Most people talk about television in terms of programming. Not since the days of TV antennas and test patterns, have the actual television signals been any part of regular discussion. Now all that is set to change again, at least if California-based Rosum Corporation (www.rosum.com) is successful.
The company is preparing to introduce TV-GPS, a system that combines television signals with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology for tracking assets or people right to places where GPS alone can't go, such as in the high-rise “canyons” of urban centers and even inside buildings and garages. Especially for P&D operations and fleets that transport hazardous or high-value cargo within municipal areas, this could be welcome news indeed.
“Rosum TV positioning is a location technology that augments or replaces GPS,” explains Jon Metzler, director of business development for Rosum. “GPS, which receives signals from 28 satellites, works very well anyplace where there is an open view of the sky. It has limitations and vulnerabilities, though. It does not work indoors, for instance, or in cities where tall buildings create canyons. It is also vulnerable to jamming or spoofing, in other words to deliberate interference. That is why President Bush has called for a back-up system for GPS and why we are preparing to introduce TV-GPS for commercial and military applications.
“Television signals are the strongest precisely where GPS is the weakest, so it is a nearly perfect tracking technology pairing,” Metzler says. “Our system makes use of the synchronization signals that are part of the standard for television set forth by the American Television Standards Committee. As a result, the technique requires no changes to television broadcast stations yet still offers a power advantage over GPS signals and substantially superior geometry for triangulating lateral position.
“Since such a wide range of VHF and UHF frequencies have been allocated to television stations, there is also a lot of redundancy built into the system and the synchronization TV signals are not affected by the ionospheric or Doppler effects that can interfere with the performance of GPS,” he continues. “Because they are such low-frequency signals, they can also penetrate buildings.”
If TV-GPS lives up to its potential, it will enable fleets and shippers to take their coverage area that “last mile,” right down the alleyway and inside the parking garage or warehouse. It will also enable companies to expand the list of things they can track to packages or even people, and make it tougher for would-be thieves to hide stolen trucks or trailers. “For example, we can pair a location in a database with a business so that you could literally geo-stamp a person receiving a package,” offers Metzler.
The best news for fleets interested in adding this tracking capability, however, may be that fact that it is designed to work on the various GPS tracking devices already in use. According to Rosum, technology partner Trimble Navigation is already modifying a GPS tracking device to include the Rosum module. “The next generation TrimTrac will be our first product,” notes Metzler. “We are field testing it in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer and fall and plan to make it available early next year.
“Rosum is a technology company. We will provide the location tracking module and some infrastructure to tracking service providers,” he notes. “End users may not even know that our module is in their GPS unit. They'll just know that they are getting more seamless, more reliable asset tracking.”