As the Internet of Things (IoT) connects a steady stream of information between the people and processes powering the world around us, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) provide critical functions involving timing and positioning that are needed for devices’ day-to-day operations.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems use satellite technology to provide insight on the geographic location of connected devices. GNSS is an inclusive term for the category of global systems including GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and Galileo. And, when more than one constellation is used at the same time, the benefits of those systems combine. Global systems are assisted by regional augmentation systems: WAAS in North & South America, EGNOS in Europe, GAGAN in India, and MSAS in Japan. These systems provide data necessary for safe navigation of aircraft. Each regional system offers unique advantages across a range of frequencies. Regional systems such as QZSS, and NavIC provide additional services for their respective geographies.

IoT technologies enable everything from wearable health trackers to smart building management, vehicle positioning, and package tracking. GNSS systems support IoT applications by providing data about a connected device’s position and speed. They also provide accurate timing information – a crucial component in building a synchronized, high-precision IoT network.

When business owners and operators use multiple GNSS constellations simultaneously, they can improve the availability of a navigation solution, increase location accuracy, speed up operation performance, and ultimately save time and money. All of these are key concerns to consider when choosing how many systems to utilize in IoT endeavors.

As the global demand for connectivity increases, businesses can expect to see more integration of GNSS technologies going into 2020. Which GNSS platforms are available today and how do they differ?

4 GNSS Systems and Their Unique Features

GPS (United States)

While GPS and GNSS are often used interchangeably, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is the world’s most utilized satellite navigation system, operating from 32 satellites across six orbital planes. Originally developed in the United States for military use, we now see GPS in everything from car navigation to business tagging in social media, as well as farming and mapping. A high-accuracy multi-frequency GPS system with using PPP or RTK techniques, can identify spatial locations down to 10 centimeters or less.

GLONASS (Russia)

Like GPS, GLONASS was designed during the 1970s as Russia’s military positioning system. Commercial applications like transmitting navigation positioning and weather broadcasts started in the 1980s with the deployment of 24 satellites across three orbital planes.

BeiDou (China)

Since 2000, China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has been on the rise to potentially overtake GPS in commercial global usage. Currently in its third generation, it claims to reach a millimeter-level accuracy that outperforms other systems. However, with only 22 operational satellites, BeiDou is at a slight disadvantage in terms of accuracy when compared to GPS and GLONASS. Expect more satellites and increased accuracy by 2020.

Galileo (EU)

Developed by the European Union in 2011, Galileo currently operates 14 satellites and is intended to provide a more accurate positioning service at higher latitudes than other GNSS systems. Galileo is expected to compete with the global reach of GPS by 2020 with the use of 24 satellites in six orbital planes. Galileo is currently providing emergency response services and making Europe’s roads and railways safe for everyone.

4 Benefits of Using Multiple Constellation GNSS Receivers at Once

Modern positioning and timing modules have evolved to take advantage of multiple GNSS constellations at once. Combining multiple satellite systems improves availability of signals, gives operators more access, and increases accuracy. Recent driving tests combining GPS and GLONASS showed a noticeable improvement in both precision and performance when compared with single system results.

Whether you’re navigating a position in a crowded city, a vast desert, or a dense forest, utilizing multiple GNSS systems can help you stay connected and centered.

Industries and businesses can in any configuration to achieve the following benefits:

  1. Added Security. In the unlikely event that a satellite fails, GNSS receivers will remove it from the navigation solution automatically.
  2. Multiple Pathways. Access to multiple satellites increases visibility in regions with natural or artificial obstructions (urban canyons are created by tall, clustered buildings and can seriously impact single-frequency GNSS accuracy), and improves Time to First Fix (TTFF), a measure of the time needed for a GNSS-connected device to determine its location.
  3. Future Proofing. Integrating systems is a form of future-proofing, since changes in each system mirror changes in the marketplace at different rates.
  4. Increased Data Integrity. Galileo provides increased security features for maritime, rail, logistics, and automotive industries. Layering multiple systems like Galileo with GPS casts a wider net in terms of reach, positioning, and accuracy.

Finding the Right Multi-Constellation Solutions for the Future

Telit offers many solutions for those curious about which services exist for utilizing signals from multiple GNSS constellations. Telit is one of the few IoT companies utilizing multiple GNSS solutions for its customers. Our Jupiter SL869 family of modules gives customers the power to include signal measurement from multiple GNSS technologies in real-time.  Test one of our GNSS modules in your application. Request your free evaluation kit