At CeBit, homing in on navigation tech

Much attention at the big tech show in Germany will go to Europe's upcoming alternative to GPS.
Written by Cath Everett, Contributor
One of the big themes at CeBit 2007 will be geographical information systems, including the controversial Galileo project--the European equivalent of the U.S. satellite-based Global Positioning System.

The trade show, which is taking place in Hanover, Germany, from Thursday through March 21, decided to go big on the topic of GIS after a survey of 5,000 sample visitors last year indicated that it was a key area of interest.

"The survey showed that Europeans think it is important to get a global navigation satellite system that is independent of GPS. The critical thing is that GPS service levels are not guaranteed. The system was originally designed for the U.S. Army, so, of course, it has the right to shut it down when it needs to or to optimise the signal for military use," said Sven Prüser, senior vice president of CeBit.

On the other hand, Galileo, which is being built by the European Union and European Space Agency, and which is scheduled to be operational by 2010, will be a civil system. Prüser said it will have "guaranteed high service levels and, because it's being built in cooperation with countries like India and China, there'll be more satellites in different parts of the world, so measurements will be more precise."

This means that the system will be of great interest to business, he believes, and will open up a host of opportunities for organizations to create and exploit new products and services in areas such as freight forwarding and fleet and traffic management.

As a result, the trade show is setting up a forum area called CeBit in Motion to showcase different offerings in the fields of navigation and telematics, which is the intersection of telecommunications and informatics, e.g. vehicle GPS or OnStar. The forum will host presentations and panel discussions from experts in the field, with keynote speakers including Martin Ripple, program director for Galileo, and Pedro Pedreira, executive director of the European GNSS Supervisory Authority.

The GNSS, formerly known as the International GPS Service, is a voluntary federation of more than 200 agencies worldwide, which pools resources and station data from GPS and Glonass, the Russian equivalent, to support earth-science research, education and the like.

Russia will also be CeBit's partner country this year, and their fourth largest exhibitor nation, including over 150 Russian exhibitors, including Kaspersky Labs and Russoft, the Russian Software Developers Association. Participants will present their wares in four categories--communications, business processes, banking and finance, and digital equipment and systems.

From biometrics to Web TV
Another key theme at CeBit will be security, and biometrics in particular. Prüser explains: "This topic still continues to increase in importance and this year, we even ran out of exhibitor space because there was so much demand."

To reflect this interest, one of the show's main keynote speakers will be John Thompson, CEO of security company Symantec

The main keynote speaker, however, will be Patricia Russo, chief executive of the newly formed Alcatel-Lucent. She will talk about the rationale behind the move and where she sees the telecommunication industry going.

But CeBit will also be branching out into new areas of information provision. First, it will launch CeBit Next, a portal to enable attendees to network, share ideas and rate each other's suggestions. The portal was jointly designed and implemented by IBM and Deutsche Messe, the exhibition company that owns CeBit, and will be divided into three key areas--Future Fair, Future Work/Life and Future Health.

The second initiative is CeBit TV, a Web TV initiative that will broadcast year round and offer three channels: one for IT professionals, one for resellers and one for users.

Cath Everett of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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