Live Coverage of ENC-GNSS 08

April 22, 2008  - By
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Don Jewell

Don Jewell

NEWS FROM THE EUROPEAN NAVIGATION CONFERENCE

By Don Jewell

Day 3: Map Matching and Floating Cars

Here are highlights of presentations I attended today.

Improving GPS Accuracy for Urban Pedestrians, presented by Jean-Baptiste Prost of Pole Star

A standing-room-only crowd packed the room to hear about map matching, a software program designed to help pedestrians use GPS-based positioning in urban areas. GPS-based positioning for pedestrians in dense urban areas suffers from a lack of accuracy and integrity. Pole Star’s solution combines GIS database containing geometrical descriptions of buildings with raw data from the receiver, then restricting the area of possible locations by matching GPS measurements with the environment and behavioral models. Tests in several cities shows dramatic improvements to the accuracy of GPS-based positioning for pedestrians, especially in areas with tiny streets. Jean-Baptiste said the product is ready under the name of NAO City.

Real-Time Information on Road Traffic Based on Floating Car Data, by Laurent Brecheret

The SINERGIT project has developed a cooperative information system for road and urban networks. The system aims to optimize traffic management means, and provide real-time info on driving conditions to all drivers who use personal navigation devices. The three data sources used are data from existing traffic monitoring systems, data from telecom operators tracking cell-phone use, and tracking of PNDs and GNSS-enabled smartphones. This final category is called floating car data, and is used to measure average speed of traffic and to estimate overall traffic conditions. A central system merges the three sets of data to create the best traffic information which can then be shared with drivers in real time.

Navigation Applications Supporting the Mobility of Disabled People, by Francesca Neccia of Thales Alenia Space

The Navigation for Disability Applications (NADIA) Project aims to improve safety and security for the disabled, while giving them increased autonomy. Using GPS, EGNOS, and eventually Galileo, a blind or wheelchair-bound individual will have supports unavailable now, with access to sports, leisure pursuits, and education. The project is now in the system engineering phase, and once system tests and validation are completed, a prototype will be demonstrated.


Evening 2: Space Walk

Being a fan of space exploration, the Gala Evening at the Cite de l’Espace was right up my alley. Guests toured the Mir space station, ate “space food” (served in test tubes), and enjoyed an eye-popping 3D Imax movie about the International Space Station.

Day 2: eLoran for Europe

eLoran for Europe: The European eLoran Forum makes a case for European support of eLoran in its new policy document. The document sets out the strategic importance of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems in Europe, and emphasizes the role of Enhanced Loran as a way of making European PNT foundations robust and resilient. “The development and operation of the European eLoran infrastructure is currently being undertaken on an ad-hoc basis,” according to the executive summary. “The importance of eLoran’s supporting role to GPS and Galileo needs to be assessed within the context of a European Radio Navigation Plan. Using these three PNT systems together will protect our critical infrastructure and allow our European service providers and users to retain the safety, security, and economic benefits of GPS that they currently enjoy even when their satellite services are interrupted.”

Seeking the GRAIL: Hoping to hear the final results of the GRAIL project was met with slight disappointment—May is the new target date. GRAIL is a Galileo Joint Undertaking project to study how best to introduce GNSS to railways throughout Europe, in line with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) project. ERTMS is an overall effort to make all European trail systems compatible, because each country has its own rail “language” for managing the movement of the trains on its network. Over the past decade, industrial giants and European governments have strived to attain rail interoperability, so that trains can cross borders without stopping. ERTMS has been set up to create unique signaling standards throughout Europe. Alvaro Urech from INECO described the four applications the GRAIL project is aiming for: enhanced odometry (measuring the speed and position of the trains, and possibly increasing speed); train awakening (trains knowing where each other are positioned); absolute positioning; and train integrity to ensure the trains are whole and not “broken.” So far in the project, specifications for these applications have been agreed on, along with performance requirements. A prototype for demonstrating these applications is being developed for tests in the lab or on a real high-speed line. Train awakening has been tested, but it’s too early to report results.

Time for a New Partnership: In business news, two timing companies have announced a strategic partnership. Orolia, parent company for timing providers Spectracom and Pendulum Instruments, and Rapco Electronics (Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK), a high-precision timing provider, announced today that they’ve formed a partnership. In a multi-phased approach, Orolia Group companies Spectracom and SpectraTime will join the existing alliance between Pendulum Instruments (recently acquired by Orolia) and Rapco Electronics to cooperate on several fronts to leverage global distribution channels, operations, and new product development efforts.

Rapco Electronics will represent and distribute Spectracom and Pendulum products in the UK and Ireland. Together with its own products, Rapco will provide a comprehensive range of high-precision time and frequency products for governmental, military, telecom, broadcasting and scientific customers. Outside of this region, both Pendulum and Spectracom will distribute key Rapco products under their own respective brands.


Day 1: Comic Books and Space Tunes

Toulouse is a beautiful city — pink-hued buildings with red roofs, narrow pedestrian-friendly streets, a sense of history and time. Quite a contrast to high-tech science, the subject of the Toulouse Space Show. Upon registering, I was given a bag heavier than the luggage I left back at the hotel. I’ve been to numerous conferences, both scientific and artistic, but I’ve never received such a sheer quantity of literature. I felt like a college student stocking up on the term’s textbooks.

Inside, I discovered three inch-thick spiral-bound abstracts for all three conferences encompassed by the Toulouse Space Show: ENC-GNSS (my main focus), EFTF, and Space Applications Days, all in both English and French.

I also discovered a beautifully designed program (or, I should say programme), and, the most quixotic item, a Galileo comic book — err, graphic novel? — published by Thales Alenia Space. Finally, a document written for me and the other non-scientists! (Edited to add: Having now read the book, some of the contentions put forth are questionable. such as the contention that the GPS signal might be turned off by the military, or that Galileo will naturally prove superior.)

I just had time to get these goodies before settling in for the opening ceremony, a multi-media affair involving speeches, music, slideshows, and lighting effects. The speeches from local and regional officials communicated how passionate the people here are about all things space-related, in business, research, and education.

Between the speeches, a duo dressed in flight jumpsuits sang space-themed songs such as “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Walking on the Moon,” and the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” — you get the idea. As an aside, in February NASA broadcast “Across the Universe” to Polaris, the North Star, in the first-ever beaming of a radio song by the space agency directly into deep space, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the song, the 45th anniversary of NASA’s Deep Space Network, and the 50th anniversary of NASA. Europe’s space program isn’t as old, but it makes up for age in enthusiasm. Each tune sung by the musicians was accompanied by a huge screen showing clips of moonwalks and space-related images of planets, nebulae, and our favorite, satellites. As a long-time fan of the space program, it certainly got me in the mood for the conference.

Tomorrow, technical sessions begin, followed by an evening gala to be held in the Cite de l’Espace, the premiere space museum. I can’t wait!


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