Industry View - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

Industry View


JAVAD GNSS Buys Data Communications Firm
(Sept. 14, 2007) Probably presaging his company’s return to the surveying field and other application markets requiring real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning, Javad Ashjaee has announced JAVAD GNSS’s purchase of ArWest Communications Corporation, a Campbell, California–based designer of wireless data communications products.


JAVAD GNSS Buys Data Communications Firm
(Sept. 14, 2007) Probably presaging his company’s return to the surveying field and other application markets requiring real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning, Javad Ashjaee has announced JAVAD GNSS’s purchase of ArWest Communications Corporation, a Campbell, California–based designer of wireless data communications products.

ArWest, founded in 2003, produces a line of narrow-band and spread spectrum radios based on digital signal processing (DSP) technology. The products are used by customers in a range of markets, including public safety, utilities, oil and gas, transportation, and agriculture as well as GNSS RTK positioning in which the ArWest radios are used to transmit correction data from base stations to mobile receivers.

Ashjaee, who first made his mark in the GPS field with a line of widely adopted Ashtech receivers used primarily for high-precision surveying, has been precluded from competing in related markets since the sale of a previous company, Javad Positioning Systems (JPS), to Topcon Corporation in 2000.

Disputes between Topcon and Javad Navigation Systems (JNS), which had the right to sell Topcon’s JPS technology and products in noncompeting markets, led to a round of litigation and arbitration that was finally resolved a few months ago. That settlement frees JAVAD GNSS to compete in all markets beginning in January 2008, Ashjaee says, when the company will introduce a new line of products.

ArWest currently is (and will continue to be) the supplier of OEM communication boards to several companies such as Leica and Topcon, two companies with a substantial presence in surveying, construction, and engineering markets.

Before the company’s president and CEO, Thomas Chanian, cofounded ArWest with CTO Gagik Harutyunyan, he was vice-president of sales for Pacific Crest. That’s a data communications company acquired by Trimble in early 2005 to augment its line of GNSS RTK products. “ArWest has the best communication technology,” says Ashjaee. “What Thomas Chanian, Gagik Harutyunyan, and their team have achieved in such a short period of time is truly impressive.”

In additional to its California headquarters, ArWest has a development center in Yerevan, Armenia, and distributors — primarily for OEM products — in Asia, Europe, and the West Coast of the United States. “I have known Javad for many years and it is my fulfilled dream to be on the same team with this GNSS legend,” says Chanian.

ArWest will operate “as a separate business unit with a big eye on JAVAD GNSS requirements,” Ashjaee says. “All the principals and employees will stay. We will expand the operation in Yerevan and hire more.”

The financial terms of the ArWest purchase were not disclosed.

ITT Snares FAA ADB-S Contract
(Sept. 14, 2007) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has named ITT Corporation as the prime contractor for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), the keystone technology of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

An initial three-year contract for White Plains, New York–based ITT is valued at $207 million for overall system integration and engineering. With options to operate and maintain the system after deployment through September 2025, the contract has a potential value of $1.86 billion.

ADS-B is designed to reduce delays and enhance safety by using precise GNSS signals rather than traditional radar to pinpoint aircraft locations. The system allows aircraft to periodically broadcast GPS-derived position, altitude, speed, and identity information using on-board transceivers. The broadcast information may be received and processed by other aircraft or ground stations for use in improved situational awareness, conflict avoidance, and airspace management.

The ITT team will work with the FAA to deploy a nationwide air traffic control surveillance network consisting of field radio sites, data processing centers, network operations centers, and equipment to enable delivery of surveillance data to air traffic control facilities.
In addition to ITT, the team includes AT&T, Thales North America, WSI, SAIC, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Aerospace Engineering, Sunhillo, Comsearch, MCS of Tampa, Pragmatics, Washington Consulting Group, Aviation Communications and Surveillance Systems (ACSS), Sandia Aerospace, and NCR Corporation.

In addition to ITT, the team includes AT&T, Thales North America, WSI, SAIC, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Aerospace Engineering, Sunhillo, Comsearch, MCS of Tampa, Pragmatics, Washington Consulting Group, Aviation Communications and Surveillance Systems (ACSS), Sandia Aerospace, and NCR Corporation.

Overlook Systems Captures JNWC Contract
(Sept. 14, 2007) The United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) has awarded Overlook Systems Technologies, Inc., a two-year GSA Order (base year plus option) for technical support to the Joint Navigation Warfare Center (JNWC) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. If fully exercised, the contract has a $100 million value.

The award coincides with the transition of the JNWC from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration to USSTRATCOM on 1 October 2007. Overlook selected Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as a teammate to provide support in response to USSTRATCOM’s June 2007 solicitation for the JNWC contract.

