On December 27, China flipped the switch on its new national GPS service. Dubbed “Beidou,” the system promises best-in-class performance and will likely make the Asian economic superpower a global leader in GPS. With the launch of its 10th satellite earlier this month, Beidou currently provides location data only to China and its surrounding regions, but the plan is for all of Asia to be covered by 2012. Full global coverage is expected by 2020, when a total of 35 satellites are scheduled to be launched and operational.
There’s already been a lot of talk about what Beidou will ultimately mean for U.S.-China relations. In addition to spurring tremendous domestic economic opportunities for the Chinese, once it’s fully operational, the new system could have far-reaching military and political implications. For example, it will theoretically allow China to be much less dependent on U.S. and foreign technology when tracking its troops anywhere around the globe. It would also protect China against the possibility of the U.S. turning its system off for strategic reasons.
Global politics aside, we’re interested in what Beidou will mean for the future of GPS technology and how location-based devices like GPS trackers will function.
Since Beidou is expected to be compatible and interoperable with the world’s other positioning systems, such as Russia’s fully functional Glonass network, the European Union’s Galileo system (set to come online in 2019), and the U.S.’s soon to be upgraded GPS system, it could mean much more powerful and accurate positioning technology for all of the world’s GPS products.
Beidou is promising positioning information correct to within 10 meters, measuring speeds within 0.2 meters per second, and clock synchronization signals accurate to 0.02 millionths of a second. However, if the system is integrated with other global positioning systems, those speeds and accuracy benchmarks could get even better.
An example of positioning system teamwork already exists between the U.S. and Russian systems — and the newest combined tech should be coming to the next generation of smartphones in 2012. Recently, a system using both Russian and U.S satellites was tested in midtown Manhattan, where GPS reception is usually weak due to the preponderance of tall buildings. Reports indicated that the test smartphone was able to instantly grab and lock on to a strong GPS signal and provide extremely accurate location data.
We hope to start testing a GPS tracker equipped with the newest technology sometime in 2012. At this point, we’re excited about the potential for ramped-up accuracy and speed, but we’ll have to see what the tech can do in real-world conditions. As always, we’ll let you know how it all shakes out.