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“I prefer users and professionals with natural intelligence over those with artificial intelligence”

Oct 2022 | No Comment

Ing. Jirí Svaton

Msc. in wireless communications, Ph.D. in radio electronicss at Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) He was a postdoc for a short time at EPFL Lausanne (2021) and is currently a scientist at CTU. Jiri also teaches and leads students in signals and systems and radio-positioning. His professional interest is the effective processing of GNSS and general radio-positioning signals and their receivers’ construction. He was a Czech Institute of Navigation (CzIN) president from 2016 – 2020.

Would you like to tell us about the Cesky Institut Navigace (CZIN) such as its objectives, recent activities and achievements?

Český institut navigace (original name in Czech language, CzIN in abbreviation. Czech Institute of Navigation in English) is a nonprofit professional society for those interested in navigation in the Czech (and Slovak, former states of Czechoslovakia) republic. The CzIN was founded in 1994 (a few years after the Velvet revolution). Nevertheless, the history of a group of founders led by prof. František Vejražka goes back to the turn of the 60’ and 70’ to means for radars, aircraft radio-positioning, and satellite navigation. Therefore, most of the CzIN members and institute focus historically steams from the field of radio engineering.

CzIN is still one of the small-sized institutes (<100 members). However, Institute is still successful in recruiting young members. I want to remind two milestones in the last decade. Institute changed its abbreviation from the original CIN to the current CzIN (in favor of the China Institute of Navigation). And CzIN was an organizer of the World Congress of the International Association of Institutes of Navigation in Prague in 2015.

What according to you, is the general scenario of navigation technology in terms of status, trends, and challenges?

I depict the current era as a reconciliation with the physical limits of traditional GNSS in the users’ community and failure to fulfill a dream of a world covering “backup to GPS” in the professional community. GNSS is a “high bar” that is heavy to be overcome on the level of accuracy, availability, continuity, Therefore, some applications like indoor are on their own path. However, both communities look up to a “new deal” in the sense of new GNSS services like high accuracy and authentication and outlook to next-gen positioning, eventually new systems on LEO.

Are these trends anyway different in Europe in general or in the Czech Republic in particular?

What are major emerging application areas of these technologies? One decade ago, I admired the dynamic start of BeiDou 2, and my passion was the new S-band signal reception of Indian IRNSS. I envied the Asia region’s revolutionary dynamic in the GNSS field. The development in Europe was more evolutionary. However, the dynamic is comparable now. We are at the same starting point in this era. Europe is ready to be the same innovative leader with the experiences with our Galileo. The Czech Republic’s specific, as a country in the center of Europe, is its lack of sea and navy. Therefore we suffer a little from a lack of this traditionally vital part of the navigation community. Nevertheless, we even verified the navigational specifics of the river cruise. And our strong automotive industry is on the other side with its requirements for GNSS products integration and testing. Prague is also the headquarters of Galileo, the EUSPA agency respective. Therefore, a substantial rise of activity is currently in the Czech space industry, with requests for space navigation and communication.

This is a world of multi-GNSS systems. What advantages do you see about this scenario?

In a few words – by high confidence for GNSS accuracy, availability, … . The user’s experience is incomparable to the state before, even for non-professionals. However, in backflash to one of the previous questions, the physical limits and problems of current GNSS are the same.

What influences you envisage in satellite navigation in the near future given the advancements in the field of AI, Autonomous Vehicles, etc.?

As a GNSS professional, I prefer users and professionals with natural intelligence over those with artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, AI is a truly helpful tool for partial tasks. It facilitates scientific research in many ways. Some new challenges are numerically demanding and are not practically solvable without AI. AI certainly does not replace a GNSS professional; it generates new interesting ones. In the sense of autonomous driving, all radio navigation means and inertial sensors must be fused with new progressive means like visual (camera and lidar) perception. And AI can be used like the common alphabet for both worlds. It is a further opportunity to teach and apply something new for traditional GNSS.

How do you think the GNSS positioning technology can take the advantages of other positioning technologies cell phones, Bluetooth and WiFi, etc?

In this area, we periodically study for years. We always hoped for any kind of wide-area usable “GPS backup” by Signal of Opportunity (SoP). Signals of digital wide-band communication and broadcast services promise superior ranging (Time of Flight) parameters. But the snag is in the infrastructure, optimizing its geometry for data transmission, not for positioning. The terrestrial propagation is a complication too. However, technologically more accessible (3G/4G) cell ID or (WiFi) fingerprinting-oriented positioning aiding services have found a way to our mobile phones in the meantime. We also should remind one reasonable solution in the field of area-limited indoor positioning. It is ultra-wideband positioning. My personal wish in the future is a ranging, not only fingerprinting-based system. It can be like Locata or NextNav, but wider area available and affordable.

Do you think that with the increasing dependence on GNSS, how do you perceive the threats like interference, jamming and spoofing?

We are faced with critical problems with jamming even nowadays. The jamming of the tolling system and close to airport areas were also identified in our country. Do we have better reasons to search for next-gen GNSS than the mixture of jamming, spoofing, requirements for autonomous mobility, and safety of live services?

As you are engaged in GNSS education, would you mention the ongoing research trends the key challenges in education?

The crucial part of our lessons is still the same solid basics of conventional approaches in radio-positioning, signals, systems, signal processing, and PVT computation. And on this basis, we start to teach advances like vector and in-frequency domain tracking and acquisition, direct and distributed positioning. We search for convergence of all these stages. We also pay attention to common theory with communication signals because next-gen navigation and SoP signals will be based on the same principles. Soon will be necessary to start teaching algorithms for new authentication and high-accuracy services, mainly for Galileo in our region. There are many challenges in research and education.

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