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Canadian innovation: Global Positioning Systems and beyond

What you need to know

Since the Global Positioning System, or GPS, first became available for civilian use in the mid-1980s, it has found applications in air and land navigation, vehicle tracking, and the prediction of earthquakes and volcanoes. Canadian technology companies are at the forefront, developing applications that exploit the potential and precision of GPS. Calgary's CSI Wireless is pioneering the use of GPS in agriculture for farm field operations, while NovAtel, also of Calgary, supplies 90% of all GPS ground reference receivers. SkyWave of Ottawa provides asset tracking and security services around the world.

Canadian GPS innovators

CSI Wireless has developed a specialized GPS-based agricultural guidance system for air or land navigation. Used with aerial or terrestrial spraying equipment this system enables the operator to apply fertilizers to fields in precise rows with minimal overlap making the process as cost-efficient as possible. As the American Society of Agriculture Engineers has remarked, this system saves producers time, money, and labour, while improving user safety.

SkyWave has sold thousands of units around the world that track cars, trucks, buses, ships, aircraft, and containers. When the panic button on a vehicle's SkyWave terminal is activated, the GPS position is transmitted by satellite to a dispatcher who can take the appropriate action. The vehicle continues to report its position until it can be reached and the problem investigated.

Made-in-Canada innovation for Europe's Galileo satellite

As a GPS technology leader based in Canada, the only non-European country to be a member of the European Space Agency, NovAtel has secured an opportunity to create an innovative structural design for Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system. Galileo's new ground reference receivers are an important part of air traffic control systems around the world and enable carriers to fly more direct flight patterns, reduce fuel costs, and increase air traffic capacity. The global network of Galileo satellites is expected to begin commercial operations in 2008.