Boat Intelligent Warning System Invention

Our Boat Intelligent Warning System (BIWS) invention disclosure below was posted on 29 November 2012. We will make no changes to the text below the line following this paragraph except to correct misspellings, punctuation, and to update html/computer codes and links. Any updates to the invention will be posted below the invention disclosure.

Boat Intelligent Warning System

Warning Decal Strip at 2012 Bayliner Helm

Warning Decal Strip at 2012 Bayliner Helm

This invention has to do with displaying warnings based on the actual situations and conditions the boat is encountering or anticipated to encounter soon.

Background Information

The effectiveness of conventional warning decals and placards on boats is reduced by: (1) The shear number of warnings displayed on the boat, (2) repetitive exposure to the same warnings, (3) some warnings fail to draw attention to themselves and thus are not read, (4) warnings are often not up front and prominent just before an action needs to be taken.

One method to minimize these difficulties is to display only those warnings relevant to the current situation. A reduction in the total number of warnings being repetitively constantly displayed at the same time reduces “warning noise” and results in more attention being focused on the most relevant warning(s) at that time.

The invention consists of four components or subsystems:

  • The display – where the warnings are shown
  • The sensors or gauges – many of them are already on the boat
  • The network – several boats already run CANbus systems
  • The software or logic system used to select which warning(s) to display
  • The computer / the brains – a computer system the software runs on, stores the warnings, reads the inputs (sensors), uses the software to decide which warning(s) to display, and issues the command to display specific warning(s).

The Display – the invention uses one or more LED, OLED, LCD, Plasma, or other electronic displays capable of intelligently displaying zero, one or more warning selected from a group of warnings at a time, then switching to display other warnings as directed by the warning control system. The specific warning(s) to be displayed are based upon the:

  • The conditions and or situation at that time
  • The conditions or situation anticipated to shortly occur (present the warning shortly before the need for the appropriate action but in plenty of time to be understood and for the correct action to be taken)
  • A sequential or random order display of some or all warnings (rotate through them sequentially or randomly or some mix of sequentially and randomly)
  • Some combination of the above

BIWS selects the warnings to be displayed based on past, current, and anticipated conditions and the specifications of the boat:

Past, Current, and Anticipated Conditions – possible variables detected by Sensors or Gauges:

  • Engine RPM
  • Gear (forward, neutral, reverse)
  • Boat Speed
  • Water conditions (boat bouncing on the water)
  • Trim angle
  • Towing (towing someone water skiing, tubing, etc.)
  • Swimmers near the stern
  • Swim ladder position (up or down)
  • Boat operator presence at the helm
  • Weather conditions (sunny, temperature, etc)
  • Detection of the presence of alcohol on the boat
  • Detection of people sitting in various seating locations
  • Detection of people standing and their location
  • How long the boat has been underway without stopping
  • Estimated g loads on passengers
  • Boat GPS location
  • Proximity to other boats – forward and side looking sensors
  • Depth – depth finder
  • Wave height
  • Steering wheel position
  • Other operating conditions

Boat Specifications – possible variables:

  • Boat type
  • Drive type
  • Boat capacity
  • Drive horsepower
  • Estimated top speed capability
  • Other boat specifications


Individual sensors could be used to provide the condition of the variables designers elect to include in the BIWS, but many of these variables are already available in the CANbus system used on some boats, like in Mercury Marine’s SmartCraft system.

CANbus, ZigBee and/or other similar networking methods can be used to connect existing sensors and gauges on the vessel with the BIWS.

