GNSS: What next?

Jan 2008 | No Comment

Preserving the seeds

F Michael Swiek
Executive Director
United States GPS Industry Council

In looking ahead at what milestones we may expect to see during 2008 in the world of GPS and GNSS it is easy to be caught at one of two extremes. The first extreme would be to make the mistake of the shortsighted person who in the late nineteenth century proposed that the US Patent Office should be closed because everything conceivable had already been invented. The other extreme would be to look ahead at the promise of new constellations, signals and capabilities and claim that the door is only just beginning to open on the full wonder of the utility of satnav technology, and that myriads of amazing and unexpected applications and benefits will continue to spew forth in unbounded torrents from the creative fountainheads of the global satnav community.

To be sure, it is a bit difficult to expect or imagine truly revolutionary developments in the actual hardware of satellite navigation. GPS engines and chip sets are now available at commodity prices and in sizes and configurations small enough to allow full satnav capability to be built into almost GNSS: What next? any appliance or device. In some ways, satellite navigation has become more of a feature to be incorporated or even expected in a wide range of devices, rather than a stand-alone piece of equipment in the mass market. So, while revolutionary developments in hardware are not likely to be major milestones in 2008, we no doubt can expect to see a continuing impressive evolution of satnav hardware, bringing improved performance in signal processing, interference rejection, power consumption and a host of other metrics, required by the ever increasing demands of integrating satnav capability with a growing array of other technologies and systems in a wide variety of applications.

Now don’t get me wrong, evolutionary development in satnav capabilities can be quite exciting. One of the most exciting frontiers and biggest challenges is integrating the actual satnav function with other technologies and sources of communications, data and information to forge truly unique and revolutionary “milestones” in applications. As we see in the other articles addressing the topic of milestones in this issue of Coordinates, individual companies are continuing to pour resources into R&D efforts that will bring some very interesting and valuable products to market in the coming year. The industry and market are dynamic and vibrant, the breadth of applications is stunning, and the prospects exciting. There will undoubtedly be impressive and even astonishing new applications emerging, some from unanticipated directions. This is the most thrilling aspect of satnav: vitality that knows no bounds, and the freedom to incorporate or adapt satnav capability into almost any area. The limits seem to be bounded only by imagination, creativity, financing to a degree, and in some cases, the laws of physics. The laws of man, and their regulations have placed few, if any, obstacles or barriers to this dynamic global effort.

Another strong possibility in the coming year is that we will see some tangible milestones in the progress, and perhaps even initial deployment of new satellites with new capabilities. This may take place as existing operational systems such as GPS and GLONASS continue to update and modernize. We may also see emerging and proposed systems such as GALILEO, Japan’s QZSS, India’s GAGAN and China’s COMPASS move closer to reality. Any milestones reached by these systems during 2008 are likely to raise further questions of just how they will contribute to the global satnav mix of options, and whether they will prove to be valuable commercial assets.

One of the key questions as these new systems approach reality is whether their technological milestones will contribute and add to the innovative vitality and global commercial success that GPS has provided to the worldwide satnav community. For over 20 years, the GPS model of open technical standards, license free access to information, and fee-free market development has stimulated adoption of satnav technology in almost every conceivable aspect of public infrastructure and consumer life with revolutionary results. Technological milestones have been impressive, many, and truly global. The pressing question now is not whether the new systems will reach their milestones, but instead, as they do achieve their technical, and more importantly their administrative and political milestones, will they continue the open environment for technological development and global acceptance of satellite navigation.

LBS and car telematics

Miguel Angel Martínez Olagüe
Director of Corporate Business Development,

GMV So far GNSS mass market applications and services have grown much slower than it was initially forecasted; only car navigators have penetrated significantly in consumer’s life. If we look at market forecasts produced by most consultancy firms by the end of last century, killer consumer market applications such as personal LBS and car telematics should have penetrated much more strongly in our every day routines. It seems that in 2008 there is new chance to see major breakthroughs in both cases.

On the one hand A-GPS, high sensitivity receivers and software receivers will at last facilitate the implementation of GNSS receivers in most mobile phone handsets, even in the cheapest models. The combination of those three technologies allows for low consuming, high availability positioning in mobile devices at negligible production marginal cost. For sure once the base of mobile users equipped with a GNSS capability is large, telecom operators and service providers will start to exploit such capability to offer new, imaginative and low cost LBS.

On the other hand, three GNSS based car telematic services will experiment a major step forward during 2008. Firstly main insurance companies will launch pay per use car insurance schemes during this year. Secondly the park of users of driver assistance and e-call services will reach several tens of millions in the USA and will experiment a major growth in the rest of the world.

Finally and perhaps the most relevant milestone will be the confirmation in Holland for a plan of the first nationwide scale road charging scheme based on GNSS so far in the world. The combination of those three events will bring in 2008 expectatives of killer business cases that will boost car telematics growth. This context will motivate investment in combination of several of those services in the same on board unit and its integration at automotive OEM scale. During 2008 it can be expected the release of several multipurpose GNSS based on board units integrated in the car at OEM scale at extremely low cost.

