Testing the ‘right place, right time’ for UK PLC

Written by: Andrew Burrage
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We all know that navigating from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently is critical to the economy, and that GPS is a key enabler for this. Less well known, is the role that broader Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) capabilities and technologies play in global infrastructure. New and disruptive industries, such as drones and automated vehicles, rely upon PNT services from a variety of sources including GNSS. Beyond transport, many industries are reliant upon timing, for example GNSS is a source of synchronisation and time stamping for financial and business transactions.

GNSS constellations like Europe's Galileo, and China's BeiDou are coming online, and new downstream evolution, like IoT devices, are placing requirements that drive new technologies like Zigbee indoor positioning.

With new user demands from disruptive industries, economic reliance on PNT, and a rapidly evolving upstream environment, the UK is looking to solidify its capacity as a world-leader in the PNT testing facilities and capabilities. Helios has been contracted by InnovateUK to conduct an audit of UK PNT testing facilities. The aim is to provide:

1. An understanding of the UK's capability (and gaps) in PNT testing facilities, and the skills required to operate them;

2. Information to publicise these capabilities in an accessible form such that companies, academia and government can discover what is available for use. For example, via the Knowledge Transfer Networks websites and Government reports;

3. Input to government on policy and facility investment requirements.

The study includes a UK-wide survey to academia, big business and the SME sector to identify the full range of facilities and capabilities, as well as access opportunities and limitations. It has been distributed to university and research organisations, device and equipment manufacturers, infrastructure providers and national laboratories around the UK, with a response deadline of 16th February. If you have not received the survey and would like to participate, you can do so by emailing [email protected], with a short explanation of your organisation and activities.

One of the key findings from this survey should be any gaps which existing between user needs and availability facilities and capabilities. If you are an entrepreneur or SME developing a technology or service involving PNT, we would like to know if you have been able to find the testing facilities you need to test your idea.

The existing and future PNT dependent markets is truly staggering – Helios helped the Satellite Applications Catapult to identify billions of pounds of potential contribution to the UK economy, which ultimately fed into the Space IGS. That market potential won't be realised, if innovators are not able to progress their ideas from design and prototypes into real products. Hopefully, this well-supported study will provide the insights needed to target and justify the necessary strategies and investments.

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