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October 31, 2007

Location India 2008

This BtoB conference and exhibition includes three seminars on positioning technology for fleet management, location based services, and vehicle navigation. Technical sessions also cover locational intelligence, business GIS, emerging technologies, agricultural applications, and marine vessel management.

The event takes place in the India Expo Center in the planned community of Greater Noida, near Delhi. The conference hotel is Radisson Hotel Noida.

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By Inside GNSS
October 22, 2007

Envisioning a Future: GNSS System of Systems, Part 1

We have just made the transition into the new year of 2007. Most of us probably already have our eyes focused onto the next 12 months along with some wishes and perspectives that we would like to have fulfilled in the coming 365 days.

We have just made the transition into the new year of 2007. Most of us probably already have our eyes focused onto the next 12 months along with some wishes and perspectives that we would like to have fulfilled in the coming 365 days.

In the same spirit, over the next two issues of Inside GNSS this column will take a look into the near future and — what is even more exciting — into the further future of satellite navigation. But what that future will look like depends to an enormous extent on what the past was; so, we should have first a look back into the roots of GNSS.

Long ago the Americans entered the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) era with the Global Positioning System (GPS) as the result of efforts that began in the late 1960s. The Russians followed soon afterwards (or did they do it in parallel?) with GLONASS. Both of these systems are now undergoing extensive modernization. Moreover, the European Galileo system is joining the GNSS club, and China is now planning its own version called Compass.

In the meantime lots of augmentation and regional systems have been developed or are currently under consideration. From military to civil signals, from medium Earth orbit (MEO) to geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) and inclined geosynchronous orbits (IGSO), the palette of systems and offered services is as wide as imagination allows.

Is it not time, therefore, to pause and think for a moment about where we want GNSS to move? Is it not already time to really “think global” and to coordinate and harmonize all the existing and projected navigation satellite systems? If so, then the question naturally arises: what should the “Global Navigation Satellite System of Systems” look like?

This column will try to shed some light on the fascinating new world of GNSS in which we will live around the year 2020 if all the currently modernizing and planned new systems come into reality. It will be a complex world where the word “coordination” will be the key and from which, if we do it right, users will be the ones that will profit the most. After all, why should a GNSS user really care about whether one of his or her signals comes from GPS, the other from Galileo, the third from GLONASS and the fourth from Compass as long as the GNSS receiver works well?

Scenes from the Present

Today only GPS is fully operational. Nevertheless, Russia hopes to return GLONASS to full operation capability (FOC) with a completed constellation by 2009, and Galileo’s FOC is now expected in 2012. Compass is already knocking on the door, and in spite of the fact that China has still a long way to go and lengthy negotiations will be needed, a scenario of four global coverage satellite systems seems to be very likely in a future not so far away from today.

From the experience with Galileo, we know how important the roles of interoperability and compatibility with GPS were from the very beginning. Unfortunately, major differences between those two systems and GLONASS still exist.

However, also on the GPS/GLONASS side, work on attaining real interoperability is continuing. Just recently during the GPS/GLONASS Working Group 1 meeting in December 2006, both sides emphasized the benefit to the user community that a common approach concerning FDMA/CDMA would bring in terms of interoperability. The Russian side announced that they will come to a decision on adding or converting to a CDMA format by the end of 2007. The formal U.S.-Russia statement can be viewed at
<http://www.glonass-ianc.rsa.ru/i/glonass/joint_statement_eng.pdf>.

 

The direction in which COMPASS will go remains a large unknown. In fact, if the need of standardization was always there, it seems that the concept is gaining in interest the more systems come into play.

But before dreaming with our ideal GNSS, let us first look more closely into what the current reality is and what the plans for new GNSS systems are.

(For the rest of this story, please download the complete article using the PDF link above)

By
October 20, 2007

GNSS for the Masses

Oh, yes, to be sure — they are really impressive numbers: the steep upward curve of unit and dollar (or euro or ruble or renminbi) sales volumes now that GNSS has hit the big time.

Whether it’s $25 billion today or $68 billion in 2010, the worldwide market has really taken off since consumers have discovered — almost by accident, in many cases — the amazing power of GNSS-driven products and services.

Ah, consumers. The mass market.

Rich! We’ll all be rich beyond our wildest imaginings!

Oh, yes, to be sure — they are really impressive numbers: the steep upward curve of unit and dollar (or euro or ruble or renminbi) sales volumes now that GNSS has hit the big time.

