"Technology is not an end in itself, but an important tool to help respond to challenges," said Antonio Colaço of the European Commission's Transport and Mobility Directorate-General. And the challenges for public authorities, he stressed, are many. "We are dealing with climate change and other environmental concerns, we have public health issues and we have the increasing demand for transport. All of these things are of great interest to the general public."
Meanwhile, with a shadow still lingering over the economy, service providers are being pressed to do more with less. "So, we have to be more efficient and more intelligent," said Colaco. "GNSS is a way to respond to these pressures. We're not talking about gadgets here. We're talking about real answers and real opportunities."
Reinhard Blasi, Market Development Officer at the European GNSS Supervisory Authority, said, "Public services mean public benefits. We are seeing lots of interesting answers to the challenges we are facing today and some very interesting business models related to them. Public benefits are directly linked to market adoption that again means also revenues. There is money to be made here, there is an economic payoff, while at the same time there is also a huge potential to do real good for our fellow citizens. "
State of play
Mauro Facchini of the Commission's Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General spoke about potential synergies between GNSS and GMES, the EU's flagship earth observation programmes. "What we are seeking is an independent European capacity to make critical environmental and security-related decisions. Together, Galileo and GMES can tell you where you are and what's around you. This will mean important new applications and services for the marine environment, for all transport modes, for emergency response and humanitarian initiatives."
With GMES set to be fully operational by 2014, Facchini said, it will work side-by-side with Galileo and EGNOS. "And we will have a liberal data access policy, which means public service providers, other end users and members of the public will draw maximum benefits at minimum cost."
Roger Pagny, of the French Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea, provided a national perspective. "One of the crucial areas where GNSS can make a real difference," he said, "is in getting the balance right between transport needs and the environment." Pagny outlined a number of potential applications that could help get people where they want to go more efficiently, from automated 'eco-driving' to mobile phones with pedestrian guidance, to urban tolling and congestion charging.
"Like the internet," he said, "GNSS is rapidly becoming part of our daily lives. Even if we wanted to, we could not stop this trend. The time is now, therefore, to move forward. Our main priorities now should be research, to exploit these new technologies to the fullest, and standardisation, so that we do not waste our efforts by going in every direction at the same time."
Industry and innovation
The Social and Public Services session also gathered representatives of some of the main industrial players in the GNSS sector. Friedemann Kirn of Satellic and Jérôme Couzineau of Sanef Group discussed new road charging schemes in Germany and Slovakia, while Rui Dias Camolino of ASECAP presented the latest in real-time route guidance systems.
Also featured were a number of presentations of potential, upcoming, ongoing and completed research projects, all aimed at bringing real GNSS services and benefits to end users. These included two recent winners of 'Galileo Masters' awards.
Galileo Masters regional winner for Bavaria, the 'Galileo SAR Lawine' project, was presented by Wolfgang Inninger of Fraunhofer IML. The project's aim was to develop a new system for locating avalanche victims more efficiently and with greater accuracy. "The project was a great success," said Inninger. "We are now miniaturising the system and working to make it more affordable."
The overall winner of the Galileo Masters Competition, José Caro Ramón of Spain's GMV, presented the 'Osmógrafo' system, which uses satellite navigation signals to support canine search-and-rescue teams. "We bring together positioning data for the dogs, information about their scent capabilities, and the direction and speed of the wind to mark areas covered on a map," he explained.
Osmógrafo was developed by GMV as part of a project that received funding through the EU’s Sixth Research Framework Programme. While the potential commercial value of the system is probably moderate, Caro Ramón says its value in human terms is enormous. "We have all seen the terrible images of people caught in disasters, trapped in collapsed buildings, most recently in Haiti and in Chile. In these desperate situations, survivors must be located in the very first hours. The Osmógrafo system, we believe, will help save lives."
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