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Technology - SkyMate manages on-board information

The ‘all-in-one’ system handles e-mail, weather reports, faxes, position reports, and more

The ‘all-in-one’ system handles e-mail, weather reports, faxes, position reports, and more

As global wireless communications move a range of data into and out of the pilothouse, SkyMate has come up with an “all-in-one” system for managing that information — and at economical rates.

“It does a lot of things for a really affordable price,” says Lynn Tandler, chief operating officer of the Chantilly, Va., company.

Founded by Tandler and her husband, John, former chief technology officer for satellite-service provider Orbcomm, SkyMate sends and receivese-mail by satellite; receives customized, real-time weather reports in text and graphics; automatically e-mails position reports at scheduled intervals; works alongside Nobeltec’s eChart Mariner navigation system on the same monitor; and sends fax or voice messages. As an add-on, the system also can monitor critical systems on the boat and report problems back to the owner by e-mail, phone or fax when the vessel is unattended.

Tandler says SkyMate’s hardware packages, which include a satellite communicator, cables, SkyMate PC software, Nobeltec’s eChart Mariner software and antenna, cost between $1,199 and $1,999. The less-costly systems plug into the boat’s GPS, while higher-end models have a built-in GPS and upgraded GPS antenna. The most expensive package includes SentryMate for monitoring the boat’s systems. Boat owners provide their own computer to run the SkyMate systems.

SkyMate users also must subscribe to a monthly service plan based on the number of characters they expect to transmit or receive by satellite monthly. The cheapest plan is $15.99, for position reports only (about 60 per month). The most expensive one is $83.99 and buys, for example, 50 e-mails, faxes or voice messages; 30 high-seas weather reports and charts; and 60 position reports a month. An intermediate plan of $69.99 per month would cover, for example, 150 e-mails, faxes and voice messages; 10 coastal weather reports; and 60 position reports, Tandler says. Subscribers can use any combination of the services offered under a given plan up to a specified number of characters.

In the marketplace since 2002, SkyMate has 1,500 subscribers, Tandler says. SkyMate is approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service for use on commercial fishing boats that are required to report their locations on a regular schedule. Tandler says SkyMate also provides the communications system and tracking software for Nobeltec’s fleet management program that automatically downloads vessel positions directly to Nobeltec’s Admiral navigation system.

SkyMate’s global satellite service area covers most of the world’s oceans except offshore of Australia and South Africa, Tandler says.

Tandler says her husband, John, the SkyMate president, spent nine years on the Orbcomm design team. “He knows how it works,” she says. Orbcomm transmits messages through the use of low-earth-orbiting satellites.

Tandler says one advantage of SkyMate for the recreational boater is the flexibility of the subscriber plans. “You can use any of our services,” she says. Some choose to use chiefly the e-mail features, others the weather, position or monitoring reports. She says cruisers typically pay $408 annually for 100e-mails a month and two positionreports a day while they cruise for six months and one monitoring report a day while the boat is unattended at the dock for the other six months.

For more information, call (866) 759-6283 or visit www.skymatewire