GPS applications fields have touched so many unexpected areas

GPS applications fields have touched so many unexpected areas

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Glen Gibbons is the managing director of Gibbons Media & Research LLC, a Eugene, Oregon-based business providing news and analysis in the field of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).Mr Glen Gibbons
Mr Glen Gibbons
Managing Director
Gibbons Media & Research LLC
Founding Editor
GPS World

Glen Gibbons is the managing director of Gibbons Media & Research LLC, a Eugene, Oregon-based business providing news and analysis in the field of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). He is a former group editorial director & associate publisher, geospatial business, for Questex Media (previously Advanstar Communications). In this capacity, he led the editorial and product development activities of several business-to-business publications, both print and on-line versions from 1989 to 2005. Based in Eugene, Oregon, he is the founding editor of GPS World magazine. In 1999, Gibbons launched Galileo¹s World, a quarterly magazine. Gibbons received the U.S. Institute of Navigation¹s 2003 Norman P. Hayes Award for outstanding encouragement, inspiration, and support contribution to the advancement of navigation. He discusses his thoughts and vision with GIS Development in an exclusive interview.

How did Location Based Services evolve and what are main challenges that this industry faces?

Two main challenges have faced LBS, particularly the consumer LBS market, since its emergence five or six years ago – the complexity of the business model and the need to create services that meet the perceived needs of users.

The business model of Location Based Services industry does not follow a simple value chain to develop its products and sales channels. Rather it is actually a value network where a number of people are involved. The network is formed by the people providing the wireless communication link, the user’s mobile location platform, the back office location and information servers, the providers of real time information like traffic data and so on. The success of the business model lies in bringing together all the links in the network at the same time in a harmonious manner in which all can take back a share of the revenue earned. The coordination of the entire network is the main challenge.

In what I’d call the first generation of consumer LBS activities, the telecom companies expected to play a major role because they controlled the data pipeline and they also expected to be able to provide location information using their telecom networks rather than GPS. However, the carriers were by nature somewhat conservative about letting third-party entities provide services over their communication channels to their customers. Moreover, positioning represented a technology and service with which they were largely unfamiliar.

I think the current generation has worked out more of the details of creating effective relationships among LBS stakeholders. And another major change has been LBS service providers moving to an Internet-based approach rather than working through wireless carriers. And GNSS has clearly emerged as the primary method of providing accurate positioning for LBS users.

Also, the first generation of LBS involved a lot of “technology push” rather than “customer pull.” That is, the service providers offered location-sensitive services they did not elicit the customer response that service providers expected. The idea of being able to locate the nearest ATM, or petrol station, or hospital had more persuasive power for the people designing and selling the products than for those at whom they were targeted. They were solutions in search of problems.

Other motivations have turned out to be more compelling – particularly safety and security. People may not want to pay to see where they’re going on a digital map, but if they get lost or have an accident or medical emergency, they may well want others to know how to reach them quickly.

How has position technology expanded to varied application areas?
Today GPS applications fields have touched so many unexpected areas. Right from the beginning U.S. policy for GPS had the provision for the use of GPS in varied civilian fields like surveying, GIS, telecommunications. In the 1990s GPS use in car navigation was expected to be the largest application field by the GPS market. However this expectation was not matched with reality as the early GPS car navigation systems were very expensive and most of the drivers did not feel the need for them. They felt they were already aware of where their destination was in 90% of the circumstances. This was the experience of the U.S. and Europe markets; Japan, of course, had a very different experience with motorists there becoming early adopters of in-vehicle navigation systems. However, now this application has been slowly picking up its pace. Commercial vehicle fleet management applications for taxi and truck fleets are also important field applications. In the last few years interest in the increase of safety and security measures have increased in the U.S. Hence tracking applications in terms of medical emergency, whereabouts of relatives, tracking pets, nursing homes tracking patients who might wander off in terms of real time information is gaining a great amount of popularity.

How has position technology led to the growth of GIS?
GPS has definitely become the premier positioning tool for GIS. However it cannot be denied that traditional surveying stations are still functional as there are some locations where GPS doesn’t operate well (e.g. under heavy tree canopy). However GPS probably provides 75-80% of newly acquired positioning data to the GIS. In fact, real-timekinematic solutions are becoming more affordable and the accuracy of data is increasing. Real time GIS has arrived in a big way and in this circumstance other positioning technologies are not as flexible or affordable as GPS.

