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“Eventually all receivers will be multi-GNSS”

Aug 2010 | No Comment
Says John Pottle Marketing Director, Spirent Communications, Positioning Group

2009 was seen as a difficult year for most businesses. However, 2009 was ‘as expected’ for Spirent in terms of revenues and profits, how did Spirent manage this?

Spirent sells test systems for navigation and positioning across the industry, from government to consumer products, from R&D through to field test. Our customers are spread over 30 countries around the world. Many organisations had to be more careful about investment in 2009, although some of our customers saw growth and opportunities themselves and bought more test equipment than usual. Spirent’s response was to remain focused on innovation and our customers’ needs. For example, in 2009 we launched new ranges of multi-GNSS simulators focused at the commercial and production test markets.

Multi GNSS’ is the buzz word today; do you think eventually single GNSS receivers will be phased out?

I think this depends on the application. For navigation in urban areas, multi-GNSS improves availability, with more satellites visible from the urban canyon. So in many consumer applications, yes, I do think that eventually all receivers will be multi-GNSS. In these areas, I think that additional sensors (such as MEMS) and other technology (such as Wi-Fi positioning) will also become the norm. Where a clear view of the sky is available (e.g. in the air, on the open road, in many professional applications), GPS only is often sufficient. However, even in these applications I think multi- GNSS will be introduced, partly for consumer choice and partly because the incremental cost of implementing multi-GNSS over GPS-only is reducing.

‘We relish public tests involving our customers and ferociously guard our unique tradition of being entirely neutral.’ How does Spirent manage to stay ‘neutral’ when the success of its products depends on the success of the tests that are performed on them?

Spirent’s reputation is built on test systems that deliver the best signal quality. Test equipment should be an order of magnitude more accurate than the devices under test. So, we remain “neutral” by striving to provide the best test tools to the navigation and positioning industry. In addition, our business is test. We don’t compete with our customers by making GNSS receivers or navigation systems.

Could you elaborate on Spirent’s GPS modernization and multi- GNSS simulator portfolio for our readers?

Spirent’s core product families now all support multi-GNSS. We also offer test systems for the new GPS signals – GPS L1C, GPS L2C, GPS L5 and M-code. Many of our customers are now testing multi-GNSS and/or modernized GPS.

With GNSS applications becoming more mainstream and available in a growing number of devices, what do think will drive this technology for the masses – functionality or price?

The only way to drive technology for consumers is to have great functionality at a great price. In many ways, consumers are the most demanding of users, expecting faultless performance everywhere, for little outlay. However, consumers regularly walk or drive in many places where GNSS really struggles like urban areas and indoors.

In the coming months, which navigation and positioning applications will emerge as the frontrunners in your opinion?

Solutions that combine multi-GNSS, low cost inertial sensors and wi-fi positioning are becoming a very strong solution for consumers. More generally, inertial navigation is an excellent compliment to GNSS, in that inertial continues to work well where GNSS is not available. I think the frontrunners will combine symbiotic technologies like GPS and inertial to provide the best performance for customers, whatever the application.

The US and Europe are seen as matured markets as far as navigation and positioning technology products go, which other regions around the world do you think are going to be the ‘hot spots’ for this technology in 2010?

Keep an eye on BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)!

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