Wanted: Out-of-this-world apps for Europe's GPS rival

The European Satellite Navigation Competition is looking for ideas to help commercialise the Galileo satellite navigatoin system by creating new technologies based around satellite data.
Written by Sam Shead, Contributor

Earlier this month, Galileo, the European equivalent to US's GPS system, gave its first positional reading to a receiver at the European Space Agency's ground station in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

The Galileo constellation currently consists of four satellites that were launched in pairs in October 2011 and October 2012. However, the number of satellites in the network is expected to grow to 27 by 2015.

The satellite system aims to reduce Europe's reliance on the GPS system, but also includes a dedicated commercial signal, which could boost private sector exploitation of its data. The technical details of the commercial service are currently under consultation with input from potential future users in the aviation, maritime, road, rail, pedestrian, offshore oil and land surveying industries.

Now the satellite system is up and running, a competition has been launched to find new apps and location technologies that work with the network.

The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC), aims to find new ways of using satellite data in smart phone apps, location-based services and businesses. Competition entrants must demonstrate how their idea utilises satellite navigation, positioning or timing technology.

The competition is being headed in the UK by Nottingham University's global navigation satellite system (GNSS) centre of excellence in conjunction with the Satellite Applications Catapult, which is one of seven innovation centres that has been set up by the Technology Strategy Board to help UK industry commercialise new technologies.

The competition hopes to find new navigation technologies that can work with Galileo (Credit: ZDNet)

CEO of the TSB's Satellite Applications Catapult and head of the judging panel, Stuart Martin, told ZDNet that judges will consider what problem the idea solves and what its market potential is.

In the UK, the winner will receive £5,000 cash, £2,500 of business incubation support, £2,500 of GNSS consultancy, free UK patent advice, among other prizes. The overall competition winner, known as the Galileo Master, will be chosen by an international panel of 190 experts and receive a cash reward of €20,000 and several other prizes.

"We're promoting it within the application development community in the UK. People who are working in sectors that are perhaps not necessarily closely associated with space but they're starting to look at satellite navigation technology as something that can add value to their business," competition organiser Douglas Watson from Nottingham University told ZDNet.

The competition is aiming to commercialise a range of new ideas and help grow the UK space sector from £9bn to £40bn by 2030.

Last November, Chancellor George Osborne identified the space sector as one of the eight industries that the UK will aim to be a world leader in.

The European Commission said in October 2011 that the Galileo satellite constellation will deliver €60bn (£50bn) over 20 years to the European economy.

Although the budget for Galileo was initially set at around €1.8bn (£1.52bn), the final tally is likely to be more than €5bn (£4.24bn).

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