Emerging PNT and GNSS technology trends

Feb 2020 | No Comment

Creating resilient, wireless connected systems

John Fischer

Leading industry authority in PNT and GNSS technologies, and serves as the VP of Advanced R&D for Orolia, the world leader in Resilient PNT

As Coordinates readers, you appreciate the value of knowing where you are and what time it is, along with the best route to your destination. Whether you’re on your way to an important business meeting at an office you’ve never visited, or you need to find the safest route through dangerous environments, you need reliable, continuous Positioning, Timing and Navigation (PNT) data.

No matter how sophisticated our technology environment becomes and how much further we evolve into a more digital and mobile world, we should be mindful that for many of our most essential tasks, it all comes down to the availability of essential resources like PNT data and GPS/GNSS signals. When we look at emerging technology trends, these common denominators are having a greater impact on industry’s ability to deliver reliable new technologies that are immune to emerging threats.

Most of us use PNT data every day without even thinking about it. We check our route options for morning traffic and, on hectic days, we might need to find the nearest gas station or a coffee shop with a drivethrough along the way. On a personal level, getting the wrong PNT data could mean that you run out of gas, get lost or wind up in a dangerous area. For critical infrastructure and defense programs, it can bring far worse consequences. Add to that the fact that rogue actors are getting more sophisticated in spoofing and jamming, and the risk of PNT data disruption and loss grow exponentially.

Next to PNT data, one of the most important tools for the latest technology innovations is access to GPS/GNSS signals. After all, most PNT data is delivered through these signals and we use GNSS signals for so many critical needs. We rely on having a signal wherever we go, and we aren’t particularly opinionated about it as long as it works and we can get things done. Like turning on a light switch, we hardly ever think about it but we expect it to be immediately available 24/7.

Why will emerging technology continue to rely on PNT and GNSS?

Wireless connections are becoming required as the minimum starting point for any new technology. If we no longer need wired connections because our wireless connections are seamless, new technology can transcend geographic, environmental and other barrier limits that exist today.

Data speed and capacity are also essential. Transmission rates must continue to get faster to keep up with our requirements for instant results. Newer technologies often involve much larger file and data packet sizes, so data capacity also has to keep expanding in line with increasing demand.

What will these next-gen technology features do for us? With failsafe wireless connections, lightning fast data speeds and extensive data capacity, we can enable connected systems, wireless networks and hive technology to converge our resources into a collective “brain” and manage everything at once. When we no longer have to build tethered data connections, we can achieve exponentially superior automatic systems that are not only efficient, but operate harmoniously with infinite inputs.

What do these technology trends mean for the PNT industry?

As PNT industry leaders, we need to establish, continuously improve, and adapt our technology with features that guarantee PNT data integrity in every environment. By the way, it’s not just PNT data that we need to protect. We also need to ensure continuous access to resilient GNSS signals to transmit the data that PNT-reliant systems need in order to operate. Our contributions to emerging technologies can provide the assurance of PNT data integrity and GNSS signal access as building blocks for tomorrow’s wireless connected systems.

We also need to respond to the growing demand for multiple data inputs by providing data hub and integration technologies to facilitate connected systems. By converging data points from multiple sources, we can enable higher order data analysis and processing for more intelligent, informed digital decisionmaking based on countless data points.

Looking ahead

Weighing the risks and benefits of emerging technology trends, it’s better to embrace new technologies and the benefits they offer, rather than clinging to archaic ideas. New technologies are being developed faster than ever, and as PNT leaders we need to offer access to these features right away, not years from now. Bolt-on and retrofit PNT and GNSS solutions are available now that can not only future-proof existing systems, but also protect them from the latest threats.

With new digital technology, we can solve problems and increase efficiency in ways that would take decades or more for humans to do on their own. At the same time, we shouldn’t rely too much on machines to make our decisions. It’s important to maintain human in the loop technology so that we can make a human decision based on better facts.

The need for wireless, global, continuous and unimpeded data and communications signals will continue to grow. For PNT reliant systems, the data and signals are essential, and our role as industry experts to protect them is more critical than ever.

Critical systems require extensive testing, that will increasingly require sophisticated simulation to assess real world performance for missions that cannot afford to fail. For consumer technologies, simulation helps ensure that we can rely on our personal devices and trust them to perform as promised.

While testing, simulation and Resilient PNT technologies can keep us online, we also need to know when our data has been compromised. Today’s adversaries are developing more sophisticated GNSS jamming and spoofing methods, and they can be so subtle that you’d never know they were there.

While resilient technologies and testing through simulation can provide confidence that your system will overcome certain known threats, there are always new threats that we can’t test for today. As a result, alerting systems that can detect and inform you when you’re under attack are fundamental for critical systems.

The PNT kit of the future will need to ensure continuous, reliable PNT data and access to GNSS signals, while protecting against emerging threats. It also needs to provide high data transfer capacity and hub technology to integrate data from multiple remote sources. These needs are immediate, and bolt-on solutions can provide the fastest route to a system upgrade.

It’s also important to realize that a single upgrade won’t be enough. Continuous system testing through simulation, developing new solutions to defeat new threats, and Interference Detection and Mitigation (IDM) technologies are needed to close the loop and maintain system integrity over time.

With these emerging technologies to look forward to, it’s an exciting time for our industry, global businesses and consumers. With Resilient PNT and GNSS systems, along with better data integration and processing, we can trust this new technology to tell us the truth and keep us safe, while enabling us to reach for the stars and understand our world in ways that we’ve never been able to do before.

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