Surveying the innovation of GPSIA members

June 6, 2022  - By
Alex Damato

Alex Damato

In the decades since the U.S. GPS became fully operational, GPS has become a highly innovative, successful and increasingly ubiquitous technology critical to applications and services touching the lives of almost every American today and for decades to come. As GPS-enabled technologies have become an irreplaceable part of our national infrastructure, growing more deeply ingrained each year, GPS is a success story of what can happen when government-backed R&D, paired with a light-touch regulatory approach, is turned loose in the private sector. 

At the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA), our member companies and affiliates are driving this innovation forward. While we use their products every day now, they’re also focused on inventing the future. Several key features are necessary to this continued success: a stable and predictable spectrum environment; a regulatory framework that fosters innovation and balances the fundamental technical needs of navigation systems; and appropriate, established interference protections where necessary. 

Regulators must take care not to fundamentally depart from the longstanding approach to spectrum policy that has enabled the GPS technologies and services that underpin our economy. The prize on the other side of a well-calibrated policy is the next generation of GPS-enabled applications and products, which, as a GPS enthusiast first and foremost, I get a front row seat to our members building every day. These innovations span land, sea and space, unlocking opportunity for their U.S. government partners and consumers alike.  

Innovations on Land, at Sea and in Space 

On Earth, GPS-based products and services are getting even better at improving our everyday lives, helping farmers, builders, drivers and hobbyists work more efficiently and providing the critical inputs for everything from trucks to cell phones.  

Take GPSIA member Trimble’s recently introduced R750 modular GNSS receiver, a connected base station used in both civil construction and agriculture that provides improved base-station performance and gives contractors, surveyors and farmers more reliable and precise positioning in the field. John Deere is likewise helping build next-generation precision agriculture technology with its new autonomous tractors, which will use GPS signals to ensure optimal plowing, planting and harvesting by adapting to real-time data analytics on soil conditions and other factors.  

Garmin, a household name in GPS consumer products, continues to enhance satellite location and communication technologies for increased safety and user awareness, recently launching its inReach Mini 2 compact device that offers up to 30 days of battery life, integrated location and situational awareness technologies, and two-way texting and SOS capabilities.  

Elsewhere, CalAmp recently celebrated two years of partnership between their LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System and BMW Group Italy, the first step in a larger plan toward a GPS-based security solution for BMW’s full product range, while Apple continues to build revolutionary consumer tech, such as their GPS-enabled Apple Watch that can track workouts, activity, elevation and time, all without connection to an actual iPhone.  

The ubiquity of GPS is particularly critical at sea. Collins Aerospace, for example, just launched Artemis Elite, the firstever military underwater navigation system (MUNS) with M-code  technology, that improves GPS signals’ precise positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) capabilities, making them more resistant to threats of jamming and spoofing. Garmin is also improving the consumer boating experience with its suite of OnDeck products, which pair onboard sensors and GPS to create a remote monitoring and management solution giving boaters 24/7 access to critical and timely information about their vessels.  

Of course, GPSIA members are driving the effort to modernize the GPS satellite constellation itself. Lockheed Martin is building the next generation GPS III satellites and follow-on GPS IIIF satellites that will improve antijamming capabilities and geolocation accuracy for GPS-enabled devices, while L3Harris is building critical inputs on these satellites, such as their advanced navigation and timing payloads.  

Our companies are also leading the way to help nations operate in space, providing critical GPS applications including guidance systems for crewed vehicles; the management, tracking, and control of communication satellite constellations; and monitoring the Earth from space.  

Raytheon, for example, announced this month that it installed the first global aircrew strategic network terminal (ASNT) for the U.S. Air Force to enable protected communication capabilities for aircrews, while Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor in a cutting-edge project from the Space Development Agency to improve U.S. missile tracking and defense through a layer of multi-orbit satellites speaking to one another and sharing location data in real time. 

Looking across GPSIA’s member companies, it’s clear that we live on a globe propelled by GPS. We should continue to give them the tools — and protect the regulatory framework — that has allowed them to do what they do best, which is bring us products that transform our daily lives for the better and innovate new technologies and services. 

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About the Author: Alex Damato

Alex Damato is acting executive director or the GPS Innovation Alliance.