Tapping into satellites to improve positioning accuracy across Australia
1 September 2014
Australian consumers and businesses are pushing for better and faster digital services across the country. CRCSI and its partners are working to enhance Australia’s current positioning infrastructure, which underpins the technology behind smartphones and GPS systems, by tapping into satellite networks.
The building blocks of our national positioning infrastructure are Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) - satellite-receiving ground stations. The Australian Government, through a range of collaborative initiatives, has been building the capacity within this network for the past few years to refine our National Geospatial Reference System. CRCSI is working to further enhance the network by capitalising on the large number of satellites in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia has a small population in a vast continent and much of the country still remains unmapped. This is why we are behind many other developed countries when it comes to the efficiency of the networks that allow real-time centimeter-accurate positioning from satellites. Countries with 100% coverage such as the UK, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Japan are geographically small in comparison to Australia and it is this issue of scale puts Australia at a disadvantage.
One solution would be for the Australian Government to fund thousands of additional ground stations to further increase our positioning infrastructure; but land based GNSS stations are expensive build, at a cost of around $100,000 each. CRCSI is looking to address the problem a different way. Using the ever increasing number of satellites over the Asia Pacific Region, CRCSI is leading research on a much more affordable alternative.
Research Director, Dr Philip Collier, said “By 2020, Australia will have more positioning satellites overhead than countries outside the Asia-Pacific region. China’s Beidou program is racing ahead having already launched more satellites in the last two years than the European Galileo system. Both Japan and India are likewise working on regional densification systems that will bring further benefit to satellite positioning in Australia.
“Our approach, in collaboration with our partners, is to aim for a sparser ground infrastructure that tracks all available satellites and signals, supported by a sophisticated processing capability that delivers centimetre accurate positioning to users in real-time. This means Australia will achieve highly accurate national positioning in support of both professional and consumer applications”.
The cost to Australia, from not having an accurate national positioning infrastructure, could be as much as $32 billion in lost productivity over the next 20 years — according to a 2008 report by Allen Consulting.
The loss would be spread across a range of industries including agriculture. Farmers could miss out on productivity gains as high as 10% if the steering of their remote farming machinery isn’t accurate. The mining industry, the construction industry and any other business that relies on accuracy for the tracking and positioning of vehicles, vessels and machines will all bear the burden of a less efficient system. And with the emergence of intelligent transport systems over the next few years, the cost to Australia can only climb.
CRCSI research is looking to develop very sophisticated infrastructure on the ground that can tap into these multiple networks. One of the big outcomes would be a dramatic reduction in the number of reference stations to cover our continent. The target is to be able stretch the distance from the 70kms currently needed between current GNSS stations to 200kms.
Dr Collier said “Having access to more satellites and more signals will allow positioning in environments where it is currently not possible today with a single system such as GPS.”
He said another major benefit would be the improved reliability and availability of positioning. “You need signals from at least four satellites to obtain position in 3D. If the signal from only one of those satellites is lost — perhaps because a tall building is in the way or you are deep inside an open-cut mine — your positioning accuracy is lost.
“By accessing multiple networks, we will create arguably the best and most reliable positioning system in the world. It would be superior even to those in countries with many more ground stations that work only with the US-based GPS system.”
Dr Collier said the CRCSI approach is unique and requires a world-best effort to develop, validate and ultimately implement the necessary processing algorithms so that they operate in an efficient and robust manner.
“We are very fortunate to have Dr Peter Teunissen as our Science Director. He is one of the world’s top scientists in his field.
“The way in which the CRCSI is co-ordinating the national research effort is also a key advantage. We have successfully created an environment where the relatively small research community can to work together and deliver results that solve the most pressing needs of industry and our nation.”
The new technology will underpin Australia’s National Positioning Infrastructure Plan developed under the leadership of Geoscience Australia.
A Message from the CEO
Planning for the future
The CRCSI is changing. Four and half years of concentrated research effort is now yielding a steady stream of promising research outputs. To capitalise on these developments a new strategy for the CRCSI is under preparation. Guided by the Board, we are reviewing most of our research and application programs. Reflecting the new era of increased effort on utilisation the 43pl Board is conducting the most comprehensive re-development of 43pl’s strategy since it began in 2003. A series of roadshows across Australia and New Zealand over the next three months will allow members to influence this thinking. These new strategies will result in even more targeted investments in research, utilisation and our education program. These developments will be discussed at our Annual Conference in Perth on 5-7 November and finalised by December.
