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GPS World: 20 Years Young, 1990-2010

August 1, 2010  - By
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Covers from 1990, 1994, and 1998.

Two Decades of GNSS Products

Question: How has your product and services mix changed, with the evolution of GNSS technology and users, since 1990 (or since your company was founded, or entered the GNSS market)?

Hemisphere GPS replies:

Like GPS World, Hemisphere GPS is proud to be celebrating our 20th anniversary in 2010. Over the past 20 years, our products have evolved, and continue to evolve, from a focus on providing positioning hardware to providing complete machine-control solutions as well as related services and applications. The evolution of GNSS technology has allowed us to create a more sophisticated and more accurate product line. We have been fortunate over this period to expand our market share in a variety of new industries. As GNSS technology matures, we are expanding our sales globally by servicing existing markets and finding new markets for our products.

Spirent Federal replies:

Spirent’s first simulator contracts were for GPS L1/L2 systems. During the 1990s, most customers were interested in these two GPS frequencies, often including classified P(Y) code simulation capability. GPS modernization is a major change that continues to shape the industry today. Spirent was first to launch GPS L2C, GPS L5, and M-code test systems into the market and developed SAASM-capable simulation systems for Precise Positioning Service (PPS) receiver testing. Growing concerns about RF interference and anti-jamming have led to Spirent GPS/inertial test interfaces and the development of CRPA test systems for comprehensive wavefront testing.

To enable testing of consumer GPS, Spirent developed a range of GPS L1 C/A code simulators which went on to sell widely to a whole new group of customers. Spirent delivered GPS plus GLONASS simulation during the 1990s. Today, with a nearly full GLONASS constellation and confidence building in Galileo again, many companies are looking to improve performance through multi-GNSS-capable receivers.

Rakon replies:

Rakon started supplying the GPS market back in 1990 with 1 ppm TCXOs that were about 11.7 2 18.3 mm in size. At the time they were the smallest on the market, hand assembled, and orders were for 100,000 units per year. These larger discrete products sold between US$30- $50 per unit. In 2002 Rakon introduced the first 0.5 ppm TCXO in a 5 2 3.2 mm surface-mount package, and since then the market for PND and mobile phones has really taken off. Today the market is 100s of millions of units a year — and this is still growing fast. The products are down to 2 2 1.6 mm in size, five times the performance and a fraction of the cost they were back in 1990 (now under US$1 each).

At Rakon we’ve realized that GPS needs more than just headline frequency stability and have built an entire bespoke manufacturing process that targets the parameters that GPS is sensitive to. The mobile phone environment GPS needs to operate in today is extremely challenging. Rakon has been developing new designs in high-stability TCXO technology, to continue to develop cost-reducing solutions with unmatched performance.

Special Section Sponsors

Sponsors of this special section commemorating the 20th anniversary of GPS World publication also include CAST Navigation and ITT. The magazine thanks all advertisers over the years for their support in relaying the latest technical, system, and business news to the marketplace. GPS World reaches 133,152 core buyers across the GPS World brand: print magazine, e-mail newsletters, website, webinars, and social media.

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Covers from 2002, 2004, and 2008.

Two Decades of Innovation

Question: What is the most significant innovation your company has made over the last 20 years, and how does it relate to a development in GNSS technology or market?

Rakon replies:

Rakon was the first to develop the smallest 1 ppm TCXO in 1990 and led the way again in 2002 with the first 0.5 ppm TCXO. Rakon convinced the GPS chipset companies on the advantages of this level of stability while still remaining cost competitive. Today 0.5 ppm is now industry standard.

Spirent Federal replies:

Spirent has always been engaged in research and development to meet the growing user demand and provide new solutions for the latest requirements. The last five years alone have seen many significant innovations. In 2006, Spirent was awarded a contract to support the in orbit validation phase of the Galileo project. Test signals were needed to exercise the receivers for the Galileo Ground Sensor Stations and the initial “Test User Segment” receivers. Spirent developed Galileo simulators that could accurately simulate GPS with Galileo in a wide range of conditions, including error states.

