Commercial mariners, yachters, and sports fisherman enthusiasts alike look for reliable equipment to ensure their safety and control while out at sea. Boat owners like to equip their vessels with the latest technology such as navigation systems, vessel monitoring systems, personal computers, camera systems, and entertainment systems. Other technologies like pointing device systems may often be overlooked or swapped out for cheaper alternatives like mouse controls. These cheaper alternatives present a safety risk to those at sea as they are unsuitable for marine use. If you are using these controls on your vessel, you risk running out of batteries or losing mouse control due to water damage. Safer, high-quality, and long-lasting options are available for better and safer control at the helm.
What are my options for marine pointing devices?
There are three primary industrial pointing devices that are used for marine applications, trackballs, touchpads, and joysticks. These devices allow for greater control during planning and navigation. When choosing the right marine pointing device for your boat, there are multiple specifications to consider.
Product type: trackball, touchpad, or joystick
Trackballs are one of the most common pointing devices used for cursor control applications in harsh environments. The trackball controls the cursor giving the user greater maneuverability at sea. Marine touchpads are similar to the touchpad you use on your laptop; this device allows for smooth control in rugged environments, often comes in plug-and-play options, and supports multi-finger gestures. Joysticks are most commonly used for camera system management or drone control.
Pointing device format: desktop and panel mount
Various pointing devices will have different mounting options. Some pointing devices are freestanding and sit on your desktop as a standard mouse. These will plug directly into your computer or navigational system. Unlike a traditional mouse, a marine-grade device is built to withstand the rugged marine environment and is waterproof and tested for marine applications. Panel mount options have become popular and may often be preferred to desktop pointing devices. Panel mounted devices are kept safely in place; you will always know where to find them, which is critical in emergencies.
Backlighting is an option on many trackball and keyboard models and features multi-color halo rings and button/key illuminations. This feature can truly complement the look of a bridge or helm station.
If you do select a backlit device, it is essential to be aware that backlighting of any sort can be a distraction when navigating at night, so if you choose a backlit control, then make sure it is equipped with adjustable intensities or has the ability for the backlights to be turned off.
Certifications: IEC 60945 marine certification or MIL standard certification
IEC 60945 certification is an international standard that specifies minimum performance requirements and marine equipment and systems testing. This certification assures you that your device is strong enough to withstand harsh marine conditions. This includes humidity, water, temperature, solar heating, vibration, and shaking. Class-certified boats should have IEC 60945 certified devices to meet International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements. The MIL standard certification is used for military purposes, guaranteeing a high level of durability. The devices undergo rigorous tests for vibration, shock, temperature, and other critical specifications for military use.
Connectivity options can include USB, PS/2, quadrature, serial, and CANbus. Typically USB and PS/2 connections are most commonly used in marine space. It is essential to know which connection type is compatible with your black box. Keep in mind that most black boxes connect using USB ports.
Ball diameter: options range from 13mm to 75mm
If you’re planning on installing a trackball device, keep in mind that the size of the ball can range from 13mm to 75mm. The size you choose will often depend on your available space and comfort; how the ball fits in your palm. 50mm seems to be the preferred size because it fits most palms comfortably. Trackballs 25mm and under can be an excellent option for consoles with limited space. Generally, the bigger the trackball, the easier it is to control.
You may want to consider other specifications if you are choosing a trackball pointing device.
- Scroll wheel option
- Laser, optical, and laser-optical technology
Some trackball pointing devices have a hall-effect scroll wheel; the hall-effect technology provides environmental protection while allowing users to zoom in and out with ease. Another option to consider is laser, optical, and laser-optical technology. A laser trackball is a little more sensitive and can be used on any surface, while optical trackballs can be more precise in their tracking movements.
Trackball, touchpad, and Joystick devices
The following list of trackballs, touchpads, and joysticks contains many of the specifications listed above.
This device is fully compliant with IEC60945 and is waterproof with laser optical navigation technology. This trackball also includes the left, middle, and right switch functionality found in conventional desktop trackballs/mic,e making the E38 (38mm) trackball a complete human interface solution for controlling a cursor. It includes a removable ball for easy cleaning, USB & PS/2 connectivity, and smooth operation in rugged environments. The freestanding desktop pointing device optimizes desk space when compared to a mouse.
The E50 Series desktop trackball is an extremely high specification device incorporating the latest IP68 technology. The trackball combines the patented optical trackball technology with the new hall-effect scroll wheel to provide a fully waterproof desktop trackball solution. To complement these two technologies, the trackball also includes left, middle, and right switch functionality making the E50 trackball a complete human interface solution for controlling a cursor.
The TCX50F8 is equipped with the latest generation of laser optical trackball and is highly suited for harsh industrial environments thanks to its IP68 grade, robustness, and ease of maintenance. It features a removable top ring facilitating the cleaning of the ball and ball compartment for use in even the dustiest environments. Dimming and color control can be achieved using the internal dip switch, which will fix one color and one intensity. The connectivity option includes a combo PS/2 & USB output.
This compact 25mm industrial-grade trackball features a stainless steel carrier plate, a stainless steel trim protecting the trackball sealing, and two stainless steel, sealed switches. A silicone sponge that seals the unit onto the customers’ panel is part of the supply.
Its compact dimensions make these trackball units ideal for all harsh industrial applications, kiosk consoles, and navigation controls, requiring minimal mounting space. In addition, it is an excellent vandal-proof option. Connectivity features a combo PS/2 & USB output.
This pointing device features a capacitive type touchpad mounted into a stainless steel carrier plate, equipped with two stainless steel switches. The Solid State Touchpad and the switches are IP68 grade. The silicone sponge panel seal, which is part of the supply, provides waterproof IP68 sealing for the total unit when properly mounted into the customers’ panel.
The waterproof IP68 touchpad uses “Field Distortion Technology” to sense the presence of your finger. This device is not pressure sensitive, and a light touch is sufficient to track your fingertip precisely. Because of the capacitive working principle, the unit might not work with thicker gloves. This device is designed for harsh industrial applications, it will operate at all mounting angles, and it does not require cleaning or maintenance. Therefore, it is very well suited for a wide range of applications, indoor and outdoor.
- Industrial 6 inch desktop touchpad (panel mount option also available)
The TPD Series desktop touchpad provides conventional X and Y-axis cursor movement with plug-and-play, multi-finger gesture support for
enhanced user interaction. The mutual-capacitance-based tracking engine combines the benefits of solid-state sensing (no moving parts) with the precision, functionality, and performance associated with control. The design allows easy cleaning and decontamination, ensuring continued optimum performance and operation under the harshest conditions. The unit has been designed to be a freestanding desktop device and optimizes desk space compared to a mouse.
The device’s wired USB cable provides high reliability and avoids the need for batteries, and is tolerant to moisture, water, and liquid contaminants.
This dual-function joystick unit provides a combined functionality into one single device. One modus enables the user to use the unit as a mouse pointer; the second modus will give the user a 3-axis joystick function. Switching between the two functions is done by pressing the pushbutton that sits on top of the joystick.
This 3-axis joystick unit has a robust, vandal-proof construction; the carrier plate is made of brushed stainless steel with two anti-vandal stainless steel IP65 sealed switches. This joystick control option is highly ruggedized and designed for harsh industrial applications, navigation controls, etc. The speed of the cursor movement can be adapted by request, and no special drivers are required.
For more information about Industrial or marine trackballs contact Seatronx at firstname.lastname@example.org.