Iridium launches alternative GPS service

Iridium has launched its Satellite Time and Location (STL) service, an alternative or companion to traditional location-based technologies to offer accurate and resilient position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology.

Due to the unique architecture of its 66 cross-linked, low-earth orbit satellite constellation, Iridium claims to have the only network that has the global coverage and reliability needed to deliver this unique, robust and cost-effective solution to the market.

STL technology deployed through Iridium satellites and in end user receivers, can work to verify GPS, Glonass, Galileo and other navigation services, and, if needed, substitute for these services should they become compromised.

STL can protect, toughen and augment traditional GPS technology by providing a position or timing source when GPS signals are degraded or unavailable. It can also provide an alternative source of time to check the integrity of a GPS signal.  This is essential for any kind of critical infrastructure that depends on GPS as a source of PNT information.

Iridium is working with Satelles, a division of iKare Corporation, as its primary technology partner to deliver this solution through Iridium’s powerful paging channels, which are able to reach small, low-cost receivers in nearly any environment, even inside buildings.  Satelles provides technology and services to companies that are commercialising this capability to protect assets, authenticate users, or do other important functions reliant on GPS time and location.

“We are very excited to launch yet another highly innovative solution that only our network can enable, which is now available today,” said Matt Desch, chief executive officer at Iridium. “We think STL can help solve an important and growing problem for governments and businesses, and serve as a platform for continued innovation. With STL, we are introducing a global capability that is already in space, technologically ready for use and is independent of any particular location technology. The team at Satelles has been able to leverage the unique capabilities that our network offers, to create a solution that can ultimately be integrated into almost any kind of platform, including other Iridium machine-to-machine (M2M) devices, heavy machinery, automobiles and even the power grid, to name a few. Once implemented, STL could revolutionize the way the world’s largest, global companies and governments operate and manage cyber security.”

The technology has already been productized into a chip set about the size of a postage stamp and can be easily embedded into devices of all kinds. Due to STL’s signal strength it can help make GPS systems more difficult to “spoof,” which has been a growing risk for the current GPS infrastructure. The solution transmits its signals through Iridium’s satellite constellation to deliver a unique code to each position on the ground that can be independently authenticated, proving that a device is located in a specific place in the world. This enables applications to be “location aware,” allowing operation or access only if the user is in the location expected.

“We are honored to have been able to partner with Iridium to bring this technology to market,” said Michael O’Connor, chief executive officer at Satelles. “The robustness and complexity of their network allowed us to create a unique solution that is in high-demand and solves many problems that exist today.”

Greg Gutt, president and chief technology officer of Satelles adds, “Commercial users are now able to use STL to deliver trustworthy timing solutions for critical infrastructure, such as LTE networks, transactional data centers and the power grid. Military and government users can also acquire these commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions for the Department of Defense and other government applications.”

“In addition to enhancing the security and resiliency of GPS, STL technology can be embedded into servers anywhere in the world to geo-fence data and applications, providing trusted time and location data as an independent factor for end-point authentication,” said Gutt.

To date, the STL solution has been successfully demonstrated across multiple sectors including the military, academia and commercial applications. This technology is available today and will be supported by Iridium NEXT, the Iridium’s next-generation global satellite constellation, which is scheduled for completion by late 2017.

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