Everyone relies on Global Navigation Satellite Systems, usually called GPS, everyday and takes them for granted.  GPS is obviously an important infrastructure, but it’s also interesting technology that can be used for more than finding the closest StarBucks that’s open for drive-through during social distancing. There are also a bunch of different GNSS systems under the control of governments across the globe.  US GPS, Russian GLONASS, EU Galileo, Japanese QZSS, and Chinese Beidou.  There are also augmentation systems, Satellite Based Augmentation Systems, which improve on the accuracy of the national GNSS systems.   Several companies make GPS receivers, so why make another one?  There are a few reasons why we did.

Open Hardware.

CoreSemi is about making sure you can count on and trust the devices and compute systems you rely upon.  We believe it’s important for you to be able to look at the technology underlying all this and do what you want with it.  Maybe you yourself aren’t going to take the chip design https://github.com/coresemi/gnss-baseband and software of a high quality GPS implementation with trust guarantees and build it into that new gadget.  However, fostering a community of people who will means you could end up using it anyway.   What does Open Hardware actually mean?  There are a lot of modules for Arduino and Raspberry Pi that you can get from eBay.  It means democratization and choice.

When it comes to security, openness means understanding what is inside and being able to tell if the chip vendor has included malicious code or circuits.  Like what?  Well, how about deliberate dilution of precision or intentionally limiting the speed the GPS chip can be used at?  And of course your privacy is paramount, so when in doubt, have no doubt.  Where time and location are important, it could also cost you money… for example, a critical part of any trading is accurate timing.

Timing?

The more immediate reason why we built a GPS implementation was accurate time recovery.  GNSS is basically a constellation of satellite atomic clocks and a receiver is essentially a device that determines the time signals arrived from those satellites with nanosecond precision.  A lot of critical infrastructure requires precision timing, including cellular base stations and electrical grid synchronization https://blog.adva.com/en/why-time-sync-is-so-important-to-the-smart-power-grid for renewables integration and stability.  We needed a super low cost GPS receiver that we could trust, but that was also focused on recovering accurate time (so called Overdetermined Clock mode) but didn’t cost thousands of dollars.  We already had our own compute platform www.j-core.org and signal processing engines that we trust so we build a GPS receiver.

So what?

The basic technology is well proven.  Since we have the chip designs we can turn it into interesting things https://spacechain.com.  Because it’s open, you can use it for e.g. High Frequency Trading and know what you’re getting. You could have the hardware attest to your time and location for transactions on a blockchain.  You could also make a jet powered drone without worrying about speed limitations.  More tangibly, someone may just want to make millions of one dollar gadgets that know exactly where they are all the time. 

What is this again?

A completely open receiver platform for direct satellite reception of signals like GPS, including the whole chip, CPU and the software, and the board level hardware.  You’ll be able to buy on Crowd Supply and change it to do whatever you want to do. Proving to yourself its correct and secure.  How cool is that?

GPS technology was introduced by the US Military back in 1973 and opened up for broader use back in the 1990s. GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a collection of satellites circling the earth at a fixed schedule, sending out radio signals containing atomic-clock based time and location data for interpretation by receivers.  CoreSemi’s GNSS receiver implementation is OpenHardware, and is used in a collaboration with Spacechain.

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