Chartered in 2004 by the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, JNWC’s mission is to integrate Navigation Warfare (Navwar) concepts across the Department of Defense (DoD) with a focus on operational-level warfighter support. The JNWC assesses vulnerabilities in position, navigation & timing–dependent systems and develops tactics, techniques, procedures, and mitigation strategies to enable combat effectiveness of fielded DoD operational systems.

Overlook Systems Technologies, Inc. is a professional engineering and technical services, veteran-owned small business headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, with business units in Los Angeles, California, Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Rakon Ltd. to Build Facility in China
(Sept. 14, 2007) Rakon Ltd., designer and producer of high-precision quartz crystals, oscillators, and frequency control products will build a manufacturing plan in southern China by the end of the year.

New Zealand–based Rakon will work with an unnamed Chinese partner that the company says is already part of its supply chain. In July, the company opened a new Shanghai office, which joined existing offices in Shenzhen, China, and Taipei, Taiwan.

The strong New Zealand dollar coupled with strong growth in the GPS market, in particular the personal navigation device (PND) sector, has prompted Rakon to move closer to its growing Asian markets and add to its current manufacturing bases in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and France.

The Asian region is a major business market for Rakon, with customers in the GNSS, telecommunications network timing/synchronization and aerospace industries. Rakon reportedly provides the crystal oscillators in about half of the GPS products on the market today.

SiRF Buys Centrality Communications

(July 31, 2007) San Jose, California–based SiRF Technology expects to close this fiscal quarter on its purchase of Centrality Communications, Inc., a provider of navigation processor solutions for mobile navigation devices.

In exchange for all of the outstanding capital stock of Centrality, including equity awards, SiRF has agreed to pay $283 million in a combination of cash and shares of SiRF common stock, with the exact amount to be determined at the time of closing. The boards of directors of both companies have approved the merger.

The 12-year-old SiRF, a leading provider of GPS-enabled silicon and software location platforms, has focused on low-power, high-sensitivity features and network-assisted GPS techniques.

Its SiRFstar technology is found in high-volume products from portable navigation device (PND) manufacturers such as Tom-Tom and GARMIN as well as mobile phones but has also been widely adopted by GPS OEM and ODM companies. An announcement at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, China, in April revealed that SiRFstarIII-GSC3LT architecture will provide the GPS-based location awareness for products based on the new Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007.

SiRF’s acquisition of Centrality — headquartered in Redwood City, California, but with its engineering design center based in Shanghai, China — will add a company focused on navigation infotainment systems (NIS) market and bring new multifunction system-on-a-chip (SoC) platform expertise to SiRF.

Sorting Out the Strengths. Centrality’s product families include Atlas and the higher end, richer-featured 40-channel TitanV5 technology, both designed to link readily with and provide on-chip support to a range of peripheral devices — LCDs, cameras, music, smart media, DVDs, and so forth

Kanwar Chadha, SiRF cofounder and vice-president of marketing, emphasized the “strong algorithmic differentiation” between the two companies. “SiRF has focused on algorithms which improve overall location platform; Centrality is focused on platforms that strengthen multi-media, multifunction technology.”

Chadha observed that SiRF’s acquisition strategy and in-house development over the past couple of years has focused on multifunction location platforms.

Early last year, for instance, SiRF bought TrueSpan, Inc., which had developed a silicon and software platform that incorporates OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing — a technique for transmitting large amounts of digital data over a radio wave). The move brought Sanjai Kohli, founder and chief technology officer of TrueSpan and one of the co-founders of SiRF, will back to SiRF as chief technology officer.

Earlier this year, SiRF licensed Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) technology from Skyhook Wireless, Inc., in order to create a single positioning system for wireless carriers. This system is part of SiRF’s Multimode Location Platform to be introduced later this year,

“This (Centrality) acquisition was the next logical step to add strong SOC and multimedia (MM) capabilities,” Chadha said. “We’ll come out with a range of multifunction location platforms. Some of them may be radiocentric; some may be media-centric. Some may have all of the capabilities.

“The market is not a single-product, single-requirement market,” he added. “Product development variables include functionality, price point, power consumption, performance.

Rob Baxter, Centrality’s president and CEO, said the companies will develop “an accelerated and differentiated product roadmap” for their generally complementary technologies, customer bases, and markets.

Broadcom Wraps Up Global Locate Acquisition 

(July 31, 2007) Broadcom Corporation, an Irvine, California–based $3.67-billion fabless semiconductor company focusing on wired and wireless communications, has closed its $143 million cash deal for Global Locate, Inc.
Headquartered in San Jose, California, Global Locate is an eight-year-old, privately-held, fabless provider of GPS and assisted GPS (A-GPS) semiconductor products and software.

