IPhone app offers live readings, predictions for tides in SF Bay 

click to enlarge Staying current: A new iPhone app tells boaters an estimate of the tide and what conditions are likely to be. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Staying current: A new iPhone app tells boaters an estimate of the tide and what conditions are likely to be.

Bay boaters can toss their tide charts to the wind — they won’t need them anymore.

A new iPhone application that can provide live readings of currents and tides, as well as predictions for future conditions, is intended to give boating enthusiasts an alternative to the paper maps and charts that previously helped them navigate.

Bay Currents, a free app developed by San Francisco State University researchers, pairs an iPhone or iPad’s GPS location services with radar sensors along the shore that measure tides to give boaters an estimate of the tide conditions within a 500-foot radius of their vessel.

The technology is an alternative to maps and charts that estimate tide conditions based on historic averages. Developers say it could be particularly useful in the Bay Area, where currents are notoriously unpredictable.

“When you look at an arrow on our map, that’s what the water was measured to be doing — it’s not a model,” said Jim Pettigrew, the project’s operations manager.

The app comes from tide-tracking technology that researchers from a consortium of Northern California universities have been perfecting over the past seven years. On-shore sensors send signals that bounce off waves and send back information that helps scientists determine their direction and strength.

The technology has helped predict where oil slicks will spread and assisted in rescue searches, according to Newell Garfield, a geosciences professor at San Francisco State University, who helped develop the app.

Bay Currents is the first product to make the technology available and useful to the general public.

So far, Bay Currents is only available on iPhones and iPads. Researchers don’t have any immediate plans for an Android version, but will consider expanding the application based on user interest and funding.


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