We all want to know where we are and where we're going.
Of the nearly 7,000 satellites currently in Earth's orbit, 150 are dedicated to positioning. These satellites are part of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which provides autonomous geo-spatial positioning.
GNSS receivers can pick up frequencies for use in countless applications. The satellites were launched by the US, China, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, India, the European Space Agency, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, among other countries, for civilian, commercial, government, and military purposes.
GNSS satellites keep us going in the right direction. Think about that when you pull out your smartphone or ask your voice-activated personal digital assistant to plot your commute to work. A lot goes into mapping how we get here and there.
For decades, GNSS technology has been a part of transportation systems on land, sea, and air. Now, it's playing even a more significant role with its inclusion in automotive applications, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles.
Design engineers have a vast selection of GNSS devices for diverse applications—including navigation, surveying, and mapping—to develop products with location-tracking functionality. Decades ago, they were mainly used to help military personnel find their way, but location awareness evolved into civilian uses. They’re in toys, wearables, watches, and more.
Developers have infinite ways to use this technology. This week's New Tech Tuesdays looks at Taoglas, Quectel Wireless Solutions, and u-blox GNSS modules that developers should find useful for their projects.
If designing for accuracy, the Taoglas GPDF254.A Passive Dual Pin GNSS Patch Antenna touts its positional accuracy on the single-band passive GNSS L1 spectrum. The GPDF254.A has been tested to achieve centimeter-level accuracy. The module plugs into unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), robotics, and autonomous vehicles. It's also ideal for real-time kinematics (RTK) systems.
For Internet of Things (IoT) developers, the Quectel Wireless Solutions GNSS IoT Modules are compatible with multiple applications, including machine-to-machine (M2M), portable device, automotive, security, wearables, and industrial personal digital assistants. They're compact, with many of the modules featuring embedded chip and patch antennas.
When size matters, the u-blox NEO-7 GNSS Modules make for an ideal solution in a miniature package. Their form factor allows for easy migration from previous NEO generations. The NEO-7 series includes high integration capability and flexible connectivity options, making them developer-friendly choices for industrial applications with strict size and cost requirements. The modules feature sophisticated radio-frequency architecture and interference suppression that ensures maximum performance even in GNSS-hostile environments.
GNSS modules providing location services come in various types with multiple applications, with their use-cases growing by the day. They'll always be in demand. That's good news for design engineers who can choose from a broad selection of solutions to take advantage of those thousands of satellites circling overhead.
Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.
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