Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) has officially launched their Satellite Time and Location (STL), an alternative or companion to traditional location-based technologies, and the company has declared the technology ready for use.
For the first time, end users now have access to accurate and resilient position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology that works anywhere on the planet, even indoors. Due to the unique architecture of the company's 66 cross-linked, LEO satellite constellation, Iridium® is the only network that has the global coverage and reliability needed to deliver this highly unique, robust and cost-effective solution to the market.
Since the inception of GPS technology in the late 1970s, it has been recognized as a powerful and critical tool for businesses and consumers worldwide. Unfortunately, with this recognition, the GPS infrastructure has become targeted by those looking to take advantage of its known vulnerabilities for illegal, and even criminal, purposes.
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 with offices in Herndon, Virginia. and Redwood City, California, as their 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 commercializing this capability to protect assets, authenticate users, or do other important functions reliant on GPS time and location.
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.
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.
STL can help solve an important and growing problem for governments and businesses, all the while serving as a platform for continued innovation, indicated Matty Desch, the Chief Executive Officer at Iridium. A global capability has now been introduced that is already in space, technologically ready for use and is independent of any particular location technology. He added that Satelles has been able to leverage the capabilities of the Iridium network to create a solution that can, ultimately, be integrated into almost any kind of platform. These would include Iridium's M2M devices, heavy machinery, automobiles and even the power grid, to name but a few. Certainly STL could revolutionize the manner in which global companies and governments operate and handle their cyber security.
According to Greg Gutt, the President and Chief Technology Officer of Satellite, trustworthy timing solutions for critical infrastructure can now be delivered via STL, with military and government users able to acquire these COTS solutions for the DoD and other government applications. Additionally, this technology can be embedded into servers anywhere in the world to geo-fence data and apps, and to provide trusted time and location data as an independent factor for end-point authentication.