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by Cheng Yingqi for China Daily
Beijing (XNA) Dec 30, 2012
Although Beidou is a latecomer in the world's navigation market, Chinese companies have set their eyes on the unique services provided by the system.
Beidou's hybrid orbit increases the number of visible satellites, enhancing the stability of its navigation signal, Cao Jianlin, vice-minister of science and technology, said in an interview with China Daily.
Beidou also uses an all-direction and short-message communicating technique that other navigation systems do not have, he said.
Currently, there are four major navigation systems worldwide - China's Beidou, the Global Positioning System of the United States, Russia's Glonass and the European Union's Galileo. GPS completed its constellation of satellites in 1994, while Beidou just finished its network to provide services to the Asia-Pacific this year, and it plans to complete a global network by 2020.
"Beidou has its unique advantages designed for users. For example, the short-message communication technique can provide strong support to regions hit by natural disasters. So Beidou has better service capacities compared with the other three navigation systems," Cao said.
In May 2008, a devastating earthquake hit Wenchuan, Sichuan province, cutting off communication for tens of thousands people.
"Although the mobile signal was disconnected, we used Beidou's short-message function during the rescue," said Li Shiru, a marketing specialist at the Hwa Create Corp, a Beijing company that produces positioning chips and devices based on the Beidou system.
Rescue teams in Wenchuan were equipped with handheld terminals capable of sending or receiving 120 Chinese characters at one time to communicate with the rescue headquarters.
"Now we have updated the terminal in some ways - we made it more portable, installed all kinds of mobile phone functions, made it resistant to water and dust, and we now use the Android operating system," Li said.
"I think the device will find a large market among outdoor fans, because it brings technologies that were exclusive for military use to consumers."
Cao Hongjie, vice-president of UniStrong, a company focuses on Global Navigation Satellite System services, has found an even broader use for the short-message function.
"Beidou's short-message function can be used in many different industries," Cao said.
One example is the logistic system. Currently, few truck drivers use GPS because they are already familiar with the route.
"But with Beidou, the short message function and the position report function will enable logistic headquarters to see the drivers' location, and they can dispatch vehicles and drivers in a more efficient way," Cao said.
Cao said China's navigator producers have had concerns about the future of GPS in China.
"In the past, we have used the GPS service. Although the service is good, we have not risked developing chips based on GPS, because we do not know whether the US would suddenly shut down the service," Cao said, adding that the one-off investment for a company in developing a chip is considerable.
"But Beidou, China's homegrown navigation system, will eliminate our worry, and we will be happy to develop more services on this platform."
Wang Xiaodong contributed to this story.
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China National Space Administration
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