Whether it’s $25 billion today or $68 billion in 2010, the worldwide market has really taken off since consumers have discovered — almost by accident, in many cases — the amazing power of GNSS-driven products and services.

Ah, consumers. The mass market.

Rich! We’ll all be rich beyond our wildest imaginings!

Sometimes this new-found excitement about size brings to mind the character played by Danny DeVito in the movie “Twins,” who is told what will be paid for some stolen property that he has accidentally gotten hold of.

“Five million dollars,” his says in disbelief. “Five million dollars.”

Only we’re talking billions here. Even if we’re not exactly sure how many billions, because everybody seems to count the GNSS value-add differently.

At a certain point the situation becomes like the chain of restaurants that used to post its cumulative total of hamburger sales on the outlet signs. Eventually, the company just started saying, “Billions and billions served.” But before we get swept away by all the geocaching and friend-finding and child-tracking, let’s take another look at that value chain leading to the mass market.

Fabrication technology delivers some amazing results — no question about it. But the distinctive value of GNSS is not to be discovered in the foundries of Taiwan or China. Rather, it arises from the imaginations and hard work of engineers and signal designers around the world.

Last time I checked, silicon, germanium, etc. were still inorganic substances. But it’s the organic life-forms – more, the intelligence behind the life-forms — that brings the engineering value to GNSS consumer products. It’s not how fine you etch the lines on ever-thinner slices of silicon; more important are the algorithms that drive the electrons along those circuits.

In other words, silicon is the clay, not the potter.

As Intel has pointed out for years, it’s what goes in before the plastic goes on that makes the difference in a product. Better algorithms mean reduced instruction sets, which mean fewer gates, smaller components, and lower bills of materials. Only then do the GUIs and LCDs begin to make sense.

So, if silicon isn’t really where the value lies, where is it? Fundamentally, we can trace that value chain back to signal processing and software. Software for applications, and signal processing with which to define and drive the products.

Behind the signal processing, of course, lie the signals themselves. That’s where the digital gold rush truly begins. And the world’s providers of GNSS signals are opening up the mine fields.

GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and probably Compass are bringing dozens (if you count the data and pilot channels separately) of new and better signals to the marketplace, particularly in those portions of the RF spectrum favored by designers of consumer products.

That means before we can get to the glitz and glamour of retail GNSS — the concept stores, the lovely models laden with PNDs — engineers will have to pass through new labyrinths: the equations, the computations, the schematics, the bench tests, the field trials, the prototypes, and all the rest.

Yes, it’s true. GNSS is now for the masses. And yet, before the tabulation must come the innovation.

glen@insidegnss.com

 

By Inside GNSS

A System of Systems

Cruising around out here in Oregon, far outside the D.C. Beltway on the golden sunset side of the American dream, listening to the radio, I realize I have a little signal availability problem of my own sometimes.

Cruising around out here in Oregon, far outside the D.C. Beltway on the golden sunset side of the American dream, listening to the radio, I realize I have a little signal availability problem of my own sometimes.

As I head home to Eugene after visiting a few produce stands out in the country, my favorite classic rock station over in Corvallis begins to fade in and out. The backup station of choice is coming in strong — but it’s pumping out a marathon set of advertisements. Finally, I reach my fallback — a public radio station at the local high school, and we’re back in the groove.

Coming back from the recent Institute of Navigation conference in Fort Worth, Texas, I reflect once again on how happy I’m in the GNSS business, and that GPS is getting some company out there in space. Because, great as the Global Positioning System is — and it’s been great for the past 18 years at least — it’s time the system had some backup (and that other national budgets began carrying some of the financial weight, too).

Robustness, redundancy, availability, interoperability. Like FM radio, these are the qualities that make a GNSS system of systems such a desirable goal — for GNSS product manufacturers and location services providers, for end users, and for the nations building critical infrastructures and national security policies on space-based positioning, navigation, and time.

The recent ION GNSS event underlined just how vigorously that goal is being pursued around the world.

On Monday before the conference’s opening, the U.S. Air Force reported a successful launch of the second modernized GPS Block IIR satellite with new military and civil signals and announced another launch in November. Meanwhile, program officials were waiting patiently to hear Europe’s decision on whether BOC (1,1) or multiplexed BOC signals would become the common L1 civil signal waveform for future GPS and Galileo satellites.