And speaking of our annual conference we have put together the most comprehensive program since we began in 2003. Our intention as always is to provide our partners with a concentrated burst of leading edge knowledge on the latest developments in spatial technologies and their emerging uses. Expect to hear about world firsts in global navigation satellite systems, the latest thinking in sematic spatial infrastructures and supply chains, challenging new techniques in data fusion and feature extraction, and new products for commercialisation in a number of areas including health, and autonomous vehicles. We have a great program of international speakers including Google’s Rebecca Moore, Canada’s Mohamed Abousalem and Sweden’s Johan Bång. Our popular 3 Minute Thesis will showcase many of our 37 PhD candidates in highly entertaining and informative snapshot presentations summarising the essence of their research. As usual there will be a great conference dinner and networking in Perth.
The CRCSI intends to redouble its efforts to meet the needs of you our partners over the next four years. This new format newsletter is just one of many new developments in the pipeline. Enjoy the reading and stay tuned!
Dr Peter Woodgate
Collaboration in the spotlight
CRCSI presents Pacific Island Coastal Flooding Project at Google Atmosphere 2014
CRCSI’s Dr Nathan Quadros, was invited to present at the recent Google Atmosphere 2014 conference in Sydney. Google’s focus on collaboration, transformation and the use of technological advances to reshape the way work is done, created a natural synergy with CRCSI’s vision for delivery of spatial research in Australia and New Zealand.
The themes of the conference aligned perfectly with the CRCSI’s goal to be a recognised as a world leader through its delivery of innovative, collaborative and transformational spatial research programs that will deliver internationally the high impact research needed to gain competitive advantages.
Nathan presented the Pacific Island Coastal Flooding Project, including the Vanuatu Google Globe, to five separate audiences. Specifically, the project aimed to enhance the capacity of Pacific Islands to undertake assessments of sea-level inundation risk to key settlements and infrastructure, through the provision of critical baseline data, improved GIS capacity, and implementation of simple coastal inundation modelling. Through its use of online tools on the Google platform, the CRCSI has continued to gain significant prominence this year as it is uniquely positioned to push spatial applications into the market place, and give expertise to developing Nations.
Companies that prioritise collaboration are five times more likely to experience a considerable increase in employment, twice as likely to be profitable, and twice as likely to outgrow competitors.With a focus on collaboration, the conference hit right at the core of what the CRCSI was designed to do. The audience was impressed to hear large corporations, like Woolworths and Dick Smith, revealing increased employee engagement of up 20% within a few months of deploying collaborative tools and productivity increases of 29%. In its Collaborative Economy Report, Deloitte Access Economics put a value on the benefit of collaboration in Australia of around $46 billion per year and showed businesses with collaboration at their core – growing faster and more profitable than those without. Other key research findings include:
Only 20% of businesses without collaboration strategies outgrew the market, compared to 30% with a middling strategy, and 52% with an important strategy.
To date public cloud storage prices have only dropped 6-8%, while hardware costs dropped 20-30% annually. To address this Google is aiming to bring cloud-computing costs down with a 68% drop in cloud storage, and a 35% price drop on compute engine.
A number of interesting trends were identified through the discussion on Google changing from a ‘mobile first’ to an ‘only mobile’ philosophy. The trend is moving towards programs needing to be operational from an entirely mobile platform. To help transition this, Google encourages staff to have a ‘mobile Monday’ and ‘tablet Tuesday’, when all work is done from those devices. This enables staff to develop applications to support users working from each device. Google is currently working towards offering clients a seamless transition between their six screens - desktop, mobile, tablet, TV, wearable and in-car displays. In the near future, interactivity with TV, wearable and in-car technology applications are expected to grow substantially.
For more information contact Dr Nathan Quadros, Education Manager & Business Development, CRCSI.
43PL - SME Consortium
43pl establishing links with Canadian geomatics market
Representatives of CRCSI’s 43pl group recently attended the exclusive TECTERRA event for 2014. Greg Stroot of Amristar and Lynden McGregor of Think Spatial joined 43pl Chairman, David Sinclair at the 2014 TECTERRA Geomatics Showcase held in June in Canada.
The invitation to the 43pl to this exclusive event resulted from the positive impression gained by Jon Neufeld, Director of Commercialisation Programs at TECTERRA Inc., following his attendance as a speaker at the CRCSI Christchurch Conference in 2013. To keep mutually beneficial opportunities progressing between the two countries, TECTERRA CEO Dr. Mohamed Abousalem will again give a keynote address at the 2014 CRCSI Conference in Perth, as he did at the 2010 conference in Melbourne, and Jon Neufeld will bring a delegation of Canadian firms to attend.
43pl participation in 2014 TECTERRA Geomatics Showcase has strengthened the relationship between TECTERRA and CRCSI. Genuine interest was shown in learning from each other’s experiences and the knowledge gained by the three 43pl representatives has given the CRCSI a broader understanding of the direction future planning should take. The TECTERRA model for innovation as a segue between government, industry and research will assist the CRCSI with its Strategic Planning for the next four years and beyond.
