Internet-delivered GPS promises better readings in Europe

EGNOS, a system providing data that makes GPS readings even more accurate, can now be used via mobile broadband to make up for when satellite signals are blocked

Satellite navigation in Europe is set to become more reliable, after a new internet-based GPS augmentation service went live on Thursday.

The commercial tool, which is called the European Data Access Service (EDAS), transmits information from a European satellite-based augmentation system called EGNOS. According to the European Commission, it will be useful for companies in the transportation, agricultural and surveying industries.

GPS satellite
GPS in Europe is set to improve with a new augmentation service.

GPS is very accurate, but devices reading GPS signals can sometimes get slightly wrong readings, due to factors such as atmospheric disturbance.

Services such as EGNOS (and, in the US, a system called WAAS), help correct these readings by folding in more data. EGNOS uses a series of 40 ground stations to monitor GPS satellites with great precision, generating augmentation data. This is then relayed to capable GPS readers via a separate constellation of three satellites.

This trio was the first satellite constellation sent up by the EU, and it serves as something of a precursor to Galileo , the Union's answer to the US GPS system.

However, sometimes the signal from the EGNOS satellites can get blocked too — for example, by a building. This is where EDAS comes in. It ensures the user can get the EGNOS data via the internet using mobile broadband, as well as via satellite. By doing this, it adds a layer of certainty that the information will keep coming in.

"This third EGNOS service once again proves the European Commission's commitment to delivering improved services to the EU's businesses and citizens," industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said in a statement.

"So much of our day-to-day private and business lives are dependent on satellite navigation technology. With EDAS, we have a reliable performance level, which can in turn support the creation of new and innovative products and thus help to overcome the current economic crisis," he added.

Satellite-based augmentation systems such as EGNOS tend to get used in aircraft, to help them navigate and pinpoint landings more accurately.

However, EDAS will also allow the data to be transmitted to handheld devices "using wireless communication from added-value service providers", the Commission said.

"EDAS will support new services in numerous sectors including high-precision fertiliser spraying, automatic road-tolling, fleet management, inland waterway navigation, dangerous goods transportation or accurate area measurement," it added.