From Russia we heard of a new commitment to bring a modernized GLONASS system on line rapidly, to expand it to embrace true civil and commercial utility, and — mirabile dictu! — to consider adding CDMA signals to its basic FDMA transmissions. And, remember, over the past three years, GLONASS is the only GNSS system that has delivered its satellites into space as scheduled.

Finally, European officials, public and private, expressed a new responsiveness to widespread pressure to release Galileo’s open-service signal specs to commercial development – without licensing fees, favoritism, or other foolishness. Not a done deal, by any means, but certainly a nod in the right direction.

In these developments, we can see the beneficial effects of having multiple systems jostling for the limelight. Like celestial bodies in motion around one another, they manifest a gravitational pull. Indeed, the emergence of GNSSes (plural) has demonstrated an institutional version of Newton’s First Law. No longer can those bodies remain at rest, or undisturbed on courses defined only by their own motion.

Yes, GPS is still the system in this GNSS system of systems. Still the king of kings, the shahinshah, the capo di tutti capo. But this element of American exceptionalism is waning, as Galileo and GLONASS wax ever more confidently — to the betterment of all three and the benefit of a world in which the GNSS utility is making a permanent home.

A system of systems and each, a system among systems.

glen@insidegnss.com

 

By Inside GNSS

Turning Point

Historians sometimes speak of the Axial Age, referring to an ancient era that saw the coincident appearance of major religious and philosophical movements in widely scattered regions of the world. It represented a turning point in the course of human affairs.

This first decade of the 21st century may prove to be the Axial Age of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) community. Consider these signs and portents:

The U.S. Global Positioning System is poised to regain its momentum and sense of direction.

Historians sometimes speak of the Axial Age, referring to an ancient era that saw the coincident appearance of major religious and philosophical movements in widely scattered regions of the world. It represented a turning point in the course of human affairs.

This first decade of the 21st century may prove to be the Axial Age of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) community. Consider these signs and portents:

The U.S. Global Positioning System is poised to regain its momentum and sense of direction.

Russia’s GLONASS system is showing a sustained and growing resurgence.

And Europe has launched GIOVE A, the first prototype spacecraft for a 30-satellite constellation scheduled to come on-line over the next few years.

Regional augmentation systems adding accuracy and navigation signals to the basic GNSSes are being built by the United States, Europe, India, and Japan. And we may still not have seen the last of the full-fledged GNSSes, if reports of China’s continuing interest in building its own system prove true.

Until now, positioning has been a lot like the weather: everybody talked about it, but nobody did anything about it. They couldn’t — not practically, not without affordable, accessible tools and the techno-cultural sensibilities to bring it about. It was as though we were talking about time before the advent of the pocket watch.

Part of this situation arises from the human psyche itself: we usually have this innate and immediate sense of where we are and where we’re going. We may even think we know where the kids are. So, why would we ever need a positioning device, whatever that is?

And yet, these are highly subjective and relative sensibilities. It’s the locational equivalent of telling time by looking at the sun or trying to recall whether the last round of cathedral bells called out Matins or Lauds.

Of course, despite appearances, all time is relative (or perhaps not), if only in relationship to the excitations of a cesium atom. So, too, is location, which depends on a map datum to sort out the places from the spaces, or positioning, which uses mathematical strategems to make sense of the folly of the geoid. And those constructs have beginning points and terms of reference that are thoroughly conventional, not divine.

Slowly, steadily, but with an ever-growing momentum, GNSS-driven applications of accurate time and location are entering the popular imagination. Today, hundreds of millions of people are walking around with GPS receivers in their pockets — whether they know it or not. And literally billions are benefiting from the myriad uses to which the technology is being put.

Yes, the portals may be swinging open to a land of milk and honey for GNSS manufacturers, engineers, and users. And, then again, maybe the doors will swing shut again.

All three systems have reached a kind of unsteady equilibrium, a balance of the forces driving them ahead and those that would slow them down or drive them aside from their charted courses. The way ahead is neither predestined nor foretold. It will depend upon the energy, attention, skills, and motives of many people around the world.

Nonetheless, having spent the past 16 years chronicling the adventures of the GNSS community, I enter this era with more hope and expectation than ever about the prospects for this amazing utility. I believe that we are at a historic turning point in technology.

This magazine, then, will serve as a vehicle for carrying the continuing story of this community into a new phase, a new age of GNSS.

glen@insidegnss.com

 

By Inside GNSS
September 26, 2007

International Symposium on GPS/GNSS 2008

An annual conference that rotates among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the International Symposium on GPS/GNSS 2008 will be held at the Tokyo International Exchange Center (TIEC).

