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Tenth Anniversary of Open GPS Signal and Still Plenty of Potential for Innovations

May 1st 2000 President Bill Clinton Opened up the GPS Signal that Enabled Navigation As We Know it Today

Hamburg, April 29, 2010. May 1, 2010 marks the 10th Anniversary of opening up a more precise GPS (Global Positioning System) signal for civilian use.  President Bill Clinton changed the course of navigation possibilities with the push of a button that turned off the US GPS satellite dithering signal. Known as “selective availability”, this block was set up by the US government to prevent the military use of GPS by their enemies. Clinton’s decision to turn off the GPS interference signal helped mobile satellite navigation to finally make its breakthrough..

Dynamic development of navigationSatelliteNavigation_small

Today, mobile navigation is an indispensible part of many people’s everyday lives around the world, and the global satellite navigation market is still growing rapidly. According to a study carried out by the EU Commission in 2005, the market volume was 69 billion Euros ($92 billion USD) and by 2025, the global satellite navigation market is projected to be worth nearly 236 billion Euros ($314.21 billion USD). “Satellite navigation has an exciting future for development despite the groundbreaking innovations of the past decade”, says Johannes Angenvoort, executive vice-president of development at the Hamburg-based navigation specialist, NAVIGON. “There is still room up there.”

Historical Development

Satellite navigation began 40 years before President Clinton opened up the US GPS signal. The first navigation satellite, Transit 1B, launched into space in 1960 which marked the beginning of the US Navy Navigation Satellite System, developed to guide Navy military missiles. This pioneering system led the US Department of Defense to improve accuracy with a follow-up system, which launched in the 1980s called the Global Positioning System (GPS) that is still used for positioning today.

In 1983, satellite navigation was authorized for civilian use, however the U.S. military interference signal remained in place. Utilized by the transportation and telecommunications industries, this iteration of the GPS signal lacked the positioning accuracy needed for precise mobile navigation, tracking to only about 100 meters.

 “Key milestones were achieved for the rapid later development of the technology, particularly during the 1990s”, says navigation expert Angenvoort. NAVIGON, for example, launched the first dynamic GPS navigation, “Autopilot”, in 1996. The first mobile navigation system for the Pocket PC P1 followed four years later. President Clinton’s landmark decision to open up the GPS signal in 2000 was the catalyst that triggered the launch of navigation systems as we know them today.”

Navigation 2010 and Beyond

Today a GPS receiver is standard in most mobile phones and navigation is rapidly becoming more customizable, personal, connected, and integrated, as developers begin to take full advantage of the technical possibilities of navigation technology. Navigation apps, such as those provided by NAVIGON, access real-time information from the Internet during route calculation, whether it is the latest traffic jam reports, searching online for points of interest or getting in touch with friends.

The future of satellite navigation is highly promising 50 years after the launch of the first navigation satellite. Innovations on the horizon include increasingly more connected systems that integrate various online and location based information into the navigation software, a more realistic depiction of the environment with 3D views, more accuracy and higher performances. NAVIGON, for example, already offers extended live services in Europe such as offering real-time information on parking spaces and weather on the road. These kind of features are expected to be seen more and more on smartphone navigation, since these phones already come with the data connection that is necessary for the integration of real-time information.

And there are even subsequent navigation satellite programs such as Galileo: the European counterpart to the American GPS system scheduled to begin operating in 2013. “Galileo” is a joint venture between the European Union, the European Space Agency (ESA) and various non-European countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia. The system is similar to the American GPS system, but is likely to be more accurate, with minimum deviations ranging from 4 meters to just a few centimeters. The key factors of this new system, according to navigation expert Angenvoort, are, “Accurate positioning and limiting navigation interruptions caused by the loss of a signal. At NAVIGON, we are working on a way to enable live map updates and updates of points of interest via the satellite signal in our “Sister” research project.”


GPS, Did You Know?

1. Three satellites are needed to ascertain the position of a GPS receiver.

2.  It takes 24 satellites and several backup satellites orbiting the Earth at a height of over 20,000 kilometers, to ensure that three satellites are available anywhere in the world and at any time.

3. Satellites transmit an uninterrupted signal detailing their current location and time, and it’s up to the GPS receiver to handle the signal delay with the help of an integrated clock to calculate its own position and speed.

4. Using distance measurements from three points, known as trilateration, exact positions are determined. The signal from the first satellite determines the receiver’s degree of longitude; the second identifies the degree of latitude. As the receiver’s integrated clock is not accurate enough to measure the exact signal delays, the clock error is calculated using a third satellite and thus identifying the exact position.



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NAVIGON AG is one of the world’s leading innovators of high-quality navigation devices standing for outstanding technology in attractive lines. Besides, the company offers GPS software solutions for well-known electronic brands as well as automotive software components for outstanding navigation systems. Founded in 1991, NAVIGON employs a total staff of more than 400 and is represented by its own offices in Asia, Europe and North America. – NAVIGON. And the world is yours.


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