ION GNSS+ Focuses on System Updates, Indoor Location

September 17, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

ION GNSS+ is more than satellite navigation, with lots of options for aiding, augmenting and even replacing GNSS, both indoors or outdoors. There were a few less exhibitors this year, but just as many attendees as last year, and lots of good quality technical, commercial and interesting topics in the paper and panel sessions. And, in the customary discussions around the show, there was as much catch-up and speculation over recent events as usual — all in the beautiful surroundings of Tampa, Florida.

Tampa is a pretty nice place, especially at this time of year as the summer heat is dying and the humidity is down. Then there are lots of things to see and do in Tampa and all those Florida attractions over in Orlando, if you bring the family with you and can find a few extra days to use as vacation.

The ION exhibit was slightly smaller (57 booths versus 63 last year) — Javad, for one, didn’t exhibit with his regular large booth, and the USAF testing guys didn’t show either — but the number of attendees (1,000+) was pegged at around the same as last year.

So, although the commercial exhibit might have been down a little, the popularity of ION GNSS+ is still there, and the location helped too, bringing a bunch of people to take a look at South Florida. ION made considerable effort this time around to appeal to the wider business aspects of the industry, and it had a number of successes doing this. So, let’s assume that as we emerge from a somewhat flat business phase that industry growth will resume shortly, and ION attendance will reflect that growth in future years.

Some companies introducing new products included IFEN with its new SX3 software receiver, Altus with the APS-NR2 integrated antenna/wireless/GNSS RTK receiver, Unicore with the UM220-INS GPS/Beidou receiver with integrated six-axis MEMS and the UB280 dual-antenna GPS/Beidou receiver, and Comnav,which also introduced a dual-antenna heading receiver. For most other OEM companies at the show, it was more status quo, and they were at ION checking out their competition, visiting with existing customers, showing hardware for potential customers to “kick the tires” and meeting with others to pursue new longer term business opportunities and potential collaboration efforts.

The scuttlebutt around the recent Galileo launch anomaly was headed up by ESA’s assurances that everything possible was being done to rescue its rogue FOC (full operational capability) satellites, circularize their orbits, and use them in the constellation. Then there were several variations on potential sabotage conspiracy theories, and others proposing that a solution to the problem could be to just quickly build and launch more satellites — maybe not on Soyuz. Spending new money on replacement satellites and new Ariane launches rather than on a protracted science project to rescue these lost SVs — this seemed to be favored by most North American pundits.

Septentrio, along with introducing a new RTK engine, made an organizational change, integrating Septentrio and Altus, and combining product marketing efforts for both companies’ products. Septentrio’s Jan Van Hees will now not only be the market lead for Septentrio’s products, but also Altus’ products, and both marketing organizations will now work closely together. Executive Director Peter Grognard was also in Tampa, leading his usual high-energy charge for Septentrio and the European GNSS industry. Altus has also added industry veteran Mo Kapila as OEM sales manager for Septentrio products. Kapila is based in Altus’ office in Torrance, California.

More organizational changes may follow at NovAtel, as Executive Vice President Graham Purves moves out to take the reins at Hexagon’s recently acquired Veripos subsidiary. Graham was born in Scotland, so he’s returning to his roots as he moves to the Veripos Aberdeen office from NovAtel’s base in Calgary, Canada. Graham and Hexagon may be watching for the results of the Scottish independence referendum, which should be known shortly after the vote Friday, September 18. However, negotiations with the UK government — required by a “yes” vote — may drag on for some time after. If this all comes about, maybe it will allow sufficient time to assess the potential impact on Veripos’ operations.

Indoor Location

ION held a panel and demonstration session on indoor location, reflecting the huge interest in indoor E-911 and commercial indoor applications. One of the leading outfits working the indoor problem using beacons is NextNav in California, who chose not to demonstrate its capabilities. However, I did learn that NextNav is active in around 47 urban markets, is setting up another large trial in Seattle, and has recently acquired another $70m investment in the last few months. Rx Networks was also there to show its latest assistance and location products including Zed, a service that calibrates pressure sensors to determine floor level, and XYBRID Cloud, a cloud-based GNSS engine that achieved GNSS fixes down to 2 meters inside the exhibition hall where there was otherwise no GNSS coverage.

The Indoor Location Panel discussion was around establishing standards for development of indoor location capabilities — there were eight panel members and apparently four prevailing standards areas/groups involved in developing standards for different aspects of what essentially is a wide field of differing communications systems. For someone involved in making and using one common standard for a particular GNSS and aviation industry application, this session was basically baffling.

The interesting indoor location story at the show came in the following afternoon session, where seven companies set up live (or close to live) demonstrations in a large area on the first floor of the Tampa Convention Center, where there was little prospect for any GNSS sky signals to penetrate. There were a number of Wi-Fi access points (AP) set up in the room, along with a Nokia beacon.