GNSS further strengthened

Bruce Peetz
Vice President of Advanced
Technology and Systems, Trimble

In 2008, China will likely release a user equipment interface specification for the Beidou system, enabling the design of commercial user equipment. Releasing a system specification early has worked well for European Global Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS), scheduled to be officially operational in 2008. The EGNOS milestone is significant for aviation from a regulatory point of view, however many commercial users have been successfully using EGNOS for years because of the availability of commercial equipment made possible by the early specification release.

Russia plans two launches in 2008, which could lead to as many as 22 orbiting GLONASS satellites, within range of a full 24 satellite constellation (21 broadcasting / 3 spares). This would provide a full measure of redundancy for GPS/GLONASS users and perhaps move GLONASS from an augmentation to an independent positioning system for the first time since 1995.

The GPS system plans to launch the remaining 3 block IIR-M satellites, and take delivery of the first IIF satellite in 2008, filling out more of the constellation with civilian L2 capability using the new signal. The block IIF delivery also sets the stage for third frequency, L5.

All this was made possible by the most important and overlooked milestone of 2007, the GPS architecture evolution program (AEP) ground control upgrade of September 14. This milestone was important because it put into place the capability of controlling the entire feature set of the remaining block II satellites, and overlooked because it changed over from an old mainframe and software to a distributed platform with new software without anyone noticing an operational transition. This demonstrates that maintaining operations during major upgrades is achievable.

A revolutionary impact

Keith D McDonald
Chairman, NavtechGPS

Recently, I came across an impressive statistic from the U.S. Department of Commerce in “Trends in Space Commerce” relating to the GPS (and GNSS) industry. It indicated that for the past few years over 100 Million GPS receivers have been sold annually with a value in excess of $20b!

This, to me, is indeed impressive but it also demonstrates that the design, technology and manufacturing advances in the production of GPS receivers has resulted in a dramatic reduction in their prices. When we consider that in-dash GPS units for automobiles are at about $1,000- 2,000; receivers for commercial aircraft are about $5,000-15,000; equipment for survey and geodesy is about $5,000- 30,000; it is somewhat surprising to find that the average price for a GPS receiver (from the DOC data) is at $200. This “skewing” of the data is because of the extremely large number of low cost GPS receivers in mobile phones for E911 and other location-based services. There is a virtual army of clever, competent engineering folks working very hard in a highly competitive industry to drive down the cost and improve the capabilities of GPS receivers. Many of these inexpensive units incorporate thousands to millions of correlators for reducing acquisition time; have sophisticated processing to improve operation in low signal conditions (such as indoors) and provide other techniques for enhancing overall performance. These technologies are becoming widely accepted and used.

At NavtechGPS, we waited a number of years (into the 1990’s) until some GPS receivers reached the one to five thousand dollar price range before we took them on as viable products. It’s a testament to the acceptance and rapid advancement of GPS and its related technologies that there are now some GPS units in production that (in quantity) cost about a dollar. As time progresses, the impact of GNSS devices and location-based services will escalate to be an even more significant influence in our lives. With the new, modernized GPS signals and the resurgence of international systems, such as GLONASS and Galileo, GNSS will play a larger role. It is likely that the future convenience and high value of GNSS data and applications will have a revolutionary impact on the way we manage ourselves, our relationships and our work.

The combination of the very low cost GPS position, velocity and time sensors, the improvements in related solid state devices, such as inertial sensors, and the increasing availability and use of map data bases will continue building in importance. The growth in the applications for these integrated systems appears unlimited.

Galileo is the driver

Bernhard Richter
Program Director GNSS Products,
Leica Geosystems

It is amazing to see the industry investing millions of dollars to provide Galileo capability without definite assurance that a signal will be in space anytime soon. The situation in the professional GNSS markets has become quite strange. Customers ask for products for which their full potential can only be realized in 2012 or later. Would anyo ne buy a car that would require fuel additives that are not available for another 4 years? I would guess the answer would be no.

I think we have to ask ourselves, how did the professional GNSS market get into this situation? For me the answer is simple. Galileo is the driver for modernization and this influences the buying behaviour. But there is too many powerpoint presentations, and no firm decisions within Galileo. I would like to use Frank van Diggelen’s (Broadcom) provocative little study where he computed the ratio between powerpoint presentations and number of satellites. He simply googled for “Galileo.ppt” and all the other satellite systems. The outcome was that Galileo clearly had the highest ratio, followed by GPS, Beidou and GLONASS. GLONASS and Beidou have fewer political obstacles than Galileo, but they also have the money to fulfil their ambitious plans by the end of the decade.

The technological challenges for the professional GNSS market are obvious. The race has just started for chips with even more channels, less power consumption, tighter integration, support of at least 3 GNSS systems and higher accuracy. 72 channels will certainly not be enough for the future. We as a technology leader are obliged to design products with Galileo capability, even though the user will not benefit until at least 2012. Leica Geosystems is the only manufacturer that can already offer a compliance upgrade path to all four satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou) which is based on publicly available system definitions.