Software / Logic System

A series of rules would be written to determine which warning(s) to display in which situations. Some possible sample BIWS rules are shown below:

  • If the engine is off and the swim ladder is down, BIWS could warn you to check for passengers at the stern before starting the engine.
  • If a pontoon boat is underway with someone sitting on the bow dragging their feet in the water, BIWS could warn the operator of that hazard.
  • A boat often used in towing skiers, boarders, or tubers could more often warn of the need to have a spotter, not to back up to them in the water, and to be careful when retrieving them. That warning might especially be displayed when the boat senses the tow line go limp (or sensed the drop in engine load).
  • On open bow boats underway in rougher water BIWS could warn operators to get people out of the open bow to prevent them from being ejected.
  • When sensing the presence of alcohol or sensing the actions of an inebriated operator BIWS could warn them to take a break or find a designated operator.
  • On boats running hard for long times on hot sunny days BIWS could warn of boater fatigue and encourage them to take a break.
  • Boats exceeding speed limits in no-wake zones could be reminded by BIWS to slow down (no-zones marked in gps).
  • Warnings related to loading or unloading the boat from a trailer could be displayed by BIWS when near boat ramps (via gps location and engine rpm).
  • Boats running at high speeds in rough water could be warned by BIWS to slow down.
  • Rental houseboats detecting high winds could be encouraged by BIWS to find shelter from the winds or beach.
  • Rental houseboats preparing to reverse from a beach could be warned by BIWS to have a spotter at the stern.
  • Boats running in shallow water with known underwater hazards could be warned by BIWS to slow down.
  • Boats not trimmed properly could be encouraged by BIWS change to the proper trim.
  • Carbon monoxide warnings could be displayed by BIWS when the generator is running.
  • When no specific situations needing a warning are detected, BIWS could display random or sequenced warnings changing them at fixed intervals.

Additional warning / display functions:

  • Display one of several different warnings designed for the same hazard – Different warnings (different graphics and/or text) for the same purpose will attract more attention than the same warning over and over
  • Audio verbal or buzzer alerts could be sounded in imminent conditions (such as impending collisions)
  • The display can be switched to display warnings in the language selected (manual switch or selected from a menu)
  • The display could be used to display other date or signals (engine or drive alarms, GPS, mapping, fish finder, television, movies, computer, cell phone, boating help guide, etc)
  • The sensors used to detect current conditions (time, gps, sunlight, temperature) could be used to regulate the brightness of the display
  • First aid information and emergency phone and radio channels could be displayed from a menu
  • The coast guard checklist of equipment needed on board this specific boat could be displayed from a menu
  • The boat and motor operators manuals could be displayed from a menu

Computer System

A small dedicated or shared computer system could be used to run the software, store the warnings, sample and store the inputs, use the software to intelligently select the warning(s) to be displayed, and send the desired warning(s) to the monitor / display.

Or an existing computer system on the boat could be used or the same purposes.

The system could be updated (new warnings or other features added) by updating the software via a USB port or some other method.

As a Supplement

The BIWS could be used as a supplement to existing warnings (leave some conventional warning decals/placards on the boat) display some others and maybe some left on the boat via the BIWS.


  • Integrating Automobile Multiple Intelligent Warning Systems: Performance and Policy Implications. Angela Wei Ling Ho. Master of Science in Technology and Policy. Engineering Systems Division. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. September 2006.
  • Intelligent Safety Warning and Alert System for Car Driving. Lu, Tseng, Lee, Jan, and Lee. Temkang Journal of Science and Engineering. Vol.13. No.4. (2010). Pgs. 395-404.
  • On-Board Safety Monitoring Systems for Driving: Review, Knowledge Gaps, and Framework. Horrey, Lesch, Dainoff, Robertson, and Noy. Journal of Safety Research. Vol.43. (2012). Pgs. 49-58.
  • IVSAWS – In-Vehicle Sensory Advisory and Warning Systems
  • U.S. Patent 6,273,771 Control System for a Marine Vessel. A CANbus patent issued to Brunswick in 2001.
  • Several studies focus on integrating intelligent warnings systems in automobiles so they are not a distraction and do not create unanticipated consequences.

Our Claims

We (Polson Enterprises and the Propeller Guard Information Center) claim the the propeller safety invention described above and now make a public disclosure of it and place all parts of it not previously patented by others into the public domain for use by all who wish to manufacture or use them. The world is certainly welcome to patent improvements to this invention but the basic concepts not previously patented by others are open to all.

