New Tech Tuesdays: GPS, GNSS Technology Keeps Us Going in the Rig

    New Tech Tuesday

    Join journalist Tommy Cummings for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

    There are over 4,000 satellites1 orbiting2 the Earth, and each operates on a different system. GPS refers to the global positioning system owned by the US government. GNSS refers to the International Multi-Constellation Satellite System that includes GPS, GLONASS (Russian), Baidu (Chinese), Galileo (Europe), and any other constellation system.

    Different systems, different designs. But the concept is the same. Satellites combine with receivers to determine the latitude and longitude of any receiver through triangulation. We can access this interconnected real-time data through mobile phones, IoT devices, and other means. It has applications in nearly all walks of life, including commerce and military purposes. In commerce, they help get our assets from Point A to Point B. The military has used the technology for decades.

    Design engineers have an array of products for devices requiring global-positioning solutions. In this week’s New Tech Tuesdays, we’ll look at an evaluation board from STMicroelectronics, IoT modules from Quectel Wireless Solutions, and LoRa and LoRaWAN wireless networks from Advantech.

    Boards, Modules, and Wireless Networks

    STMicroelectronics AEK-COM-GNSST31 Evaluation Board tests the certified Teseo-LIV3F GNSS module with embedded Teseo III receiver IC. The board is used in conjunction with X-CUBE-GNSS1 firmware to provide the necessary acquisition, tracking, navigation, and data output functionality without external memory support. The board also can be connected with an SPC5 MCU for automotive application development as part of the AutoDevKit initiative. The module is accurate and reduces the time to first fix (TTFF) because of the onboard 26MHz temperature-compensated crystal oscillator (TCXO) and 32KHz real-time clock (RTC) oscillator.

    Quectel Wireless Solutions GNSS IoT Modules are compatible with applications such as machine-to-machine (M2M), portable devices, automotive, security, and industrial personal digital assistants. The L96 module features an embedded chip antenna, thirty-three tracking channels, ninety-nine acquisition channels, and 210 PRN channels. The L86 Patch on Top (POT) module includes a patch antenna and uses the MediaTek new-generation GNSS chipset, MT3333. The GPS L80 POT module has a space-saving leadless chip carrier package, which is ideal for miniature devices.

    The Advantech WISE-4610 LoRa and LoRaWAN Wireless Module is a wireless telecommunication wide area network I/O module that enables long-range, low data rate communications among IoT applications. The WISE-4610 supports GPS/Galileo/BeiDou/GLONASS systems and operates at 10VDC to 50VDC input voltage and a line-of-sight outdoor range of 5km. This LoRaWAN module has a transmits power of up to +18dBm and provides long battery life because of the LoRa network’s low power consumption.

    Tuesday’s Takeaway

    GPS and GNSS technology allow us to keep moving in the right direction. In conjunction with receivers, they determine where we are and help us find our destinations. Because global positioning systems provide data to so many devices, innovative navigation design solutions will always be possible thanks to this technology.

    1. “Every Satellite Orbiting Earth and Who Owns Them.” DEWESoft, January 18, 2022.
    2. Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Accessed May 19, 2022.

    Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He’s had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He’s also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.

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