Resilient PNT Need of the Hour, Underline Experts at GWF

AMSTERDAM, May 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Position, navigation and timing (PNT) services have become part and parcel of our lives today. From GPS services in our smartphones to complex applications across sectors, PNT is integral to a range of industries, be it transportation, aviation, farming or construction. As PNT becomes critical to economic activities, any disruption in availability, reliability, resilience, and integrity would weaken the critical infrastructure that sustains our national security, business operations and public safety.

This growing dependency on PNT services, and the potentially high economic cost to vulnerabilities, underscores just how vital GPS and GNSS systems are to the global economy and national security of countries worldwide. Resilient PNT systems are thus more than necessary today to combat GPS/GNSS outages.

To build resilience into these systems will require multiple technologies ranging from network time transfer services, terrestrial wireless infrastructure, and low earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

As Geospatial World opened in Amsterdam on May 10, the second plenary of the day focused on the value of PNT in the global economy.

Robert Cardillo, President, The Cardillo Group, and former Director of US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), set the stage by calling on a panel of distinguished experts in the field.  

“Our existence on this planet has been shaped by our individual and collective awareness of place and our confidence to be able to move securely and efficiently from one place to another, all within that common framework of time – position, navigation and timing, or PNT,” he said.

A special mention here must be made of Charlie Trimble, the principal founder of Trimble Navigation Limited in 1978, and the driving force behind the creation of the first commercially feasible GPS timing receiver introduced in 1984.

Cardillo added: “And I can think of no better way to set the stage for this critical discussion about the importance of PNT in our economy, both today and tomorrow, than with a presentation from a true legend in our profession, Charlie Trimble. Charlie’s contribution in the field created the very foundation for the vibrant and socially relevant geospatial industry we all enjoy today. His vision has empowered industries in this room, across every sector, making a profound and lasting difference in the world economy and society.”


Charlie Trimble, Founder of Trimble

“The smartphone is a wonderful example of how far PNT has been integrated into our lives,” he began, as he laid down three basic phases that were involved in leading PNT to its place in the world economy.

“The path from the dawn of space age to the smartphone was anything but obvious or straightforward. I now see, in retrospect, that there were three basic steps that were involved in leading PNT to its place in the world economy. First, Sputnik led to the global navigation systems. Second, the Shuttle disaster led us to the realization that the satellite system was an information utility. And now, the integration of PNT into the mobile and immobile internet is changing our world.”

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting FRS FREng, Executive Chairman, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. 

“Our first contract was with ESA (European Space Agency) to look at the feasibility of using a navigation and timing satellite using small-satellite techniques, which in 1985 was considered a wacky idea.”

At ESA, we have embarked on a project ESA called Hydro GNSS, which uses Surrey’s GNSS Reflectometry to address the number of the climate related issues, be it water detection or biomass, etc. This doesn’t stop here; we are looking at the lunar economy. PNT has indeed a very bright future, not just on Earth but also looking through this decade into the use of PNT on the user surface.”

Rodrigo da Costa, Executive Director, EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA)

“New things are happening, particularly in the area of governmental satellite communications, space situational awareness, and others, which are benefitting citizens every day. Galileo, EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) , Copernicus, and GOVSATCOM programs are key areas of EU space activities. All these programs are massive investments and in the end, the result comes from their utilization in the different areas of our economy and daily life.”

“In 2021, GNSS & EO downstream market generated 200 billion euros in revenues and are set to reach almost half a trillion over the next decade.”

Gillian Smith, Vice President of Marketing, NextNav

“Just in the US alone, GPS is approaching USD 1 trillion in terms of economic impact and is doubling every 2-3 years. But it is a single point of failure. This highlights the need for resilient PNT.”

“We believe that our needs have evolved beyond technology that was really created in the Sixties. We need increased accuracy and availability in the urban environments in particular. I think many of you have experienced it if you’ve tryied to use it in any major city. That blue dot is going to bounce off of buildings and not be very accurate. We need indoor tracking and mapping. We need altitude data so that you know what floor you’re on when you’re thinking about accurate location. We also need to increase resilience and redundancy. That’s going to give us all increased security as well.”

Value of GPS

GPS jamming and interference is a grave issue and have come under the spotlight particularly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Back in 2019, a DC think tank had documented more than 10,000 cases of GPS interference (jamming and spoofing) in the previous five years from Russia. By 2021, these had become increasingly sophisticated. In a peculiar case, the crew onboard NATO ships in Odessa saw their position being instead given as Crimea.

In the past six months, even before the war on Ukraine began, there were reports of GPS jamming in and around that region. In March, the EU Aviation Safety Agency had issued warnings of GNSS spoofing and jamming for flights over Europe, in particular around countries neighboring Ukraine and Russia.

Globally, the economic impact of GPS/GNSS disruption is difficult to state. The potential economic consequences of failing to sufficiently protect sources of PNT are enormous, wherein estimates range from millions to billions of dollars depending on the type, length, severity, and geographic scope of the disruption.  Furthermore, the impact of a GPS/GNSS outage extends beyond basic economics and could even result in a risk to life. Today, emergency services, distress beacons, telecommunications networks all rely on PNT services – and any disruption could cause consequences beyond the imaginable.

A 2019 report sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated that the loss of GPS would cost the US economy USD 1 billion a day. 

A similar study in UK conducted in 2017 estimated that a five-day GNSS disruption would lead to an economic impact of GBP 5.2 billion (USD 7.2 billion), with road, maritime and emergency service impacts accounting for 88 percent of the cost. This cost is likely to be considerably higher today since location data has become more pervasive in all economic activities.

About Geospatial World Forum

Geospatial World Forum is one of the most prestigious global geospatial conferences and annual gatherings of geospatial professionals across the world. This year’s edition GWF 2022 runs from May 10 to May 12 at the Taets Art and Event Park, Zaanstad, Amsterdam. The three-day conference is produced by Geospatial World and co-hosted by Dutch Kadaster.

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About Geospatial World

Geospatial World is a global think tank working towards raising awareness around the use of geospatial data and technologies among governments and policymakers, businesses, and the public at large. Its mission is ‘Making a Difference through Geospatial Knowledge in World Economy and Society’. Primarily a knowledge organization, Geospatial World pursues thought leadership, policy advocacy and technology evangelism through various activities and platforms.

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