The European GNSS Agency recently highlighted the many ways your start-up can benefit from Europe’s GNSS programmes – EGNOS and Galileo – during infoShare2016 in Gdansk, Poland.
Recently, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) had the opportunity to talk EGNOS and Galileo at infoShare2016 in Gdansk, Poland. The biggest ICT tech conference in Central and Eastern Europe, the event brought together 5 000 tech professionals, developers, entrepreneurs and innovation leaders to share knowledge and experience about working across Europe.
During a dedicated session on space technology and business, the GSA discussed how space is more than just rockets and missions to other planets. “Space technology, such as GNSS, can benefit business and provide new market opportunities for start-ups and investors,” says GSA Market Development Officer Justyna Redelkiewicz. “For example, the sectors of Location Based Services, aviation, maritime, localisation and data transfer where space is closest to Earth are especially vibrant areas for new companies and investors today.”
In fact, there is a strong link between information and communication technology and the space sector, and the GSA highlighted three specific activities taking place in Poland that link the two. For example, the Galileo Masters Competition is the largest international competition for the commercial use of satellite navigation, helping participants to get their project ready and closer to the market and investors. There’s also the Horizon 2020-funded POSITION project, which works to support global navigation satellite service (GNSS) uptake in Poland, with several of the project’s success stories exhibiting at infoShare (see boxed text).
Positioning Poland’s start-ups for success
Given the large number of high-tech professionals and a generally untapped industrial sector, Poland is an attractive market for European GNSS. The GSA-supported POSITION (Polish Support to Innovation and Technology IncubatiON) initiative aims to increase E-GNSS market penetration and general awareness within the country. And judging from the handful of POSITION-supported projects exhibiting on the infoShare exhibition floor, the project is already producing results.
For example, Brumgo is using GNSS positioning information to help vehicles share their location and better plan their routes – an essential tool for companies operating large vehicle fleets. “With Brumgo, we’ve created an application that will change the approach of company owners and fleet operators,” says a company representative. “For example, if you’re in the delivery business, your customers can use the Brumgo app to see exactly where the delivery truck is and when it will arrive – taking away the stress of having to run home so as not to miss the delivery.”
Likewise, a group of researchers from Warsaw University of Technology set out to create an affordable, single-chip solution for precise positioning. The result is ChipCraft, which offers a single-chip dual frequency, dual-system reliable and highly accurate compact navigation receiver. “We saw that many applications required precision better than 1 metre and reliable positioning, but the cost and size of getting that level of precision and positioning kept them out of the market,” says one company researcher. “With ChipCraft, we’ve been able to fill this gap, giving our customers the chance to gain a competitive advantage and be able to offer better and more compact products.”
Another innovative app on display at the infoShare start-up showcase was ParkEasily. We’ve all been in the situation where we circle the block and drive endless kilometres beyond our destination just to find an available parking space. But ParkEasily asks ‘what parking problems?’ The apps aim is to reduce the stress of finding parking and help car park owners optimise the capacity of their parking lots. The application uses a combination of IoT solutions, GNSS positioning and complex algorithms to identify driving and parking trends.
And for those out at sea, Navdec is developing an autonomous ship as a means of avoiding at-sea collisions. Over 2000 collisions happen every year, with each collision costing over USD 1 million – and this doesn’t even factor in loss of life, destruction of cargo or environmental effects. As over 80% of these collisions are due to human error, Navdec aims to remove the human factor from maritime navigation. Its navigation decision support system using GNSS positioning, in combination with other technologies, to qualify encounter situations according to Collision Regulations and provides the navigator a ready-to-use solution for avoiding collisions.
The Horizon 2020-funded POSITION project is a collaboration between Black Pearls Investment (BPI), a Poland-based capital fund experienced in the technology sector, and SpaceTec Partners, a consultancy with offices in Brussels and Munich. The project specifically focuses on start-ups and early-stage investment opportunities for companies in Poland looking to utilise E-GNSS technology.
Big opportunities with GNSS
According to the GSA, there are currently 4 billion GNSS devices globally, a number that is expected to grow in the future. Furthermore, the installed base of GNSS devices is expected to triple by 2023, with growth in all regions. “With this growth, the big data market will grow as well,” says Redelkiewicz. “As the market is expected to top USD 84 billion in 2026, as both the global population and mobile device penetration rises, and use of social media increases, managing this big data brings new business opportunities.”