In 2007, Spirent Federal won a contract to supply SDS M-code simulation systems to Rockwell Collins in support of its MUE contract with the GPS Wing. In 2008, for NASA’s Orion project, Honeywell selected a Spirent GPS/inertial simulator to emulate inertial sensor output while concurrently simulating GPS RF signals. Additionally, Spirent brought the first GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/QZSS simulator to the market and developed a CRPA test system recently selected by Rockwell Collins for comprehensive wavefront testing.

Hemisphere GPS replies:

In 2000, we launched the Outback S guidance system for agriculture. Outback S provided farmers visual guidance through a light-bar style system. At the time, GPS guidance in agriculture was in the infancy stage and due to its high cost was only accessible to a small number of users. Outback S brought GPS-based guidance to the agriculture market at a new price point and with a simple, intuitive user experience that appealed to the mainstream farmer. By the end of 2001, Outback was the number-one selling GPS guidance system for agriculture. We have since expanded on this innovation to include affordable auto-steering and continue to take pride in being “The leader in performance and value.” Today, we continue this value for performance legacy with our newest product, Outback eDriveX, which provides the highest accuracy steering available in the market at very compelling value.

Two Decades of Eager Users

Question: How have your customers/users developed or adapted over the last 20 years, as GNSS technology has developed? Or, have you changed what customers/users you sell to?

Spirent Federal replies:

Traditional users of GPS have developed to take advantage of new opportunities offered by improved and new signals, evolving technology, and research findings. The focus has shifted from getting receivers to navigate, to improving performance, systems integration, and user experience. Resilience has been a key focus for many users, who want to have not only high availability but also position information that they can trust.

In 1990 there were very few users of GNSS. Today GNSS is close to “the fifth utility,” with near ubiquitous deployment in vehicles in some countries and also increasingly in mobile phones. GNSS is used in many ways, including in innovative and unforeseen applications. Just one example is the possible use of GNSS to determine driving dynamics so that insurance premiums for more careful drivers can be set lowest!

Rakon replies:

Initially Rakon’s customers were involved mainly in marine, military, surveying, and agriculture. GNSS is increasingly becoming part of our modern-day infrastructure and services. Positioning capability is constantly being designed into an extending range of mass marketed consumer applications. Today we have many PND customers and those making products with GPS capability such as in mobile and smartphones and telecommunications. Customers have disappeared and many have changed significantly as the market has evolved; however, a core group has been with us since they started.

Hemisphere GPS replies:

In the past, the majority of our customers and users were very technically sophisticated. They were often educated in the field and demanded products solely based on position accuracy. Over time, our users have come to demand much more from our products and GNSS technology in general. Advancements in technology have also created a new category of customer who may be less technically sophisticated with the technology but who are looking for simplified solutions to complex problems. This has led us to focus our product development on more complete solutions that meet specific applications.

About This Magazine

Question: In your view, how has GPS World changed to reflect developments in the marketplace, the technology, customers’ needs, and your marketing needs?

Spirent Federal replies:

GPS World has been a valued companion for those involved in GNSS technology development. Many in the industry are deeply involved in a particular aspect of GNSS technology and find the broad, accessible perspective offered by GPS World very valuable. Many will remember reading about new signal performance first in GPS World — the first GIOVE Galileo signals from space and new Compass signals, for example. Key themes have also included vulnerability of the GNSS signals, from the Volpe Report through to analysis of the recent SVN-49 issues.

Hemisphere GPS replies:

GPS World has done a fantastic job in highlighting the evolution from GNSS technology to the myriad of both consumer and industrial applications the technology now enables. The publications are timely and consistently produce a credible resource for industry professionals. From a marketing perspective, GPS World’s expansion into online media has broadened its scope and circulation.

Rakon replies:

Originally the publication focused on the U.S. Global Positioning System. With the advent of others such as Galileo, GLONASS, and Compass, the publication has evolved to cover all GNSS systems.

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