Economic outlook: GNSS on the rise

September 30, 2019  - By

Trade wars may be THE only serious limiting factor

The GNSS chip market worldwide is projected to grow by $2.7 billion, guided by a compounded growth of 8%, to 2025, according to ResearchandMarkets. Other market reports cite “huge growth” and “strong development” in GNSS-related markets such as simulators, aviation and defense. We can count ourselves lucky — or remarkably prescient — to be part of such a robust industry, in such uncertain times.

The world conquest by smartphones, smart cities and the internet of things (IoT) will strongly support this market growth. Also on the horizon is the rising tide of GPS-enabled vehicles, putting automotive telematics on the road to assisted-driver and ultimately autonomous driving.

M&A. Meanwhile, the fast pace of mergers and acquisitions among manufacturers and integrators will strengthen the GNSS economy and propel it even higher. Such interactivity will bring higher revenue shares to key players as well as support overall profitability increases to come.

Accurate monitoring of operations and assets; the astonishing rise of drones to active roles in many industries; and the constant innovation and imagination churning out new products, solutions and augmented services — all will consolidate the strength of our remarkable economy. The much-heralded arrivals of BeiDou and Galileo fully upon the scene will only make the immediate future stronger for our industry.

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

PNT Broadly. Where GPS, GNSS, and multi-GNSS go, they carry other positioning technologies along on their coat tails: inertial, signals of opportunity, Wi-Fi, ultra-wideband and more. The growing pie is certainly big enough for all to get a large share.

That’s not to say there are no barriers to growth, no clouds on the horizon. Licensing, laws and regulations will, as ever, constrict growth. This is not always a bad thing. Controlled growth and wise use benefit us all, and prevent runaway bubbles that can burst for lack of proper internal support.

Mapping. Meanwhile, a host of well-established businesses and nascent enterprises exploit the increased interest in location-based information as an enabler for many consumer, organizational and governmental services. This means that mapping and all manner of technologies associated with it — laser, lidar, infrared and more — may grow at even faster rates.

A brave new world awaits. Once GNSS is integrated with artificial intelligence, there’s no telling where we’re headed.

Of the many uncertainties across the globe, economic warfare poses a greater risk to GNSS than does military conflict. The latter, cynically enough, will actually benefit the industry in the short run, though its effect may chill in the long run.

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Trade. One of the biggest questions confronting the industry now is whether the trade and tariff war between the U.S. and China will continue, and what effect it will have. Experts disagree widely on both questions, though almost all of them, except the leaders who are supposed to listen to them, agree that it’s generally a bad thing.

As was stated in these pages at this time last year, if business confidence falls as a result, global output could also drop.

Opportunities Outweigh Obstacles

Industry leaders confront spectrum issues, jamming

In contrast to the rosy forecast on the previous page, serious issues confront the GNSS market. None of them are more serious, thornier or difficult to resolve (despite the many solutions offered) than spoofing and jamming.

Like a tragic hero, GNSS carries a potentially fatal weakness within its strength. To be ubiquitous and highly precise, the signals come from space. Coming from space, they are weak and susceptible to malicious meddling.

Other political and technological obstacles put pressure on the GNSS industry, and therefore upon the whole PNT industry. GNSS always will be the backbone, the center core holding together various adjunct positioning, navigation and timing technologies.

These issues, following closely on the heels of spoofing and jamming, include but are not limited to: spectrum competition and spectrum management; cybersecurity; privacy; net neutrality; national security export controls; product liability; and failure, however temporary, of GNSS systems.

We’ve seen this last most recently with Galileo, but all the GNSS have suffered such setbacks, and surely will again. The nature of the response to each occurrence is the most critical factor.

Keep on the Sunny Side. However, the opportunities far outweigh the obstacles. The greatest opportunities always arise from the greatest asset that the industry possesses: intellectual capital.

Many of the opportunities are cited on the previous page. While high precision will continue to lead the innovation charge and provide the highest profit margins, the smartphone and the automobile will increasingly take up the MVP (most valuable positioner) role within the industry.

Market Intelligence. All these factors make unprecedented demands on management attention and agility. Executives need good market intelligence to keep abreast and ahead of fast-developing research and development trends, market shifts, developments in neighboring or competing technologies, and protectionist tariffs and import/export controls.

Insight provided by all regions, sectors and job titles

This year’s State of the GNSS Industry Survey provides insight from around the globe.

Just over half our respondents work for companies or organizations headquartered in North America; 15% are from Asia-based operations; roughly 10% each for enterprises in Europe and Latin America; slightly less for the Pacific region; and the rest of the replies scattered across Africa, the Middle East and Russia. Truly an international sampling!

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Demographics. For job titles, we drew in-depth data from:

  • owner/president/CEO, 21%
  • engineer, 20%
  • general, product or program manager, 19%
  • other, mostly surveyors or GIS analysts, 18%
  • researcher, 10%
  • vice president, CTO, COO, CFO or similar, 6%
  • sales and marketing, 5%

Sector. The intelligence in the following pages accumulated from these industry verticals:

  • survey and high precision, 29%
  • defense, security, government, 19%
  • mapping, data acquisition/processing, GIS, 14%
  • satellites, signals and simulation, 9%
  • machine control, precision agriculture, or transportation (non-autonomous), 6%
  • autonomous vehicles (air, ground or water), 5%
  • wireless and consumer, 4%
  • other, 13%

About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.