Rx Networks

Basically using the Wi-Fi APs, and their vertical measurement Zed, the Rx team was trying to show static positioning of their location in the demo room. They certainly had a hiccup during the demo and may have lost a bunch of accumulated data, but they didn’t comment on what appeared to be large errors they showed on a Google Earth representation of the convention center.



This team was using a Round Trip Timing (RTT) method, ranging off the three Wi-Fi APs, and measuring location and collecting data on a smartphone. To demonstrate its ranging accuracy, Broadcom measured range to an AP using a laser rangefinder and demonstrated high correlation with the range measured by RTT.


Using Wi-Fi ranging and integrated MEMS inertial for Pedestrian Dead Reckoning (PDR), CSR plotted a path walked round the room, with what appeared to be pretty good accuracy. CSR also indicated how magnetic/compass measurements can be thrown off by ferrous structures in buildings.

PNI Sensor Corporation

Following an initial crash and a quick restart, PNI ran an excellent demo of plotted position on a tablet using a 15-state Kalman Filter using extremely low-power gyro, accelerometers and mag-sensor (PDR), which also indicated mag-sensor errors. indicated that its solutions are fielded commercially and use Wi-Fi fingerprinting and iBeacon/Bluetooth tracking sensor fusion, with added floor-plan constraints when available. Unfortunately, efforts to follow a smartphone around the room with a video camera did not capture the demonstration for the audience.


Navizon claimed 1-2 meter indoor accuracy using Wi-Fi finger-printing, BLE iBeacons, and inertial, using a portable software solution it provide to integrators. The systems works best when the system is “trained” using a floor plan and PDR. A YouTube video recorded earlier was used to demonstrate the system’s capabilities.


Nokia presented its angle-of-arrival technology with HAIP RF tags and a remote positioning server, which was demonstrated with tags on radio-controlled cars, with a tablet display that indicated that tracking appeared to be highly accurate.


So, to summarize, the participants were very brave to attempt these real-time demos and most pulled off the challenge, with varying degrees of success and demonstrated accuracy. This would seem to indicate that the anticipated FCC ruling for new indoor E-911 location requirements could well be met by existing technologies.

Interference and Anti-Jamming Systems

One of the big things at the show was the Signal Sentry 1000, an Exelis product that detects and locates GPS interference sources in 3-D. Given that Exelis is also connected to jammers and the U.S. Department of Defense, it’s not unusual that the company has found a way to bring a system to the commercial market that finds jammers.

A lesser known, much smaller offshore outfit is also working with jammer/interference detection. GPSat Systems Australia related its involvement in the GGPS RF Jamming and Spoofing Detection and Geo-location Technology projects, in cooperation with the Universities of New South Wales (UNSW) and Adelaide (UA).

After four years of development jointly funded by the Australian Research Council and GPSat Systems, the output from combined research into jammer detection and geolocation by UNSW and UA is starting to bear fruit. Two papers were presented showcasing their weak interference detection and localization techniques, followed by a project update and preliminary field trial results.

The technology focuses on combining the performance of multi-element, high-gain, steerable-beam antenna arrays producing angle of arrival (AoA) data, along with centralized time difference of arrival (TDOA) spectral processing of jammer signals arriving at different sensor nodes. Combining the two techniques provides the best options for successfully geolocating both swept CW and broadband jammers at substantial stand-off distances.

GPSat Systems is now under contract to further extend this technology to include spoofer detection for future deployment with the Australian defence services. GPSat Systems anticipates that the civilian L1 version will be introduced to the market by early 2015, and the military version by middle 2016.

The GNSS world needs more help to halt the “jamming plague,” and GPSat seems to have a solution that a number of organizations may want to look into.

So, another ION GNSS+ conference is in the books, with lots of GNSS news and interesting developments on a number of fronts. Not a whole bunch of new OEM-receiver-related products, but a whole mess of indoor location systems pushing the technology envelope and the promise of more to come. I hope Galileo gets it right chasing their lost birds, that new company organizations flourish in the coming months, and that we have more jamming detection and anti-jam solutions to talk about at next year’s conference — which will once again be down among the palm trees in Tampa.

Tony Murfin
GNSS Aerospace

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About the Author: Tony Murfin

Tony Murfin is managing consultant for GNSS Aerospace LLC, Florida. Murfin provides business development consulting services to companies involved in GNSS products and markets, and writes for GPS World as the OEM Professional contributing editor. Previously, Murfin worked for NovAtel Inc. in Calgary, Canada, as vice president of Business Development; for CMC Electronics in Montreal, Canada, as business development manager, product manager, software manger and software engineer; for CAE in Montreal as simulation software engineer; and for BAe in Warton, UK, as senior avionics engineer. Murfin has a B.Sc. from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK, and is a UK Chartered Engineer (CEng MIET).