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OS providers: 800-pound gorillas in PNT jungle

June 7, 2016  - By

gorilla-shutterstock_232452403It’s funny sometimes how things work out. I had just been preparing to take up in this column an issue raised last September at the ION-GNSS+ Plenary Session. Literally at the very moment I set pen to paper, notice of an extremely positive response to the problem arrived in my inbox. Hypercoincidental as it may be, market forces can and do work in mysterious ways, inexorably driving forward progress.

The issue arose during “lightning talks” as track chairs gave brief overviews of material to be presented in the following days. That’s when Paul McBurney tackled the gorillas.

A former eRide co-founder and now CEO of GopherHush Corp., a location analytics company, he chaired the Mass Market Application track. As he described market players — GNSS chip providers, sensor providers, indoor location providers, app providers and operating system (OS) providers — he made this statement: “The OS providers are the 800-pound gorillas that we have a hard time getting into this room. They have to support their fusion layers over a wide range of handsets and devices. They often end up competing with the apps makers they enable.”

A couple of those gorillas were in the room, in fact, and at least one more prominent GNSS figure has since joined their band. We’re talking Google and Apple, in case you hadn’t guessed.

McBurney’s point, as he later elaborated to me: “The OS manufacturers are really driving/owning the requirements/feature set of the mass-market chip providers. If they wanted carrier phase to drive RTK in the OS, everyone would have to step up to provide it, and these chip makers would lose their advantage in providing that to higher paying customers. If chip makers aren’t able to play, they are relegated to the crumbs of the rest of the market. Even car navigation is barely 1/10th of mobile. OS providers also dictate where/how sensor fusion/indoor location is performed. Sensor chip providers are in the same boat.”

I’d been thinking on and off about this situation since September, and as said was about to trumpet a call for the gorillas to come down out of the mist — or wherever they reside — to collaboratively and constructively join the PNT community. That’s when this message popped in through the electronic transom:

“Google I/O was this week and we announced we will open pseudoranges (raw GPS measurements) to application developers. If you want, I can do a blog post for you on this for the next magazine.”

Well, you bet I do! Look for it in the July issue. This is big news indeed. Check the website for a bit of elaboration in the meantime, and for the link to a YouTube video of the Google I/O announcement.

McBurney has further thoughts on this development, and you’ll see some of those next month as well. For now, he opines, “I was thinking that Google opening up pseudoranges shows that, while they wield huge power, they still understand the advantage of being open. A clear distinction from Apple.”

This article is tagged with , , and posted in OEM, Opinions

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Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

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