VT Explorer AIS tracking service origins from Bulgaria. The developer of VT Explorer is the Bulgarian company Astra Paging Ltd. The team from Bulgaria applied quite different approach to their service – it is not a typical web based AIS tracker with Google Maps or Open Street Maps but a standalone client application with its own vector chart of the world.
It seems that VT Explorer team has applied a quite advanced technology and algorithms in their graphic engine and they achieved tremendous performance of the application. That is why I will start not with the AIS coverage, tracking services, alerts and notifications but with the features of VT Explorer viewer application:
1) User interface and performance
At first, VT Explorer is the only application which succeeds to display all vessels at once! You don’t need to switch between ports or to see that nasty rectangles with vessel counters present in Marine Traffic.
VT Explorer provides quite friendly user interface with fast and easy chart navigation. The user can store his favorite chart views and for quick navigation. Ship search is very fast by name, IMO or MMSI.
The setup package is about 12MB. After the installation I have checked how big is the file with the chart – it was only 8 MB! It seems that it uses very strong compression and optimized binary structure of the data. Of course the chart is not so good in many parts of the world but VT Explorer team launches chart updates quite often and they update only the areas where their system has AIS coverage. The application does not require very fast CPU or video cart but it keeps the whole chart in the memory which after decompression uses about 150 MB RAM.
VT Explorer is very economic if you use expensive 3G traffic. The application updates the vessel positions once per minute. It downloads the whole traffic data once after the start (about 500K) and after that the updates are only 70-80K. I don’t know how the data of 15000 vessels is stored in 500K (32 bytes per vessel only!) because VT Explorer does not cache any data on the hard disk.
Enough with the technical specifications. What about the service.
VT Explorer AIS coverage is not quite different from other similar trackers. The coverage of Black Sea and Mediterranean sea is very good (maybe the best comparing to others) but the coverage of China, North and South America is weak.
VT Explorer also provides e-mail and SMS alerts and notifications via separate web service which is accessible from the application’s menu. Additional details and photos about many of the vessels are also displayed via VT Explorer Vessel Tracking.