With the existing GPS, why is GALILEO needed?
I have long been a supporter of the GALILEO initiative. Manufacturers and end users will benefit greatly from GALILEO as they will have a greater availability of signals and a more overall integrated system. The option of more signals will help to overcome a single point dependence problem, which might pose great problems in the case of a systemic failure especially for life critical systems. In all such situations it is good to have two separate systems, which are compatible. EU wanted to create the GALILEO system mainly with intention of political sovereignty and enhancement of national and regional transportation system. The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service will be incorporated into the GALILEO itself.

In your opinion, will GALILEO be technologically more advanced than the GPS?
When the system is first launched, GALILEO signals probably will be more modern and better than most of the GPS signals available then. However, the GPS signals are also in the process of modernization with the L2C and L5 signals coming in the next few years. So, in terms of modernization a leap frog approach can be identified where both the initiatives are to attain modernization in a parallel manner of movement.

How do you see the interoperability issue between GPS and GALILEO systems?
There is an agreement signed between U.S. (GPS) and EU (GALILEO) in June, 2004. The agreement stressed technical issues involving the spectrum and structure of the signals and also the factor of overlapping of signals. The agreement also elaborates on security aspects, trade issues and the overall criteria for cooperation. The systems will be compatible. They should operate on some of the same frequencies without much interference. ore discussions will take place in the working groups set up under the agreement.

Russia launched its GLONASS but in a way lagged behind. Why?
The GLONASS initiative began in the early 1980s. Technologically it was to a certain extent outdated as it began late. GLONASS briefly achieved a full constellation in 1996. As a result of the fall of the Russian economy in the 1990s, however, the financial support for GLONASS remained a constraint. As a consequence of this constraint the early generation satellites of GLONASS began to wear out by 2001. Only 7 operating GLONASS satellites were left in orbit by 2001.

A few years ago, the Russian Government has made a new commitment to rebuild the system. There were many reasons behind the undertaking of this new commitment, one of which was that they had not gotten as much involvement in the GALILEO initiative as they had hoped to get. EU has been interested in retaining control over the GALILEO system. At present there are 13 operating GLONASS satellites. In December this year 2 more are to be launched. A total of 18 satellites are expected to be operational by 2008. The entire constellation should be complete by 2010-2011.

In your opinion where lies the future user community of GNSS?
I am in the process of launching a magazine ‘Inside GNSS’. We undertook a survey of prospective advertisers to gauge their preferences for geographic distribution of the publication. The findings of the survey are to a certain extent indicators of the global markets where GNSS has a future. Survey respondents indicated that just under half of the expected circulation was desired to come from North America. 25-30% (2nd Largest) of the circulation was expected from Europe, 15-20% of the circulation was in China and east Asia, 8-10% of the circulation expected in India and the remainder in the rest of world. Future growth markets are being expected in China, India and rest of Asia. However, from the point of view of industry North America is still the current primary focus.

How important is the role of media in the field of GNSS and how has it grown?
As with many social and technological developments, the media are extremely important in introducing GNSS to the public and then popularizing its use. Typically, with a a subject like GNSS, this begins in the business or trade media and then enters the popular media.

When I started up GPS World 16 years ago, very few people had heard about the Global Positioning System. I certainly had never heard of it. But today, it seems like everybody knows about GPS.

What are key policy issues that beset different GNSS?
Right now, for GPS I would say that the key issues involve creating a management structure that effectively brings together the civil and military interests in GPS and can assure an equitable and stable funding source for modernization.

For Galileo, I’d say the current biggest issue is sorting out the relationship between the Galileo Supervisory Authority, which represents the public interest, and the Galileo concessionaire, the private operator of the system. In the near term, European leaders will continue to deal with the allocation of Galileo program activities – and funds – among the various member states in the European Space Agency and the EU.

For GLONASS, I believe the major policy issue is how to get the technology accepted by the marketplace and incorporated into user equipment.