It is organized by the GPS/GNSS Society of the Japan Institute of Navigation and hosted by Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

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By Glen Gibbons
September 21, 2007

GSM Mobile World Congress 2008

The Mobile World Congress (formerly 3GSM World Congress) combines the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry – mobile operators, content owners, and vendors from around the world –  with a conference where CEO- and board-level speakers will discuss industry issues and trends. It will take place at Fira de Barcelona-Montjuic, a convention complex in a historical district of the city.

The event is sponsored by GSMA, the mobile phone operators trade association. 

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By Inside GNSS
September 18, 2007

Seventh Symposium on Frequency Standards and Metrology

Forum on advanced clocks and oscillators, and their applications in science and metrology. It brings together those engaged in the development of precise frequency standards and clocks, the study of their underlying physics, and their applications in metrology and tests of fundamental laws.

The conference began in 1971 and is held every seven years. It is organized around single sequential sessions with oral presentations on each topic plus poster sessions. It will include keynotes by internationally recognized speakers and social events.

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By Inside GNSS
September 16, 2007

ION NTM 2008 — Institute of Navigation National Technical Meeting

Exploring Future Uses of Navigation Technology

The Institute of Navigation’s 2008 National Technical Meeting will focus on how the existing sources of navigation technology will be enhanced to provide improvements to the user community. This community will include everyone from civilians using a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to improve their commute to work, to astronauts using a new planned navigation architecture to complete a permanent presence on the moon and then venture on to Mars.

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By Glen Gibbons
September 1, 2007

The MBOC Modulation

As emphasized in the European Commission (EC) “white paper” on European transport policy for 2010, the European Union (EU) needs an independent satellite navigation system. Galileo is Europe’s contribution to the global navigation satellite system of systems (GNSS) and has committed itself from the very beginning to developing a signal plan that would provide sufficient independence from GPS, while also being compatible and interoperable with it.

As emphasized in the European Commission (EC) “white paper” on European transport policy for 2010, the European Union (EU) needs an independent satellite navigation system. Galileo is Europe’s contribution to the global navigation satellite system of systems (GNSS) and has committed itself from the very beginning to developing a signal plan that would provide sufficient independence from GPS, while also being compatible and interoperable with it.

The historic Agreement on the Promotion, Provision, and Use of Galileo and GPS Satellite-Based Navigation Systems and Related Applications between the United States and the European Commission (EC) signed in 2004, wherein both parties agreed to work together, affected the originally planned Galileo signals but has intensified the cooperation on interoperability and compatibility issues between Galileo and GPS for the maximum benefit of GNSS users worldwide.

The final touch to the Galileo signal plan was achieved in 2006 when the Working Group on GPS and Galileo compatibility and interoperability, under the auspices of the 2004 agreement, finally settled on a new modulation for the common signal in the E1/L1 frequency, namely the multiplex binary offset carrier, or MBOC for short. This decision was pursuant to efforts mainly driven by the European side and fully recognized by the U.S. representatives.

The journey to the signals Galileo has today for its baseline has been tedious and long, but from the outset the journey has followed a consistent logic. At the very beginning, one of the main challenges that Galileo set for itself was to offer three wideband signals, satisfying at the same time the requirements of the mass market and pushing the potential performance of the navigation signals to their natural limits.

This article will try to shed some light on the long process that has led to the signal baseline we have today. Special care will be placed on describing all the modulations of the final Galileo Signal Plan.

(For the rest of this story, please download the complete article using the link above.)

By Inside GNSS
August 20, 2007

IGNSS 2007

Sponsored by the Australia-based International GNSS Society, Inc., the IGNSS 2007 symposium includes open forums where users can discuss the implementation and application of GNSS and other location technologies, and voice their concerns in an interactive format with representatives from all the satellite system providers, major manufacturers and applications developers. The program will include keynote speakers, oral presentations, interactive poster sessions, panel sessions, open interactive forums and an informative trade exhibition.

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By Inside GNSS

ION GNSS 2007

The world’s oldest and largest GNSS technology conference and exhibition, the Institute of Navigation’s ION GNSS 2007 returns to the Fort Worth Convention Center. More than 260 papers presented in 36 technical sessions.  The Civil GPS Service Interface Committee (CGSIC) will meeting during the two days before the conference. Also in the days before the conference, tutorials presented by instructors from NavtechGPS and GNSS Solutions will also take place.

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By Inside GNSS
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