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What it means to be a Gold Standard

October 14, 2020  - By
Mitch Narins

Mitch Narins, principal consultant & owner, Strategic Synergies LLC

Recently there have been conversations within the world’s position, navigation and timing communities regarding the use of the term “Gold Standard.” Many systems aspire to be a Gold Standard, but what does this mean and how should one rightfully claim this meritorious distinction? For me, to be called a Gold Standard, a system must meet a number of hard and soft performance requirements that instill users with trust and confidence. What are these performance metrics., and how should we measure them?

I propose that for a PNT system to be a Gold Standard, it must embody and embrace three basic operational aspects in its vision, mission and goals, which drive its design, development and operation:

Requirements. First, a PNT Gold Standard system must have clear, concise, published and independent operational requirements, established through recognized and appropriate standards — that is, the PNT “promises” of accuracy, availability, integrity, continuity and coverage provided by the system are available to all users, and any changes to these “performance requirements” are communicated and implemented in a formal and transparent process.

Monitoring. Next, a PNT Gold Standard must continuously monitor the system “health” to ensure that it is meeting all of its promised requirements (accuracy, availability, integrity, continuity and coverage). The measurements and monitoring information must be available to all users so they can, with confidence, independently verify performance in support of their missions and needs.

Transparency. Finally, and most importantly, a PNT Gold Standard must not only maintain transparency during normal operations, but at the most crucial times when the PNT system is not meeting its promised performance. When “things go wrong,” user communications and constant, continuous, and reliable information flows are essential to retaining trust (that is, the measure of the system operator’s integrity). “We don’t know what happened yet, but we will let you know as soon as we do” is acceptable; saying “no comment” is not. As soon as the cause of the problem is known, it must be promptly shared, in detail, along with the schedule for restoration of normal operations. All changes that will be implemented to preclude such an occurrence in the future and all lessons learned must also be communicated openly and honestly to users.

So, what is a PNT Gold Standard? It is a system that makes operational promises based on known and controlled standards and requirements and openly shares how performance against those promises is being monitored and assured. It is a system defined by mission, values, standards and operating principles that is committed to free and open communications when promised performance is being met and when it is not. It is a system that transparently documents, communicates, investigates and reports health and status to users without delay. It is a combination of known, measured and exceptional performance provided by a system operated with open, honest, inclusive, transparent and complete communications that evoke user trust. For me, that is what it means to be a PNT Gold Standard.

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