Broadcom says it expects the demand for GPS devices to increase dramatically as the deployment of GPS in mobile phones increases. Combining Global Locate’s GPS technology with Broadcom’s Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular and other mobile technologies will provide handset makers with wireless connectivity solutions for smart phone products.

Global Locate has focused on GPS chip and navigation technology since it was founded in 1999. The company is currently producing its third generation of GPS chips and has developed a worldwide GPS reference network that provides assistance data to its A-GPS-equipped chips via cellular data channels (GPRS or 3G) as well as long-term orbit (LTO) solutions to provide assistance even when a network connection is not available.

While many existing GPS solutions consist of two chips, with a separate baseband and radio, Global Locate has integrated both into a single-chip CMOS design in its Hammerhead GPS product line.

Targeting mobile device market segments has frequently brought the company into frequent competition with SiRF Technology for customer accounts. Last year, Global Locate wrested away part of an exclusive SiRF OEM GPS provider relationship with TomTom, a manufacturer of high-volume consumer GPS products. SiRF subsequently sued Global Locate, alleging patent infringements, and the two companies have been locked in litigation since then.

A portion of the consideration payable to the stockholders of Global Locate was placed into escrow pursuant to the terms of the acquisition agreement. Additional consideration of up to $80 million in cash will be reserved for future payment to the former holders of Global Locate capital stock and other rights upon satisfaction of certain future performance goals.

Robert A. Rango, senior vice-president and general manager of Broadcom’s Wireless Connectivity Group said the purchase will add Global Locate’s more than 175 issued and pending U.S. and foreign patents to Broadcom’s IP portfolio of more than 2,000 U.S. and 800 foreign patents and more than 6,000 additional pending patent applications.


Symmetricom Launches New Timing Products
(September 14, 2007) San Jose, California–based Symmetricom, Inc., has launched the
SyncServer S300/S350, the latest in its line of network time servers
using the latest Network Time Protocol (NTP) to synchronize time on
servers, workstations, and a variety of network elements for expanding
IT enterprises

The company also announced that its XLi SAASM Time and Frequency
Receiver with a new Ground-Based GPS Receiver Application Module
(GB-GRAM) SAASM receiver has been granted security approval by the
Global Positioning Systems Wing (GPSW). The GB-GRAM GPS Receiver is
integrated into Symmetricom’s XLi SAASM (Selective Availability
Anti-Spoofing Module).

In addition to building on the feature set of their
predecessors, the S300/S350 models add faster NTP packet processing,
enhanced security and time source redundancy. According to Symmetricom,
the S300/S350 models also offer NTP responsiveness with four time ports
including Gigabit Ethernet for high availability, security, and
throughput, supporting network clients while maintaining
microsecond-caliber NTP timestamp accuracy.


Septentrio opens California office to manage North American operations
(Sept. 14, 2007) Septentrio, a European developer of GNSS receivers for industrial applications, has opened a business development office in southern California, and announced the appointment of J. Christopher Litton as business development Manager to start up and run the North-American operations for the company.

Litton joins Septentrio after more than 12 years in the satellite navigation industry, where he specialized in developing sales of commercial GNSS and industrial OEM solutions for precise positioning applications at NavCom Technology, Inc. Septentrio, Inc., is located at 250N. Harbor Drive, Suite #321, Redondo Beach, California 90277; telephone (323) 2296165 or e-mail

Trimble elects new leadership after death of chairman
(Sept. 14, 2007) Trimble’s board of directors has elected new leadership following the death of chairman Robert S. Cooper. Trimble’s new chairman, Ulf J. Johansson, has served as a director on Trimble’s board since 1999. Johansson was a founder and served as chairman of Europolitan Vodafone AB, a GSM mobile telephone operator in Sweden, from 1990 until March 2005.

Trimble’s new vice chairman, Nickolas W. Vande Steeg, has served as a director on Trimble’s board since 2003. Until March of 2007, Vande Steeg was president and chief operating officer of Parker Hannifin Corporation, a diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems solutions.

Fastrax, NavtechGPS, Surrey Satellite

(July 31, 2007) Fastrax has appointed Taneli Tuurnala, M.Sc., as the Finnish GPS manufacturer’s president and CEO. Previously, Tuurnala, who succeeds Matti Räty in the post, previously served as vice-president of sales & marketing at Fastrax. Fredrik Borgström, M.Sc., has been appointed director, sales & marketing. He previously served as the company’s sales director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

NavtechGPS has appointed Paul Witt as director of marketing. Witt has been a sales representative with NavtechGPS for nine years.

The UK Royal Aeronautical Society has honored the Surrey Satellite Technology team responsible for the building and delivery of the Galileo test satellite, GIOVE-A. The Society gave its Team Silver Award and the Geoffrey Pardoe Space Award for an exceptional contribution to space technology