Digital convergence

Sang Jeong Lee
Chungnam National University, South Korea

The increasing demand for ubiquitous positioning and navigation requires sustainable mobility in market. Although GNSS and assisted GNSS will be the core of global location technologies, the most promising technology will be made by the digital convergence with other positioning technologies such as WLAN, RFID and UWB. One of the remarkable trends will be context-sensitive services via Internet. The next phase in Web 2.0 will require the location information for sustaining the mobility. In this regard, the standardization in the mobile terminal architecture can be expected. The Software Defined Radio can make the standardized receiver architecture (both in hardware and software) implemented effectively and accommodate the interoperable GNSS signals as well. The GNSS technology milestones should include the Software Defined Radio technology which will be accelerated by the digital RF technology.

DGPS reference network

Ir. Hans Visser
Technical Manager, OmniSTAR BV

GPS In 2008 GPS remains dominant with 32 nominal Satellites. At the same time local DOP holes will remain possible as the aging GPS constellation may have multiple unhealthy satellites. Standard GPS L1 accuracy improvement will slowly start degrading as the Ionospheric activity will increase to the next solar max in 2012.

SBAS In Europe EGNOS is maturing and will finally achieve it’s in orbit validation (IOV). Working towards QZSS and Gagan will continue to operate.

Glonass Glonass will again launch 6 satellites in 2008, but at the same time the older generation of Satellites will become unhealthy leaving a 12 Glonass Satellites constellation at year’s end.
Omnistar Omnistar will replace in 2008 most of its 100 reference stations with new Glonass capable reference stations. Omnistar will expand the DGPS reference network into new areas as India, Kazakhstan and China. Omnistar will in 2008 improve the broadcasting data format to be more compressed and allow more measurement data to be sent over the 12 worldwide satellite links. Omnistar HP converge time will again improve. Also in 2008 Omnistar’s worldwide 10 cm accuracy system will improve gradually. Omnistar will add three new geostationary L-band correction satellites in America (AORW), Europe (AORE) and Asia (IOR). Omnistar corrections over cellular phone will start with pilot projects.

Industry consolidation

John Pottle
Director of Spirent Communications

Everywhere one looks, there is evidence that GNSS is hitting the mainstream. New signals, new applications, new lower prices, better maps, more accuracy… everything points to the acceleration of the navigation and positioning revolution. In 2008, we are looking forward to:

Galileo will the Galileo project forge ahead in 2008 or be tarnished by some of the organisation and funding issues that we have all read about recently? My prediction is that 2008 will be a good year for Galileo. Confidence will build and developers will start to seriously look at adding Galileo compatibility to receivers.

Compass the industry is hungry for more information about the intriguing Compass system. Perhaps it will become available during 2008? The Chinese have indicated their intention to make information available on the open Compass signal(s), something we all look forward to understanding more about.

GLONAS more launches recently, with more in prospect, and the potential for CDMA technology in future, make GLONASS a serious GNSS that is receiving increasing interest already. This looks set to continue through 2008.

Industry consolidation is likely to continue. Of particular note already are the emergence of Broadcomm (with the Global Locate deal) and Cambridge Silicon Radio (with the CPS and NordNav deals). A-GPS location applications growth: we have been waiting for cellphone-based location applications for many years. With a few exceptions (eg. Korea, Japan) we are still waiting. 2008 could be the year that this will change. The key enabler is the Secure User Plane Location technology that enables handset manufacturers and others to offer services direct to users in a network-agnostic way. Finally, is the increasing work ongoing on receiver and antenna technology. From GPS M-code user equipment projects in the USA to adaptive antenna technology, these developments are certainly moving forward and will improve still further the GNSS capabilities across all application areas.

A myriad of different devices

Thomas Seiler
u-blox CEO

In mobile telephones, positioning information provided by GPS receivers has become as common as Bluetooth. The major trend in 2008 will be growth in GPS attachments in a myriad of different electronic devices. We anticipate significant breakthroughs in many areas of the consumer electronic market, resulting from falling costs in integrating positioning functionalities. This has made the price of GPS negligible. The industry has reached a level of maturity that makes the availability of positioning information of true value to users of handheld devices. Today maps, points of interest and other information are readily available, something that was not the case only two years ago.

The main drivers of the industry are identifiable. Firstly, continued improvements in mobile connectivity with the many different wireless communication technologies available make internet connection possible, almost anywhere. Modern mobile devices require accurate positioning information to be useful. Here wireless and positioning technologies play hand-in-hand in providing additional user benefits. Thus we believe that more and more mobile terminals will include an integrated GPS receiver.

Secondly, the economic benefits derived from navigation information boost the demand for GSP receivers and wider scopes of their application. Market penetration should continue to increase, with alone the sales of Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) being predicted to double in 2008.When the promised modernizations of GPS and commissioning of the GALILEO satellite systems are finally realized, better signal quality will allow further expansion in the range of positioning applications. Current receiver technology has reached a very sophisticated and mature level so that innovation will again be accelerated by the new capabilities provided by the satellites.

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