Home Articles We are Moving to an Autonomous, Connected World – Ganesh Pattabiraman, Nextnav

We are Moving to an Autonomous, Connected World – Ganesh Pattabiraman, Nextnav

Ganesh Pattabiraman, Co-founder & CEO, Nextnav

Geospatial or location information is integral to way forward. We are moving from human intelligence to machine intelligence world, wherein everything is connected and becoming autonomous. This world, for making decisions has to rely on reliable information, and location is one of the key pieces of information that is required to be reliable for a car to drive down a freeway or a drone to fly or a mobile phone to interact with the world around. Location industry is going to be one of the key pillars on which the future of the autonomous world is built on, so it is a vital part of the connected, autonomous world.

More collaboration going forward

For end users to have good experience, be it human beings or machines, many things have to come together. They must have good location information about their surroundings and they should be able to navigate. They also need to understand where they need to go and the context. All of that cannot be done by a single entity. It absolutely requires collaboration and cooperation among the technical people, the mapping people and the building information people. All of them have to also collaborate with the city and urban planning people to address the need of that particular application which could be a car wanting to drive down a certain street or a robot going inside a building or a human being walking around. There will be a lot more collaboration happening going forward. Right now we have a very simplistic approach to it, a basic outdoor map data, with a point of interest and navigation as our best use case. This is going to get more complex as we get into new areas of indoors and urban scenarios.

We need to work towards stitching all the pieces of information together to build a cohesive and rich map of information set that works across cities or indoor areas, for instance. That’s going to take some time. Unlike outdoors where nobody had issues with information sharing and privacy, the minute you start getting into urban areas and indoors, you also get into privacy issues. We, as a society, haven’t quite figured out what the boundaries of that information are. Right now, it’s very fragmented and siloed and everybody is very protective of it. This is probably one of the big areas in the near term that needs to be addressed, and this is what Nextnav is focusing towards.

Building the next generation of GPS

Nextnav makes use of machine learning and AI quite extensively. Just by the given statistical nature of location, you have to use those techniques to reliably determine where you are and what you do with that. For instance, we get a lot of information from devices saying where they are. From that we can determine many other things, including which floor of a building you are in. But the information is noisy, so we need to be able to filter that to understand this actually belongs to this level, and this belongs to a level below. So we build a lot of techniques to support that kind of information management. Those are integral to what we do

We have all grown up in a world where GPS has been the end to all. But now Nextnav is starting to push the boundaries of going beyond where GPS works. We are building the next generation of GPS. Fundamentally, we are a service provider/ technology developer that solves the problem of the high precision reliable 3D geo location in places where GPS doesn’t work. This broadly is indoors, urban areas. We essentially hope to be the GPS for those kinds of places, in the sense that we are the reliable blue dot that you can count on and know this is exactly where you are, that’s useful for people and their context, for machines to know where their context is or for autonomous systems. We are working with mobile phone operators to more recently with NASA, who is currently using our systems to fly drones, which gives you a breadth of understanding of how we play, which is across the entire gamut of indoors and outdoors. We are very excited by the future because we think we are an integral part of it and we can enable a lot of those capabilities that otherwise are hard to get to.

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