People who sail ships communicate by talking to each other using radio transceivers. The ships themselves also talk to one another using radio transceivers, but the use a protocol called AIS – Automatic Identification System. In their conversations, they exchange information about their position, destination, size, and much more.

I became obsessed with AIS ever since I had to fix some bugs on an Exploratorium exhibit called Ship Tracker. It uses AIS feeds from several sources to show the location of all ships in the bay area on a map. I realized that the feeds we were using were unstable, the libraries were incomplete, and we didn’t even have our own receiver!

My ship mapping endeavor consists of several parts: An AIS radio receiver; A Javascript library that interprets the AIS feed; And a website that shows the ships on a map.

Read all posts about the ShipMapping project here.