ESRI Conference and SVN-49 Troubles

July 29, 2009  - By 0 Comments

I had a great visit at the ESRI User Conference earlier this month. If you recall last year, I wrote:

“As much as surveyors, engineers, and constructors may not appreciate geographic information systems (GIS) technology, at some point everyone should attend at least the ESRI Survey/Engineering Summit and the first couple of days of the ESRI User Conference held every summer in San Diego, California. This is not a GIS sales pitch. It’s a networking sales pitch. When other conferences are struggling to maintain attendance levels, the ESRI conferences seemingly never fail to grow in attendance. This year, it attracted some 15,000 people from 120 countries. That means gobs of GIS people, and also gobs of surveyors and engineers.”

The statement rang true this year too. Even in today’s economy where conferences are severely impacted or even cancelled due to travel budget cuts, the ESRI User conference still attracted ~11,000 people this month.

On another note, I think conference organizers are getting the message. People just can’t justify attending so many conferences. Next Spring, the ACSM (American Congress for Surveying & Mapping) is combining with the GITA (Geospatial Information & Technology Association) conference in Phoenix, AZ. Instead of 1,000-1,500 for each conference, it’s a larger event at 2,000-3,000. Even more interesting is talk in the rumor mill about a joint conference including ACSM and the ESRI Survey Summit in 2011. Include the GITA conference with those and that makes a lot of sense to me.
As usual, there were many things happening at this year’s ESRI UC conference and I attended many briefings. I’ll try to stay focused on the highly GPS/GNSS-related subjects:
Javad GNSS. One of the bigger news items on the GPS front was the joint Javad/ESRI effort in developing an ArcPad extension for Javad’s line of receivers. The demonstration was very cool. We loaded up a local map (San Diego) from their server located in Moscow (Russia) then took a Javad RTK receiver outside with the data collector (running ArcPad w/Javad’s extension). I collected data on a few points. The data was sent off to Moscow from the data collector (via GPRS while we were outside) to update the map. After we walked back into the convention center, the demonstrator clicked the workstation “refresh” button and viola, the map was updated with the points I collected at the cm-level.
According to the JAVAD engineer, “we make it look easy.” I agree. There’s a lot of heavy-lifting going on in the background to make this happen. With the heavy-lifting done, it still needs a bit of tweaking. There weren’t any quality control indicators (RMS values) on the data collector for the operator to reference and also ArcPad doesn’t recognize GLONASS satellites so while the GNSS receiver was utilizing GPS and GLONASS, ArcPad only reported GPS satellites. The operator really does need to know what’s going on before tapping on the STORE button. But, 95% of the work is done and the heavy lifting is complete so I don’t doubt they will finish off the last 5% in short order.
Topcon Positioning Systems. I’ve had a few questions from readers on Topcon’s new GRS-1 receiver. Is it single frequency? Is it dual frequency? Is it for GIS? Is it for survey?
The answers are Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.
The entry-level GRS-1 is a single-frequency hand-held GIS data collector. That’s about US$5,000.

Add US$4,000 and you get a 5cm high accuracy GIS receiver.

Add another US$2,500 and you have a full-blown, cm-level RTK rover.

There are other options beyond this (eg. GLONASS), but I think you get the picture as I did. It’s a full L1/L2 GPS and GLONASS receiver. You pay to have features activated (plus some added hardware/software).

I haven’t tried one yet so I couldn’t tell you how it performs, but it’s worth a look.

Juniper Systems. Although they don’t design GPS receivers, their Archer hand-held is starting to show up in a lot of places. Hemisphere GPS has designed the XF-101 receiver as a plug-in for the Archer as well as having a similar model for the Trimble/TDS Recon and Nomad hand-helds. Javad was also offering the Archer with their systems. IkeGPS also introduced a new hand-held mapping system named the Ike1000 that is based on the Archer.

Geneq. Their flagship product, the SXBlue GPS, seems to be gaining momentum in the GIS marketplace. They have introduced a new model that utilizes the OmniSTAR correction service called the SXBlue II-L GPS. Their use of WAAS (via Hemisphere GPS Coast technology) and performance under tree canopy has created some buzz.

Trimble Navigation. It’s hard to leave Trimble out of the conversation, but nothing really new in the GPS product area. However, they continue their run of acquiring companies with the latest being Farm Works Software in the precision agriculture industry. In 2009, they’ve acquired four niche-market companies.

Magellan Professional. Introduced an upgrade to support ArcPad 8.0 for post-processing on their Mobile Mapper 6 hand-held for sub-meter accuracy. FYI: Magellan consumer GPS products is no longer part of Magellan Professional. Rumor has it that Magellan Professional will revert back to the Ashtech brand name of the1990’s.

Leica Geosystems. Where were they?

SVN-49 Troubles, Solar Cycle 24, GAO Report

I gave a presentation at the ESRI UC on Tuesday morning as part of the Survey (SUR) track. I focused on three core issues listed above. You can view my presentation here.

I’ll stick to the highlights…

p>SVN-49 troubles. It’s broke and will never be as good as the other Block IIR-M satellites. Don’t expect it to be declared healthy in the immediate future. Even if a patch is developed and it’s declared healthy, it’s likely that pseudorange-based safety-of-life applications like SBAS (WAAS, EGNOS, MSAS) and NDGPS will not incorporate it into their solutions. Although more study is necessary, it appears that carrier-phase applications (cm-level real-time and post-processing) will be able to utilize SVN-49.

Solar Cycle 24. NOAA reports that the number of sunspots during the next solar cycle (2009-2020) will be the fewest since the 1920’s. That doesn’t mean the next solar cycle will be any easier on GPS than the last one. On the contrary, it could be worse for GPS. No one knows at this point. High performance GPS L1 receivers are the most exposed. Those utilizing NDGPS, WAAS and OmniSTAR’s VBS service need to be watchful. You can sign up to receive alerts from NOAA giving a three-day forecast of activity. NOAA predicts the peak of the next solar cycle will be in May 2013. Note that typically the geomagnetic activity that most affects GPS occurs after the peak. Links and more details are in the presentation.

GAO Report. I wrote an article on this subject back in June as it relates to medium and high precision users. You can read it here. High precision users will be affected more than other users because high precision GPS receivers perform better with a lot of observables. A loss of 2-3 GPS satellites can be significant and require users to begin using GPS mission planning software again to optimize the use of field time. Survey receivers using GPS and GLONASS will be less affected. The presentation references a report from the University of New Brunswick that takes a look at how GLONASS can compensate for a loss of GPS satellites.


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Eric Gakstatter

About the Author:

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as consulted with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributing editor to GPS World magazine,writing a monthly newsletter on high-precision GPS/GNSS technology. He is also editor of Geospatial Solutions, a weekly newsletter focused on geospatial technologies.

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