Tech Insight : Ultra-Accurate GPS (10 cm)

In this insight, we take a closer look at the new alternative positioning system to GPS that is accurate to within an incredible 10 centimetres.

Issues With Current GPS System 

Society heavily relies on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS for positioning and navigation, as well as the distribution of time and frequency reference signals. Although current GPS works reasonably well and has a high economic value, it has some limitations. These include:

– It uses satellites. This can mean that when received on Earth, radio signals can be weak, thereby affecting the usability of GPS positioning.

– GPS can be unreliable in urban areas because buildings block the radio signals. This has implications for location-based applications, navigation devices, and for new technologies like automated vehicles.

– GPS often doesn’t work in indoor settings due to radio waves being blocked by physical barriers, e.g. walls and other objects.

– The narrowband GNSS-signals (used in GPS) offer lower data rate transmissions, i.e. slower communication.

– There is no back-up system to GPS.

SuperGPS 

‘SuperGPS’ is the new system developed by researchers at Delft University of Technology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and VSL. SuperGPS was specifically developed to tackle many of the limitations of GPS and to work as a hybrid optical-wireless system for accurate positioning, navigation and network synchronisation for many applications.

How It Works 

Instead of using satellites, SuperGPS uses fibre-optic connections in the telecom network, synchronised to an accurate optical atomic Master clock, and the system uses wideband radio signals, rather than today’s narrowband GNSS-signals. This creates a synchronised optical network which serves as a backbone for a wireless enhanced terrestrial positioning system.

The Benefits 

The benefits of SuperGPS compared to GPS are:

– It could be more accurate and stable. The SuperGPS researchers say that it has 10-centimetre accuracy compared to (the several metres of) GPS, with greater stability.

– It works where GPS doesn’t, i.e. it works in circumstances in which satellite navigation is not available, or only with strongly reduced performance.

– Its simultaneous data, time and frequency transfer offers two important systems in one, i.e. connectivity like the existing mobile and Wi-Fi network, and accurate positioning and time distribution like GPS.

– Futureproofing. It offers the kind accurately synchronised infrastructure that will be needed for future applications of wireless terrestrial positioning systems, appropriate signal processing and positioning techniques.

– SuperGPS uses the existing fibre-optic connections in the telecom network, thereby speeding up its introduction and keeping costs down.

Applications 

Currently, GPS has a relatively wide variety of applications including communications networks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids, logistical supply chain management, precise time synchronisation, wireless services, personal devices including mobile phones and watches, and more.

It is hoped that the new, more accurate SuperGPS with stronger, more reliable signals will deliver many new benefits for personal smart devices, industry and e-commerce, wireless Internet (4G+), Cm level positioning, science, quantum communication, and new/emerging technologies like smart highways and autonomous vehicles.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The reliance upon satellites in the current GPS system can mean that weak signals being blocked by buildings and other objects can affect its reliability and accuracy. The new SuperGPS system’s use of fibre-optic networks, increased speed and accuracy mean that it could offer a much more stable, reliable, and effective earth-based localised alternative. These benefits, along with its two-in-one simultaneous connectivity, coupled with accurate positioning and time distribution give it the kind of scope that is needed for next level communications and new technologies like autonomous vehicles. Putting this kind of improved infrastructure in place could boost industries like autonomous vehicles, have positive knock-on efficiency effects across many industries, plus lay a foundation for a whole new realm of innovation.

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