Who has never dreamed of shaking off our reliance on GPS? Slow, easy to jam, confused by mountains and other obstacles, the GPS has revealed its limitations over the past few years. It was to find an answer to these limitations that researchers at Sysnav, a French small and medium enterprise (SME) based in Vernon, north-west-north of Paris, developed a magneto-inertial technology that could be an alternative when the GPS is being denied. The technology was being exhibited last week in Paris at the Milipol show.
Created in 2009, this young company started out as a geopositioning consultant for some of France’s major public and private entities before turning to developing its own technologies four years ago.
The system developed by Sysnav is based on use of the earth’s magnetic field. It relies on using local variations of the magnetic field and completing this by a series of inexpensive inertial sensors and magnetometers, like those in our mobile phones. Thanks to three digital compasses, the system calculates the direction and speed at which the user is moving. It then uses the differences in the earth’s magnetic field being created by the presence of metallic objects. Finally, by combining these variations with the geopositioning data supplied by the captors, the system can determine the speed, and therefore the position of the user. Have I lost you?
After six years of research and 12 patents, Sysnav has managed to make the system so small that it can be contained in a matchbox, whilst keeping it extremely affordable.
If the technology may seem a little out-of-reach for non-specialists, the advantages are impressive and clear to all. Imagine a geopositioning system that is always available, at all latitudes and altitudes (even negative ones), is totally autonomous and needs no infrastructure.
The idea is being examined by the DGA French procurement agency, which has already bought some of Sysnav’s patents. DGA engineers have in any case already developed “Blue Force”, a plug & play solution for military vehicles.
Finally, according to Sysnav, the system’s only limitation is the need for the user to have both a GPS and the magnetic-inertial technology because the latter is designed as a complement to the former, not a replacement. Sysnav’s technology requires the user to use his GPS regularly to supply a precise position whenever the Sysnav system is being used for a long time given that it evaluates the position according to the last known point registered by the GPS. It is thus primarily to be used for short missions.
This technology won the prestigious Innovation Award by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review in 2014. Sysnav technology had also previously received various other awards, including the Innovation Prize by the French Ministry of Defence.