]; Ext batt volt: 13.06 [ship's battery bank] DENALI ROSE Current temp 60.8F [inside boat temp], Highest recorded temp 68.0F, Lowest recorded temp 59.0F.
Bilge pump running alert: [I learned you can customize this text, so I did...]
Shore power: [Also customized text...]
There are also motion sensors indicating when someone is onboard, a high water alert, etc. You get the idea.

So far everything works as expected.

The only minor anomaly so far is it does slightly under-report the ship's battery voltage (by about 0.15 to 0.2  volts) ["Ext batt volt" in INFO report, above] but as long as it is consistent I can live with that relative reading.

I can say that Siren Marine is excellent to work with and consistently very responsive. They seem to be actively innovating, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with in the future.

Disclaimer: We're just sharing how we spent our time and money, and why. We did not receive any compensation/incentive/special discounts from Siren Marine.  

Update: 16-Dec-2014
This unit has already paid for itself in the first month by literally saving our bacon (and other meat in the boat freezer...) [Remember we are away from the boat for the winter: 6-10 hours of airline commute time away (4 legs...) depending upon schedules.] 
The morning of 11-Dec-2014 our remote vessel monitoring system ( Sprite) sent an SMS to our cell phones notifying us that shore power to the boat was off. [Several times within a 3 hour period.]  
(Murphy's Law mandates these things happen when you are away from the boat...)
We immediately contacted our caretaker who confirmed that power was on in the marina, and upon investigating determined that the 50 amp AC connection to the boat had failed. [Here is my post detailing what happened...] 
He was able to procure repair parts locally and replaced the faulty electrical fitting for us. [Thank you, Kim!]
Since it would have been 5 days from the time of this event until his next in-vessel inspection, our being immediately notified prevented several adverse consequences including a flat [and possibly damaged] battery bank, and subsequent loss of 3 months worth of provisions [meat] in the Engle freezer.
In addition, it helped us avoid the compounded risk of no bilge pumps [once the batteries went flat] not to mention the potential fire hazard of the live, arcing electrical inlet. 
This situation could have escalated quickly if it weren't for the Siren Sprite [and our extremely reliable and capable caretaker...]

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