Improved satellite coverage to drive GPS further, says ABI

07 May 2008

While GPS handsets and in-vehicle navigation systems remain the most lucrative markets, industrial applications will drive the market further as satellite coverage improves, according to ABI Research.

ABI noted applications such as network timing, land surveying, and machine control are quickly gaining momentum. By 2013, ABI forecasts GPS end-user devices and systems will generate yearly revenues of $240 billion.

"The implementation of GPS technology in mobile consumer devices such as handsets and digital cameras, and its indoor use, pose some important challenges," said ABI Research principal analyst Dominique Bonte.

Added Bonte: "GPS technology was designed for outdoor use and specific military applications, and its weak signals and long fix times are not well-suited to indoor environments and mobile devices such as digital cameras with their low power consumption and always-on requirements."

She noted, however, that solutions based on the post-processing of GPS signals are being developed, and likewise the use of assisted-GPS technology to provide location and satellite data to connected devices for faster fixes and better coverage.

For deep indoor environments, she added GPS will have to be complemented with alternative positioning technologies such as WiFi, motion sensors or even TV broadcast signals.

At the same time, satellite positioning technology itself is seen improving with the upgrade of the existing GPS system and the rollout of new satellite systems.

ABI noted that the GPS modernization project is in full swing with three Block IIR-M satellites launched in the last six months and the contract for GPS Block III satellites to be awarded soon.

The funding for the EU's Galileo constellation was approved and the second GIOVE-B test satellite was launched in April. The Russian GLONASS system has 16 satellites in orbit and should become operational by the end of 2008, ABI said.

These projects will result in more and stronger satellite signals and a higher number of visible satellites being available, which will improve coverage, accuracy, and reliability, ABI said.

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