Need for Resilient Position, Navigation, Timing Services
Many are familiar with GPS in the context of driving directions or the phone map app. However, GPS provides position, navigation, and timing (PNT) and is integrated across a wide range of use cases. Reliance on PNT (GPS) leaves many sectors vulnerable to outages, spoofing attacks, signal jamming, and solar flare interferences. The spoofing of GNSS signals due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year forced European aircraft to reroute due to an “inability to perform a safe landing procedure”, resulting in the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issuing a safety information bulletin (SIB) around GNSS interferences in March 2022.
It’s crucial for policymakers and infrastructure owners to deploy complementary PNT solutions to close these gaps and avoid potential chaos – as we’re seeing now, with both the US and EU taking promising steps to study and implement these critical technologies.
Recognizing alternatives to GPS
While Visual Position Systems (VPS) might be helpful for some applications and complementary to current GPS systems, it is still in the early stages with challenges (for example, environmental). Critical infrastructure – emergency services, utilities, the financial industry – relies on the timing that is delivered by GPS (which VPS doesn’t do). We need to recognize the importance of having systems that both serve as a complementary layer for everything that GPS does – position, navigation, and timing – and enhance it, by providing things such as robust 3D location and deep, indoor building penetration.
It’s promising that policymakers, infrastructure owners, and businesses are recognizing the importance of alternatives to GPS, and are exploring options for PNT technologies to address vulnerabilities and effectively access location information. NextNav has the commercially available Terra- PoiNT terrestrial system, which provides full 3D PNT services and is working to expand it.
Operational constraints of GPS
It’s not a surprise that, as a free, expansive service, GPS is so widely used. But relying on GPS without any complementary resilient PNT solution in place is a major cybersecurity risk and has been classified as such by the US Department of Homeland Security. It’s critical for Cybersecurity leaders to manage PNT vulnerabilities as they would other Cybersecurity risks.
There are many use cases where alternate PNT technologies fit today’s needs for indoor, and outdoor applications. For example, in urban areas, GPS signals can be less reliable and impede navigation, transportation, and don’t provide accurate altitude information. Emergency services can save more lives with PNT services that include floor-level vertical locations for situations like finding an emergency caller. Our Pinnacle technology provides floor-level location, thus enhancing situational awareness for first responders.
The advent of cutting-edge technologies
We’re in an exciting time for new technologies with the potential to reshape how society’s challenges are approached. Autonomous vehicles, urban air mobility, drones, and smart cities are forecasted to play important future roles. In all these technologies, PNT is integral to how they are developed, deployed, and managed.
Looking at how to prepare our infrastructure for these new innovations, now –– is perhaps the most important time to ensure, policymakers are educated on how PNT plays a critical role in securing infrastructure and enabling technology – both now and in future. Further, we need to have secure, resilient, GPS alternatives that meet certain criteria for performance, but also are cost-effective, easily deployable, can fit into mass-market devices, and can cover wide areas.