New Organization Advocates for GPS Industry

February 25, 2013  - By

A new group, the GPS Innovation Alliance, has formed and announced itself as the voice of the U.S. GPS industry and community of users, to “support the ever-increasing importance of GPS” in the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C.  The organization subsumes and replaces both the U.S. GPS Industry Council, an entity of longstanding, and the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which arose in March 2011 in response to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conditional waiver granted to LightSquared.

The alliance appears to reflect a desire on the part of some industry members to take a more aggressive approach inside the Washington Beltway, a sign, it would seem, of the political times. Some of those involved spoke informally of a desire to take advantage of contacts made on Capitol Hill and in the media during the highly visible LightSquared combat, fought in the glare of media attention heretofore unknown in industry circles.

Members of the Alliance are drawn from a variety of fields and businesses reliant on GPS, as well as leading manufacturers of GPS equipment. The former group includes, aviation, agriculture, construction, transportation, first responders, and surveying and mapping, and consumer organizations representing users of GPS for boating and other outdoor activities, and in automobiles, smartphones, and tablets.

Joining John Deere, Garmin, and Trimble — three lead drivers of the Coalition effort at the FCC — are NovAtel Inc. and Topcon Positioning Systems. All five were previously long-time members of the USGIC, and they appear as founding members of the alliance at www.gpsalliance.org.

Affiliate members listed on the website include the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Association of Manufacturers, Association for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles International, and Boat Owners Association of the United States.

The alliance plans to build on “the proud heritage and extensive expertise of the United States GPS Industry Council (USGIC), which was formed in 1991 to promote broader commercial applications of GPS and to expand global markets while assisting in safeguarding the technology’s military advantages. The council has a long history of highly effective advocacy on behalf of the GPS industry, as well as serving as a trusted source of objective information for policy makers, the media and the public both in the U.S. and around the world.” The alliance website gives a longer statement about the history and record of the USGIC, highlighting its role in international negotiations.

Michael Swiek, executive director of the USGIC, has transitioned to become the executive director, executive branch and international, of the Innovation Alliance. In addition to working closely with leading offices of executive branch departments of the U.S. government, he will continue well-established dialogs with governmental, private sector and academic entities in areas critical to GPS and satellite navigation among key players in Europe, Japan, Russia, Korea, China, and elsewhere.

Heather Hennessey, a principal of Innovative Federal Strategies LLC, a “comprehensive government relations firm,” has taken the position of executive director, legislative, at the alliance. Hennessey has seven years of service in the House of Representatives, including two years as chief of staff for Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia.

An active voice in alliance representations on Capitol Hill will presumably be that of Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel for Trimble. Kirkland was the most prominent spokesperson for the coalition during the LightSquared battle, which appears to be either over or nearly so. “The alliance is committed to ensuring constructive, robust dialog between GPS users, manufacturers and policy makers on critical policy issues affecting GPS,” Kirkland said, “a commitment Trimble is pleased to be a part of as the industry continues to innovate and modernize.”

The alliance mission statement cites the importance of GPS to global economy and infrastructure; vows to aid further GPS innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship; and to protect, promote and enhance the use of GPS.

The GPS Innovation Alliance officially launched on February 13 with a reception on Capitol Hill, a traditional lobbying tactic that previous efforts had perhaps not envisioned.  The organization has also hired a public relations firm, Prism Public Affairs, and commissioned a logo.

Alan Cameron

About the Author:

Alan Cameron is editor-in-chief and publisher of GPS World magazine, where he has worked since 2000. He also writes the monthly GNSS System Design e-mail newsletter and the Wide Awake blog.

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