TECTERRA’s commercial focus aims to stimulate positive economic impact, company growth and profit for Canadian SME’s by helping them bring innovative geomatics solutions to market. The TECTERRA Showcase has been an annual event for the past four years, growing to the point where 2014 saw the popularity of the Trade Showcase expanded to include over fifty companies displaying their credentials. The trade displays reflected the importance that innovation plays in the TECTERRA co-funded projects. TECTERRA projects generally include assisting companies develop Strategic Marketing Plans or a Product Roadmaps; funding 75% of the cost and providing services from external consultants. One of the resources offered to TECTERRA funded companies is the Geomatics Lab, located in Calgary and providing access to over $30m of high tech equipment including a GNSS simulator, ground penetrating radar, IMU’s, laser scanners and 3D printers. The Geomatics Lab resources are made available to firms that have a research or process development need.
Day One, usually reserved exclusively for companies within the TECTERRA Program, saw David Sinclair, Greg Stroot and Lynden McGregor, all allocated short sessions to sell to Canadian firms what 43pl Australian companies can offer to the Canadian market and promote mutually beneficial opportunities. This exposure was of great advantage to the three 43pl representatives as it fast tracked conversations and helped create many valuable contacts at the Trade Showcase events. David Sinclair worked tirelessly meeting trade display firms, learning about their experiences with TECTERRA and gauging their interest in attending the CRCSI conference in Perth in November 2014 to expand the CRC’s international business opportunities.
For more information on 43pl opportunities contact Mike Ridout, Director of Stakeholder Engagement, CRCSI.
Real-Time Precise Point Positioning passes the test
During his visit to Australia in July the Prime Minister of Japan Mr Shinzo Abe, issued a joint statement with Australia’s Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott – “Special Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century” – and included the intention to strengthen cooperation for the promotion of the Geospatial Information Project using the Japanese Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS).
This collaborative project between the CRCSI and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aims to deliver instantaneous GNSS/RNSS positioning anywhere, anytime, with the highest possible accuracy and the highest possible integrity. CRCSI researchers are working with leading JAXA scientists and engineers to access to the space segment of a satellite positioning system for research purposes in the East Asia and Oceania region.
The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a Japanese regional satellite navigation system for the GPS, GLONASS and Galileo constellations, transmitting navigation signals that are compatible and interoperable with the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).
The system will consist of several QZSS satellites in highly inclined elliptical orbits that allow it to cover a wide area in East Asia and Oceania. In addition to the navigation signals, QZSS also transmits augmentation signals, L1-SAIF and L-band Experimental (LEX) signals. The LEX signal is unique for QZSS in that it is capable of delivering 2kbps (1695bps of effective bit rate) of correction messages compared to the 250bps of legacy Satellite based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) like the MTSAT Satellite-based Augmentation System (MSAS).
This enhanced capacity allows augmentation messages aimed at centimeter-level Precise Point Positioning (PPP) to be broadcasted over the QZSS wide area of coverage. One such message is the Multi-GNSS Advanced Demonstration of Orbit and Clock Analysis (MADOCA) based messages, which are currently being broadcasted by the LEX signal.
Part of the research being carried out by the CRCSI research team is looking to evaluate the quality of the corrections include the MADOCA messages and the performance of real-time PPP using these augmentation messages. Centimeter-level position accuracy was obtained for static PPP after 2 hours of convergence and decimeter-level accuracy was obtained for kinematic PPP. This service is expected to become continuously available for most of East Asia and Oceania countries in 2018, when the QZSS constellation gets enhanced to four satellites.
The tests were performed under open sky conditions, the performance of PPP using MADOCA-LEX products under more urban environments as well as the effects of the latency induced by the terrestrial or satellite communication links used is currently under investigation. The research team has also successfully tested transmission of a prototype “Australian-generated LEX corrections” viz QZSS. The results will be presented in ION GNSS+ 2014 Conference, which will be held in September in Tampa, Florida.
Research efforts aiming to further enhance the capabilities of the LEX signal to provide high accuracy positioning is being undertaken by the CRCSI project 1.11 research team and JAXA.
A peer reviewed article on the research was presented at the FIG Congress 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is the FIG Article of the Month for July 2014.
For more information on the project contact Project Leader Dr Suelynn Choy.
Vanuatu schools and citizens see their future coastline courtesy of CRCSI
The impact of the collaboration between the spatial industry, government and researchers is now teaching school students in Vanuatu, climate change awareness. The project, managed by CRCSI, was designed to build capacity in Pacific Island countries to monitor sea level rise.
Pacific Island nations, looking for ways to deal with the critical future issues affecting their island homes from rising sea levels and storm surges, joined with the Australian Government’s Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning (PACCSAP) program to help find a solution. A project was designed at the request of national governments that responded to the need for accurate elevation data to underpin analysis of sea level rise impacts.
