Firmware updates in a cross-vendor NMEA2000 network envrionment.

Project date: 2010

As new NMEA-2000 sensors and products are introduced to the boater, the multi-function displays will generally require a firmware update. Each manufacturer typically provides a method to do this via the NMEA-2000 capable chartplotter which is usually the core of the system. This works fine when all of the equipment is purchased from one manufacturer, but how does this help the boater that has multi-vendor equipment on board; presumably installing the best each manufacturer has to offer.



Fortunaely Garmin has saw this as an issue, and has provided a network updater for those of us that want to integrate Garmin products into our network, but do not have a Garmin chartplotter. Finally a manufacturer has seen the benefit of an open network within a heterogeneous environment, rather than the attempting to "keep-their-piece-of-the-pie" approach that other manufacturers have taken. We can only hope other manufacturers eventually see the benefit of the open approach and follow Garmin's lead.

I have a Garmin GMI-10 display unit that I really like, but until now, it was impossible to upgrade it's firmware as my system is predominantly RayMarine. I purchased the GMI-10 when it was first offered, having firmware ver 2.0. Garmin has released no fewer than a dozen firmware updates since I purchased my unit, including updates such as additional sensor monitoring, bug fixes, and other enhancements.

Updating the GMI-10

The Garmin NMEA2000 Network Updater is a farily simple device, and comes with a tee fitting for connection to an existing NMEA2000 network. One item I noticed; the safety warning manual was at least twice as thick as the instruction manual, which I suppose says a lot about the world in which we live in.

The updater requres the use of a SD card, which you have to load with the network image from Garmin. The update is a single file, and includes updates for the GMI-10 as well as all of the Garmin products. Once you download the update to your PC (the file is a self-extracting .exe), you load the SD card on your PC, then extract the download to the SD card.

Since it is not waterproof, Garmin suggests only temporarly connecting the Network Updater to the NMEA2000 network. This is fine as it is only required on an occasional basis. All you need to do is to insert the Network Updater like you would with any other NMEA2000 device. I happen to have an unused port on my network in the aft cabin under the sink, so that was a convenient place to install the updater.

The updater should be installed with the NMEA2000 network power is off, and without the SD card installed.

After connecting the Network Updater, turn on the NMEA2000 network as well as the GMI-10. The GMI-10 is not powered by the NMEA2000 network, so this may require turning on several circuits to get power to the GMI-10.

Once you have turned everything on, go to the Network Updater and observe that the LED is blinking RED. There are three possible LED colors:

LED ColorFunction
Blinking REDNo SD card inserted
Blinking ORANGEUpdate in process
Blinking GREENUpdate completed

As soon as you insert the SD card into the Network Updater, if it contains a valid update image, the LED on the updater should be flashing ORANGE. During this period of time, the GMI will display several messages.

After the update has finished, the LED will turn GREEN. At this point, the update has completed, and you can turn off the NMEA2000 network and disconnect the Network Updater.


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