The Interview: Gregory Gutt about the Role of Satellite Geo-Positioning Technology for the Society

Gregory Gutt, president & CTO at Satelles talks to DataArt about what is GPS, how it helps people, what vulnarabilities has and future waits GPS.
5 min read
The Interview: Gregory Gutt about the Role of Satellite Geo-Positioning Technology for the Society

How Satelles manages satellites and how they provide us with GPS?

Satelles is a company that provides position, navigation, and time broadcasts from space. We call this PNT. The most well-known PNT service in the world is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. Our partner for delivering these broadcasts is Iridium – one of the largest low Earth orbit satellite companies in the world. Low Earth orbit is sometimes referred to as LEO, they have their LEO satellites that cover the Earth from pole to pole, and we deliver a special broadcast that lights up planet Earth and provides this signal in places where GPS often doesn't get to – inside buildings and so on. We also provide a backup to GPS in the event of GPS disruptions. It turns out that the GPS signal, while amazing, is a relatively weak signal as received by the user, and that can be disrupted by jamming and spoofing. Jamming is the disruption by just sending interference in a similar band, and spoofing is intentional. Both of those things are happening more and more frequently, and it turns out our national critical infrastructure depends on GPS much more than people realize.

How robust is GPS? And how vulnerable is it?

It's run by the Department of Defense. They have made great investments in making GPS as resilient as it is. This is a first-rate service that if it weren't as stable and as available as it is today, I doubt the world would be using it so much. With that said, like any great system, as we become more and more dependent on it, the consequences of a hiccup are more and more profound. The GPS satellites are in what's called “Mid Earth orbit,” and one GPS satellite lights up about a third of the Earth. Our satellites are in what's called “low Earth orbit,” and one of our satellites – the Iridium satellites – lights up an area the size of the continental United States, we call that “CONUS.” There are 66 of these satellites that overlap each other and cover the world.

What would the loss of GPS and STL systems mean for society?

London economics concluded that a loss of GPS would have an impact of about a billion pounds per day on the U.K., so that turns out to be about 1.4 billion dollars. The U.S. and EU economies – if you scale that up accordingly – it is many billions of dollars per day. You know, honestly, it would start to wreak havoc on cellular systems, the power grid, the stock market, etc. All these things could be affected; it is very important that we all get our act together and build in resiliency into these systems.

What is spoofing, and why is it dangerous?

Spoofing is the intentional manipulation of a system or a signal to make it seem that something is true, when it is not. Imagine driverless cars; if someone is making it seem that you're on the wrong highway or in the wrong place, there can be terrible unintended consequences. Other PNT systems can act as backups to provide resilience. You want to provide different things that work differently, so that if one system goes down, you have others that can take the place of that disrupted service.

What do you see changing in technology over the next decade?

You can't help but note the evolution of silicon chips and so on. As the cost of user equipment goes down, you can see the technology in many-many places, so back in the day when GPS first emerged, the user equipment was the size of a VCR, and now it is on chips that are smaller than your fingernail. I believe a similar thing is happening with our technology, our user equipment is getting smaller and cheaper, and, being integrated into more things, there's other technology like chip-scale atomic clocks, usually when you think “atomic clock” you're thinking kind of a big thing that plugs into a wall, and as chip-scale atomic clocks become smaller, they use less power, they can go into more and more things. Nobody would have believed GPS would be in low-cost equipment like your phone if you had talked to them 20 years ago. I imagine that these other solutions will make their way into everything, including your refrigerator.

Video Youtube Watch other Conversations on the Cutting Edge on Youtube
Sign Up for Updates!

Subscribe now to receive industry-related articles and updates

Choose industries of interest
Thank You for Joining!

You will receive regular updates based on your interests. No spam guaranteed

Add another email address
Sign Up for Updates!
Choose industries of interest
Thank You for Joining!

You will receive regular updates based on your interests. No spam guaranteed

Add another email address
We are glad you found us
Please explore our services and find out how we can support your business goals.
Get in Touch Envelope
Download the white paper Glancing Forward into 2021: An Industry by Industry Outlook

Explore digital trends and unanticipated benefits engendered by the pandemic, which are likely to last in 2021.