The Latest from Moscow and JAVAD GNSS
It seems every industry has at least one person’s first name that, when spoken, sparks recognition from anyone who has a reasonable amount of experience in that field. In the computer database industry, everyone knows that “Larry” is Larry Ellison of Oracle fame. In GNSS, Charlie Trimble has a street named after him, not to mention a company bearing his name. But no person’s first name carries as much recognition in the industry as Javad.
I attended the First Annual JAVAD GNSS User Conference in Moscow a couple of weeks ago. The company is putting together a serious effort in order to compete in the survey/construction/engineering industries.
Javad is a name synonymous with high-quality, high-precision GNSS receivers — and with some amount of controversy. No matter what you think of the history and circumstances, you have to appreciate the fine GNSS technology produced under the guidance of Dr. Javad Ashjaee.
JAVAD GNSS is, perhaps, his most ambitious endeavor since he started Ashtech some 21 years ago.
The reason I believe it’s his most ambitious effort since Ashtech is because although Javad’s companies have a proven history of providing high quality, state-of-the-art GNSS receivers to the world, everyone in the survey/construction industry knows that while a solid GNSS receiver is important, the software makes the solution. Solid data-collection software and PC processing software is a “must-have” in order to compete with the Trimbles, Leicas, Topcons, and Magellans of today. A big reason Ashtech always played second fiddle to Trimble wasn’t due to the quality of the receivers themselves. In fact, many viewed Ashtech receivers as superior to Trimble’s in that era. But Trimble’s heavy emphasis and investment in developing a complete software solution and a powerful distribution channel are key reasons that Trimble is valued at ~$4 billion today.
While you can debate whether Javad GNSS will ever achieve the same success as Trimble, you can’t argue about the effort that Dr. Ashjaee is putting forth. He doesn’t need to work and probably has enough money to last a couple of lifetimes, but I think he’s a competitor and he wants to win.
First Annual JAVAD GNSS Conference
The new Javad receiver design appears very nice from an ergonomic standpoint. The RTK communications antenna appears to be missing, but it’s actually integrated inside the rangepole. Last year, Javad bought ArWest Communications Corp., a maker of narrow-band and spread-spectrum radios, so JAVAD GNSS has the flexibility to integrate RTK communications in creative ways. Also, with a Bluetooth interface to the data collector, no external cables are required.
In true Javad style, the Triumph series has 216 channels capable of tracking all existing signals and is prepared to track new signals as they come online, such as GPS L5 and Galileo E1/E5.
From listening and talking with other attendees, there appear to be four areas they see where Javad is trying to set himself apart from the rest of the manufacturers:
- Pricing. Javad’s innovative pricing scheme. You can look for yourself at http://www.javad.com, although you might be somewhat confused with all of the options. The bottom line is that the system will be pretty competitive. Something unique, though, is that pricing is the same for every country in the world.
- “Instantaneous” RTK initialization. It’s hard to buy into this one at face value until I (or you) have tried it in true field conditions. Many other systems have pretty quick RTK initializations. “Instantaneous” re-initializations after loss in tree canopy or next to buildings would be very nice, and if it performs true to specs, would be an advantage.
- In Band Interference Rejection (IBIR). The claim is that RTK users experience times during the day when RTK doesn’t work, due to local RF (radio frequency) interference. In my experience, the most common RTK problem, by far, is the communications link between the base and rover, whether that link be UHF, VHF, spread spectrum, or GSM/CDMA. What Javad is referring to is jamming or harmonic interference at the GNSS frequencies that prevent your GNSS receiver from processing the signals from the satellites. Personally, I’ve never experienced this type of interference, that I’ve been aware of. Any time I’ve had a problem with RTK, I’ve always been able to trace it back to the RTK communications link. So, I’m not sure there is measurable upside to this claim.
- Superior use of GLONASS. You can read the explanation that JAVAD GNSS lays out in the company’s advertisement in GPS World. I can see that they are in a great position to capitalize on GLONASS given the long history that Javad has in Moscow. But the proof lies in how it performs in the field, so the jury is out on this one. I’ve used several GPS/GLONASS system in the field, and all performed superior to my GPS-only system. Whether Javad’s GPS/GLONASS technology is superior to other GPS/GLONASS receivers on the market is something we need more data on before that conclusion can be drawn. However, it is clear there is some wiggle room here, especially when it comes to resolving biases when the rover GNSS unit is of a different manufacturer than the manufacturer of the RTK network infrastructure receiver. Each manufacturer handles this differently and perhaps JAVAD GNSS has found a novel method.
I haven’t mentioned the “antenna umbrella” that many of you have seen in advertisements or read about. First of all, this isn’t required in order to use JAVAD GNSS equipment. The Triumph-1 pictured earlier is the standard configuration. The “antenna umbrella” you’ve seen is used with the Triumph-4 (not released yet) so the user can benefit from multi-baseline redundancy and integrity with one GNSS receiver.
The Triumph-4 includes four GNSS receivers, three accelerometers, and three gyros to allow positioning in adverse conditions. I really like the idea of the accelerometers and gyros to augment the GNSS measurements. I think this is the wave of the future. But I don’t think the antenna umbrella concept is going to fly, at least for mobile production work like topo surveys, construction staking, and high-precision GIS. I could maybe envision it for geodetic control, deformation monitoring, and machine control, given the right type of packaging.
A Word about GLONASS
Sergey Revnivykh from the Russian Federal Space Agency gave the audience an update on GLONASS. He reasserted the Russian government’s commitment to GLONASS and its intent to support CDMA to ensure “compatibility and interoperability with other GNSS and augmentations.”
GLONASS currently has 12 operational satellites. Only one of those twelve is a legacy satellite that will probably fail in the next year. The other eleven are GLONASS-M satellites with a “guaranteed” life of seven years. Revnivykh says Russia expects to launch six more GLONASS satellites this year. Finally, it looks like we are moving beyond the GLONASS constellation vacillating between nine and fourteen satellites. We should have seventeen solid GLONASS satellites to with work in 2009. Another six GLONASS satellites are planned for launch in 2009, so by December 2009, the number of operational GLONASS could reach twenty-three.
Post-conference Social Event
A Saturday party took place at a lakehouse (the traditional Russian dacha, with modern accoutrements) about 90 minutes from Moscow. A tour bus ferried conference attendees and JAVAD employees to the catered event with activities ranging from miniature golfing to boat rides on the lake. Entertainment was provided by a Brazilian dance troupe and capped off by a trio of opera performers. It was a very well put-together family-oriented event.
Javad Ashjaee in middle,