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GNSS Believer

Glen globe Russia 07-201.jpgEditor Glen Gibbons points to Inside GNSS headquarters, located in a small town in an obscure region far, far away from GNSS politics.
GNSS advocacy isn’t a referendum on political systems or the policies they espouse or the actions they take.

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Technology-agnostic. Now there’s an interesting term.

I first heard it from engineering staff at the Federal Communications Commission as they backpedaled away from a premature assumption that network-based solutions would meet the agency’s E911 mandate for wireless phones. After, that is, their assumption was confronted with a more accurate, more far-reaching GPS technology.

“Technology-agnostic” was the agency’s way of saying it wouldn’t pick sides in the solutions that carriers came up with to meet the mandate. Instead, they would proceed without prejudice in matters of selecting, nurturing, or applying technology.

Which, as it turns out, was fortunate, because GPS has come to dominate the E911 field and helped build a platform for location-based services (LBS) as well.

Besides, technology-agnostic has such a fine post-Enlightenment ring to it, connoting an analytical, studied approach to things. No close-minded, preemptive embrace of this or that technology because of passion, prejudice, or provenance.

But it’s something of a misnomer. Because “agnostic” arose in the context of religious faith, suggesting that the existence or nonexistence of god or ultimate being could not be asserted because it was fundamentally unknowable or indemonstrable.

And the context for most of the talk about technology agnosticism really has to do with finding out, with determining in an even-handed way, not merely the “best of breed” but best among breeds.

So, maybe “technology-neutral” would be a better term.

In any case, when it comes to space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), I’m neither technology-agnostic nor technology-neutral.

I’m a GNSS believer.
I’m for it.
I’m a big fan.

Of course, first I was a GPS believer.
Still am.
But then I became a GLONASS believer. (Still am.)
Next I became a Galileo believer. (Still am, but sometimes our faith is sorely tried).
Now it’s looks like I’m going to become a Compass believer.
So, all in all, it’s simpler just to say that I’m a GNSS believer.

Of course, this ecumenical attitude doesn’t always go down well with the GNSS zealots of one stripe or another. The unilateralists. The exclusive, nationalistic, “our way or the highway” true believers.

Ever since I put an article about GLONASS — then operated by the Soviet Union —into the first issue of a magazine ostensibly just about GPS, I’ve heard these complaints. Same thing when I brought out a magazine about Galileo.

Any time I say something favorable about any GNSS system but their favorite one, someone inevitably writes in questioning my intelligence, my patriotism, and/or my sanity – not necessarily in that order.

Naturally, most people probably like their GNSS best — or the ideal GNSS they’d like to have. Certainly, I can’t help but share my fellow Americans’ pride in the amazing, pioneering accomplishment of GPS.

But I’d still like to see other GNSS systems succeed as well. Manufacturers and service providers and users would all benefit by having access to more signals from more independent — but interoperable — GNSSes.

GNSS advocacy isn’t a referendum on national governments, the policies they espouse, or the actions they take (or don’t take) from one week to the next. Heck, if that were the case, I’d have only been in favor of GPS about 10 percent of the time for the last eight years. (And about 20 percent of the time for the eight years before that.)

GNSS isn’t a football match where we cheer for the team in red or the team in blue.

The world has many phone systems, many television channels and Internet sites, many sources of electrical power. The world has highways and railroads and airlines built and maintained under the auspices of many nations. We benefit from them usually without thinking twice.

Why shouldn’t it be the same with GNSS?
Well, of course, it should be.

Inside GNSS magazine is a media sponsor of Navi Forum 2007 in Shanghai, China on December 5-7. Meet up with Glen Gibbons there.

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