Turn-by-turn navigation goes off-board

Traffic jams can be avoided with real time updates
Traffic jams can be avoided with real time updates
5 June 2003

The in-car navigation experience could be revolutionised by moving data out of the vehicle and making it accessible by satellite. The benefits are always up-to-date traffic information, unlimited coverage and richer location-based services.

Webraska (F), a provider of location-based services and telematics software, is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a system called Internet based Distributed Navigation (IbDN). The service will offer end users detailed real-time navigation information on mobile devices.

Routing information will be provided in the form of street-by-street directions for travel by car, public transport and for pedestrians. The information - updated in real time with traffic conditions taken into account - is viewed on a zoomable map on the end user's display and can be voice enabled.

The system is compatible with mobile devices such as smart phones and PDAs that support Windows and Java. A simple Internet connection via satellite downloads data, compressed into a few tens of kilobytes.

Satellites access remotely stored navigation information
Satellites access remotely stored navigation information

A number of services will be made available including: directions between two points; spatial search, which provides a series of destinations from the database ranked by journey time from the user's start point; mapping, which gives a zoomable map on the phone screen around a defined point and positioning, which returns a shortlist of street names in the area. Motorists can be alerted and redirected if they make a wrong turn.

IbDN can overcome certain limitations of terrestrial networks. Benefits include better position accuracy compared to cell ID and improved service coverage with respect to GSM. Roaming issues, occurring when a user travels outside their home network, can be resolved. More bandwidth will also be available, meaning that users can download more data, faster.

The company became involved with ESA in the context of the Start-up Initiative. The project aims to facilitate entry to the satellite communications sector for small to medium-sized enterprises. Phase one of the Real Time Navigation study has just been completed and the company has presented its finding to ESA. The first part of the project allowed Webraska to identify the most promising navigation technologies for the professional market using satellite communication networks.

Extensive development will be carried out during phase 2, when communication between the two systems (geo-stationary and LEO) and user interface terminals like PDA's will be made possible. Webraska plans to greatly extend accuracy and will be exploiting the advantages of EGNOS to achieve this. The entire project should be completed by November of this year.

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