The winner of DLR's challenge in the 2019 Galileo Masters competition for innovative satellite navigation concepts is the Dutch company IntegriCom and its founder, Bastiaan Ober.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has continued its long-standing commitment to the field by offering a special Galileo Masters prize for 2019, entirely dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI). The 'DLR Artificial Intelligence Navigation Challenge' sought innovative AI applications in satellite navigation and received almost 30 submissions of remarkable quality. The winner of this year's challenge is the entrepreneur Bastiaan Ober.
Here is his idea: The vast numbers of modern GNSS receivers available today in ground networks and smartphones collect large amounts of very detailed data about the GNSS signals broadcast by navigation satellites. The question now is how to convert this Big Data into valuable information. Bastiaan Ober's approach is to use AI methods to make navigation more accurate and reliable. Even the smallest error patterns and imperfections in satellite signals can be discovered and understood by analysing the large amounts of data. This knowledge is of great interest to users of satellite navigation as it can help to correct errors or to evaluate the integrity and uncertainty of the positional information. In the future, users equipped with this knowledge will be able to determine their position even more accurately and reliably. The AI can evolve over time by adding new measurement data to improve performances and keep up with system changes - such as new generations of satellites or signals.
Rolf-Dieter Fischer, Head of DLR Technology Marketing: "With 'AI in navigation', our topic in 2019 for the first time, we now combine a megatrend in science and society with the multi-constellations in space! Our winner's idea is totally new and yet untried. With joint forces we will push his approach forward."
Interview with the innovator
Bastiaan Ober, IntegriCom, Netherlands
How did you decide to submit an idea to the Galileo Masters competition?
I have been active in the area of GNSS performance analysis and performance monitoring for almost two decades now. While the focus has been mostly on detecting faults on the GNSS satellites themselves, nowadays the attention is rapidly switching to external threats such as interference and spoofing. Existing techniques are not well suited to dealing with such threats. Hence, there is room for new detection methodologies based on highly detailed signal analysis.
How does your idea work exactly?
My proposal is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to protect users against current and future threats, by adding an artificial brain to the receiver and training it to detect signal problems. The availability of software-defined receiver technology makes it possible to extract vast amounts of data from the received GNSS signals. The challenge is to translate this data into information about the quality of those signals. AI is ideally suited to perform such a translation.
Who is this technology aimed for, and how would the users benefit from it?
All users of GNSS positioning or timing services will benefit from additional information on the quality of the signals they are using. However, receivers will need more computational power and will consume more energy to operate their AI. Initially, the additional expense will be mostly justified in cases where GNSS threats impact the safety, security or profitability of an application. Think of application areas such as autonomous vehicles, communications networks, power grids, financial transactions, maritime and aeronautical transport and many others. I am confident that when the technology matures, it will become less expensive and even more user applications will be able to profit from it.
What do you hope to gain from the Galileo Masters competition?
IntegriCom is a sole proprietorship. This means that for all but the very smallest projects, it relies on working with other companies, universities and research institutes to bring ideas to the market. I have recently embarked on a cooperation with S[&]T from Delft in the Netherlands in the field of AI for GNSS. The Galileo Masters competition gives me the opportunity to extend that collaboration and bring in additional expertise that DLR has to offer. In addition, the exposure given to the idea will hopefully help in bringing it to full fruition in the near future.
Are there any other related ideas that you would like to pursue in the future?
Yes, I think I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. It will be a challenge to find the time to act on these ideas, so I will have to be rather selective. In any case, I certainly hope that you will hear from me again soon.
The Oberpfaffenhofen Application Centre (Anwendungszentrum Oberpfaffenhofen; AZO)
Every year, the Galileo Masters competition rewards the best solutions, services, products and business ideas that use satellite navigation in everyday life. It is hosted by the Oberpfaffenhofen Application Centre. The competition supports innovative ideas at every stage of value creation with the aim of realising successful enterprises. These ideas should demonstrate innovative use of GNSS data in a wide variety of applications. Well-known companies and regional partners support the competition in more than 20 categories and distribute prizes with a total value of one million euro. The main target groups are SMEs, start-ups, universities and individuals from companies, research institutions or universities.