The project aimed to enhance the capacity of Pacific Islands to undertake assessments of sea-level inundation risk to key settlements and infrastructure, through the provision of critical baseline data, improved GIS capacity, and implementation of simple coastal inundation modelling. The CRCSI has completed capacity building projects on Tonga, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea; and the latest project in Vanuatu is benefitting from the insight gained by working on the other island nations.
“We learnt from each country as the project progressed,” said Dr Nathan Quadros, business development manager at the CRCSI, which managed the project on behalf of the Australian Department of the Environment. “Before Vanuatu, we mainly dealt with GIS users within government. In Vanuatu, we wanted to increase the distribution and usage of the data, and thereby the benefits to the community.”
“A focus for the Vanuatu program was on awareness, use, and distribution of the information,” said Nathan Eaton, principal GIS consultant at NGIS Australia, one of the CRCSI’s partners, who undertook the GIS capacity building and training in Vanuatu. “The recent internet fibre cable connected from Fiji to Vanuatu made the use of cloud services possible, and this focus along with it.
An intuitive cloud-based application built from Google Earth, Google Maps Engine (GME) removed the barriers of entry to spatial information, and puts accurate mapping information in the hands of the decision makers,” said Mr Eaton. For this reason, it was decided to develop a distributable, cloud-based product to showcase the inundation data, based on GME, to be known as Vanuatu Globe.
“During the capacity building phase for Vanuatu, we provided training for the Vanuatu Globe to ministry staff, and delivered a targeted course for Vanuatu teachers called ‘Climate Change mapping for teachers’, which used Google Earth and the Vanuatu Globe to help teachers increase climate change awareness in schools,” said Mr Eaton. “Their reaction to it was incredible.”
International reaction to the CRCSI’s project has attracted recognition from governments worldwide. “One of the biggest external highlights was having the Vanuatu Google Globe presented by Google at the White House Climate Data Initiative Announcement.” The Vanuatu Globe was showcased as a leading example for increasing climate change awareness.”
A more detailed article can be found in the June/July 2014 – No. 71 Issue of The Australasian magazine of surveying, mapping & geo-information Position.
For more information on the project contact information contact Dr Nathan Quadros, Education Manager & Business Development, CRCSI.
Internships benefit partners
CRCSI industry partners to benefit from research expertise
The CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) has recently partnered with the Australian Mathematical Science Institute (AMSI) Intern program to co-ordinate high-level 4-5 month research projects for industry partners connected with CRCSI.
SMEs and large enterprise are recognising the importance of R&D in today’s competitive marketplace. More organisations are using affordable programs, like AMSI Intern, to connect with highly qualified researchers — from across all disciplines — to address challenges facing their business. Industry partners benefit from the added specialist knowledge of an appointed academic mentor who also assists with the co-management of the intern. Importantly, all IP remains with the business. There are potential recruitment opportunities at the completion of the project.
"The AMSI Intern program offers a unique opportunity for CRCSI partner organisations to work with bright young researchers on a low-risk, low-cost basis. Interns can be drawn from any discipline — not just the spatial sciences — allowing partners to tap into a range of complementary skills to solve challenging problems of immediate relevance.” — Philip Collier, Research Director, CRC for Spatial Information.
One such research project at Bass Coast Council followed from the flood devastation in Queensland and Victoria, with many governments are seeking a better understanding of how planning decisions might impact on water flow patterns and flood management options in their local areas.
Working with the Bass Coast Shire Council, AMSI Intern and PhD candidate Hossein Pourali, from RMIT has developed a digital elevation model that can be used by Victorian coastal communities to assist with flood management.
As one of the fastest growing areas in regional Victoria, the Bass Coast Shire needs detailed information to accurately assess potential impacts arising from changes in land usage.
“The ability to better understand overland flow paths enables Council to provide more cost effective drainage solutions that will mitigate risk to the public and lead to reduced litigation and insurance premiums”, said Paul Lennox, the industry partner for the project.
Hossein built on previous work by developing a model that incorporates natural surface drainage patterns, underground drainage pipeline networks, interconnecting drainage pits, buildings and impervious surfaces specific to the Bass Coast area. The model was developed using high-resolution LiDAR elevation data, and involved testing a range of modelling scenarios and formulae that replicate the natural flows of water in urban catchments.
“We have found that the result is extremely reliable”, Mr Lennox said.
One major advantage of the new model is it can be easily adapted for other Victorian coastal areas at a minimal cost to local governments, since the Future Coasts LiDAR data is freely available. The model can also be used globally as an initial planning tool for coastal development and climate change adaptation.
“This new model will allow engineers and planners to make scientifically based strategic planning decisions to support the ongoing sustainable growth of coastal communities”, Mr Lennox said.
For more information visit visit the Australian Mathematical Science Institute (AMSI) Intern Program or contact Cate Ballard, National Program Manager, AMSI Intern