Get centimetre accurate positioning – on your smartphone

PEL747 Get centimetre accurate positioning on your smartphone

A trial of satellite technology designed to improve the accuracy of satellite navigation systems such as GPS, jointly funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments, has kicked of with an event at CQUniversity Australia's campus in Rockhampton in Queensland, but its’ been pipped at the post by a new commercial service that is offering centimetre accuracy on a smartphone. And it originated in New Zealand.

We reported plans for the trial earlier this year, explaining that the Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) uses a continent-wide network of fixed GPS or other satnav system receivers in locations that are known with great accuracy. These are able to measure the error in the GPS position and communicate that to a central processing centre. Correctional information is computed and relayed via geostationary satellite to individual GPS users to increase the accuracy of their GPS-derived position.

The Australia and New Zealand CRC for Spatial Information (CRC SI) is managing a number of industry projects that are expected demonstrate the benefits and applications of improved positioning capability.

CRC SI's SBAS program manager, Julia Mitchell, said to date 11 contracts had been signed with participants from a range of industry sectors across Australia and New Zealand, including agriculture, resources, transport, construction, utility and spatial.

"It is great to see interest from a range of sectors, with the projects chosen demonstrating a wide range of uses from the livestock tracking demonstrated by CQUniversity today, to community safety applications, and testing driverless and connected cars,” she said.

Meanwhile the smartphone system claiming centimetre accuracy comes from global company Trimble. It’s called Catalyst and in early November it won the Supreme Excellence category at the 2017 NZ Spatial Excellence Awards.

The award judges said:  “Out of all the entries, this promises to have the most impact. It stood out for its immense potential for delivering survey accurate measurement solutions using widely available mobile means - its professional and public reach, therefore, cannot be underestimated.”

According to Trimble the idea for Catalyst “grew from the water cooler talk of a few engineers in New Zealand to a global collaboration of Trimble's teams from Munich to Chennai to Colorado.It is opening the door to a new generation of applications. And it's giving users a chance to do a lot more with a lot more accurate information.”

The key to Catalyst is the enormous processing power now available in smartphones. This is now sufficient to compute an accurate position using data from multiple communications satellite systems – a capability that previously required dedicated receivers with function specific silicon chips.

Catalyst is available on a monthly subscription fee that varies according to the accuracy required. There are four options: one metre 30-75cms, 10cms, and one-two cms. All with the caveat that these accuracy levels can be achieve only in optimal conditions.

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