A modern take on an old concept?

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Vesper’s Cortex (right) has a familiar shape for smartphone users, with intuitive buttons and functions.

Vesper’s Cortex (right) has a familiar shape for smartphone users, with intuitive buttons and functions.

A small New Zealand-based company hopes to change the way boaters view VHF radios. Vesper Marine recently launched Cortex, the first VHF with touchscreen handsets, integrated Class B SOTDMA smartAIS transponder and remote vessel monitoring.

“Innovation in AIS technology, touchscreen devices and vessel monitoring has skyrocketed in recent years, but marine VHF hasn’t kept pace and remains an anachronism,” said Jeff Robbins, CEO, Vesper Marine in a statement. “Cortex fundamentally changes how you interact with safety communication systems.”

Vesper officials recently met with Trade Only Today to show the features of its new VHF, which will be presented at IBEX. The touchscreen handset is designed to be as intuitive as most smartphones, including a feature to make direct DSC calls. The unit also showed crossing situations, navigation light sectors, and also possible trial maneuvers. Its man overboard button activates a track-back mode, with the MOB waypoint on NMEA 2000 connected multi-function displays.

“Cortex unleashes the full potential of VHF, AIS and DSC by combining them in a way that is both intuitive and super easy to use,” said Carl Omundsen, Vesper Marine’s chief technical officer in the statement. “Cortex continuously calculates crossing situations and generates collision alarms for critical action, alerts the crew of anchor dragging, and activates MOB alarms for immediate retrieval. Instead of ambiguous bells or tones, Cortex sounds the alarm with voiced alerts that escalate until acknowledged.”

Robbins said the unit has been in development for three years and went through multiple prototypes. Cortex will come with a “premium” subscription plan that includes a telematics component for controlling systems like refrigerators, icemakers, lights or heaters. New features will be downloaded automatically to the Cortex Onboard App via WiFi. 

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