More specifically we claim:

1. A system for displaying warnings on boats based on the current situation and conditions or those anticipated to be encountered soon.

2. A Boat Intelligent Warning System (BIWS) to perform claim 1.

3. The use of existing sensors on the boat (with the possible addition of more sensors) as inputs to the BIWS.

4. Incorporating boat specifications (boat length, drive type, horsepower, boat capacity, estimate top speed, etc.) into BIWS to improve decision making.

5. Detecting variables such as these: engine RPM, Gear (forward, neutral, reverse), boat speed, trim angle, if the boat is currently towing someone, if the tow load just dropped due to someone falling, swim ladder position (up or down), boat operator presence at the helm, the presence of alcohol or the actions of a boat operator under the influence, the locations of people in the boat, g loads (vertical from water impacts and laterally from turns), proximity to other boats, steering wheel position, and the presence of swimmers near the stern to improve BIWS decision making.

6. Detecting operating conditions such as: time, weather conditions (sunny, temperature, wind, GPS location, wave height, etc.)

7. The use of a CANbus, Zigbee, or similar network to route the BIWS inputs and/or outputs.

8. The use of an existing network on the boat such as a SmartCraft network to route the BIWS inputs and outputs.

9. The use of outputs from an Engine Control Module (ECM), such as a Motorola MotoTron ECM 555, in a BIWS.

10. A BIWS display in which the brightness and other variables (such as black on white vs. white on black) are changed according to the lighting and glare conditions to optimize visibility of the display.

11. A BIWS display with an extension around the display to reduce glare (like a camera rubber lens hood).

12. The use of a flat black card below the display screen and tilted up to reduce BIWS display problems in strong sunlight. (similar to Hoodman’s efforts and those described on Cruisers Forum – search for computer screen glare).

13. A BIWS that can be updated in the field with new warnings, rules, and features as needed.

14. A BIWS that relies on a set of rules to select which warnings to display based upon current and anticipated conditions.

15. A BIWS that learns from past activities (it learns your normal uses, patterns of operation, locations, situations, etc) so it can better anticipate which warnings to display.

16. A BIWS that can automatically detect when a new operator is at the helm and begins to create new history files for the new operator, while continuing to retain the old files for a period of time.

17. A BIWS that can automatically detect when the boat has been moved to a new location (to a new lake, to a new state, to a new owner somewhere else, etc.). The BIWS begins to create new history files for its new location while continuing to save retain the old files for a period of time.

18. A BIWS that can display one of several different warnings for the same hazard. By storing and displaying multiple versions (different graphics and/or text) of the same warning each version of that warning will be fresher and command more attention.

19. A BIWS that can display warnings in one of more language. Specific languages can be selected by a switch or from a menu.

20. A BIWS incorporating Neural Networks for learning which warning(s) to display and when to display them.

21. A BIWS incorporating Fuzzy Logic for use in deciding which warning(s) to display.

22. A BIWS running on a SmartCraft network.

23. A BIWS that can operate based on a wide range of inputs being present or absent. Meaning, it can operate with just a few sensors, or additional sensors can be added now or at a future time. BIWS makes decisions based on the data available. More sensors may allow making more accurate decisions, but the system can operate all the way down to no sensors (running based only on its knowledge of the boat on which the system is installed).

24. A BIWS that can issue audio (such as a horn, beep or buzzer) and/or verbal warnings.

25. A BIWS that automatically comes on when the key is inserted into the ignition or when the key is turned to the on position.

26. A BIWS than utilizes input from a GPS or an internal GPS system to improve its decision process of which warning(s) to display.

27. A BIWS that displays/issues carbon monoxide warnings when the generator is running or when carbon monoxide has been detected.

28. A BIWS utilizing one or more electronic displays such as an LED, OLED, LCD, or Plasma display to display warnings.

29. A BIWS utilizing weather reports (current and future conditions) to make decisions on which warning(s) to display.


Leave a Reply