Firms get a fix on GPS

Firms get a fix on GPS
Siemens, SGS-Thomson, Mitel Semiconductor and IMEC are all targeting 1999 for a push on global positioning systems; main market is in Japan for car navigation with Telematics market big in Europe, reports David Manners Global Positioning System (GPS) is not this year’s hot product but it’s going to be a boomer next year with Siemens, SGS-Thomson, Mitel Semiconductors and IMEC of Leuven making their moves on it. SGS-Thomson claims technology leadership with its $25 two device chipset: the STB5600/ST20GP6. “No one else can integrate at that level,” says SGS-Thomson’s Steve Sutton. Unlike its competitors, SGS-Thomson integrates the processor, the RAM (64K) and the ROM (128K) on the baseband processing chip (using 0.35?m CMOS). SGS-Thomson is looking at producing a single-chip version of a global positioning system using either BiCMOS or silicon germanium. IMEC, the International Microelectronics Centre at the University of Leuven, has just got first silicon of a GPS processing chip which can deliver standalone accuracy of 10m (compared to 100m in other commercial systems) and an accuracy of one metre when using differential correction via a ground reference. “By using both GLONASS (the Russian satellite constellation) and NAVSTAR (the US constellation) we get 2x improvement in precision,” said IMEC’s Marc Engels. “We get another 10x improvement because we have the key to unlock the military codes.” (The Navstar constellation degrades the military signal to 100m accuracy for commercial users). IMEC’s chip is being packaged and tested for sampling this month. Mitel Semiconductor (formerly GEC-Plessey Semiconductors) plans a chipset for next year which reduces the bill of materials for a GPS receiver board to $43. “We don’t incorporate the processor and memory in the chipset because users like the flexibility to use the micro (an ARM) and memory for other functions besides GPS – usually for comms,” said Mitel’s Dave Richardson. Mitel plans a single chip GPS for 2001. Siemens has joined leading GPS systems manufacturer Trimble in recognising a market trend that customers want to buy at the component level as well as the systems level. Siemens will provide the chips and Trimble the software and systems knowledge in this alliance. Rockwell is still selling its 1995 ‘three die in two packages’ GPS chipset. President Dwight Decker told EW he could do a single chip GPS in 1996, but the company hasn’t integrated the chipset further. The main GPS market is still in Japan for car navigation systems, but the handheld market is growing fast in the US, and in Europe the ‘Telematics’ market – putting GPS into car telephones to locate stolen cars – is becoming significant.


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