As an example of the type of opportunities available, Redelkiewicz pointed to a recently launched campaign by Red Roof Inn that uses big data for a new location-based service (LBS) application. Through sourcing freely available weather and flight cancellation information, the company built an algorithm that takes weather severity, travel conditions, time of day, and cancellation rates into consideration, then targeted mobile ads to stranded travellers, making it easier for them to book a nearby hotel. As a direct result of this campaign, the hotel chain has seen a 10 % increase in business.
But the opportunities aren’t limited to the big data market. The Internet of Things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, and positioning are all ripe for business opportunities. Take for example IoT where in 2008 there were already more ‘things’ connected to the internet than people. By 2020 the amount of internet-connected things will reach 50 billion. Seeing an opportunity in these numbers, Air France KLM is launching its eTrack device, a GNSS-enabled device that tracks and traces luggage. The IoT device, working with an app, allows the owner of the luggage to know where their bags are at all times, enabling a faster bag drop process, improved airport efficiency, reduced stress for travellers, and an improved overall customer experience.
For applications in logistics, engineering, automotive, and the smartphone or tablet markets, augmented reality is increasingly important. Meanwhile the gaming market is benefiting from virtual reality and the level of immersion it offers.
According to Redelkiewicz, new augmented reality products work with GNSS to create an improved user experience. For example, Wikitude World Browser allows users to see everything a city has to offer through one glance at a mobile phone. Looking at real-time data, users can see nearby points of interest and information about their surroundings. Similarly, ForRent.com developed a mobile app that allows apartment searchers to find units by keyword search functionality or via augmented reality. Users point the phone’s camera at surrounding apartments and can then explore photos, prices, floor plans, and amenities of available rentals.
When it comes to positioning, Redelkiewicz says new geofencing technologies define virtual boundaries around real-world areas, creating a radius of interest that can trigger an action in a geo-enabled phone or portable electronic device. “This can be used in fleets of trucks, where if a driver breaks from his route the dispatcher receives an alert, or in Human Resources, where if an employee enters an unauthorised area security receives an alert,” she says.
Redelkiewicz also notes that positioning and navigation are also important indoors, but sometimes accurate indoor positioning or near tall buildings can be a technical challenge. “More effective ubiquitous positioning systems will help many areas, for example, by extending and completing the concept of augmented reality, facilitating targeted advertising, stock tracking, airport navigation, museum tours, and more,” she says.
GNSS and the automotive sector
And then there’s the automotive sector. “Buyers are increasingly looking for new vehicles with internet access, and a McKinsey interview found that 13 % of buyers would no longer consider a new vehicle without internet,” says Redelkiewicz. “GNSS enables connected cars to have many capabilities, including integration with home networks, data exchange with insurers and manufacturers, improved navigation, payment integration, localised information and advertising, police warnings and location, real-time traffic and incident alerts, assisted and automated driving, and more.”
GNSS is also important in emergency situations. eCall, an emergency response system, allows cars to respond to a crash by contacting the emergency service and wirelessly sending airbag and impact sensor information, as well as satellite positioning coordinates. By 2020, eCall will be enabled in 40 million cars and vans sold in Europe.
A future of space in Poland
In Poland, the space sector is increasingly important. When the Polish Space Agency (POLSA) was established in Gdansk in 2014, there was a large focus on the civil side of research and development, as well as education, as knowledge about space was key in launching this new sector for the country. Industries need to support and strengthen the competitiveness of the Polish space industry, transferring knowledge from space to non-space applications. By supporting space research and industry cooperation, there will be a harmonisation of space-sector activities in national and international programmes.
It is also important to create a market for using and transferring data into useable information. To accomplish this, the GSA and POLSA have created a pilot project to increase the efficiency of public administration by enabling it to use services based on satellite data in everyday work. POLSA for Education aims to increase knowledge about space technology, inspiring the next generation of Polish, highly educated specialists and encouraging future students to study space and science. Some universities are also offering new space degrees.
In the future, investment in space will continue to grow. Already, 2015 was a record year for venture capitalist investment in space, driven mainly by IT entrepreneurs. This has already been a trend in the USA, and it’s moving to Europe, meaning that it’s time for businesses and entrepreneurs to harness GNSS technology for innovative solutions, increased customer satisfaction and increased investment.
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