One of the satellites that powers ISRO's NavIC system. (Express Photo)
A homegrown satellite navigation system developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (or Isro) is set to find its way into mobile phone systems sold in India. This will facilitate the implementation of a key mandate from the Nirbhaya case verdict which required the installation of vehicle tracking systems and panic buttons in all commercial vehicles.
Isro's satellite navigation system NavIC is set to become the backbone of a public vehicle tracking system in India since it offers flexibility to local law enforcement agencies to monitor vehicles unlike international systems like the GPS, satellite navigation experts from ISRO said.
In April 2019, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways made NavIC-based vehicle trackers mandatory for all commercial vehicles in the country in accordance with the Nirbhaya case verdict.
“This is for the benefit of women, elderly citizens, children and for public safety. A mandate effective from April 1, 2019, says that vehicles must have a receiver which supports NavIC,” an Isro scientist said. “This is a very critical point since we are talking of public safety and all other constellations that support vehicle locations — like the other mapping systems — are not in the control of our country. So we need an independent autonomous system that can be fully controlled by us,” the Isro official said.
Since the NavIC system became operational two years ago, Isro has helped the industry develop and certify receivers for the indigenous navigation system. There are now around 100 products from 35 agencies.
The NavIC system has already been installed in over 2,000 trains in the country as part of a real-time information system for the Indian Railways on the movement of trains.
The biggest presence for the indigenous NavIC system in everyday life in India is however expected to be through mobile phones with mobile phone makers, chip makers and network service providers making provisions for NavIC in their emerging systems.
“The international body 3GPP (the mobile communications standards body) has approved our NavIC to be included in mobiles. So very soon all our mobiles are going to have NavIC along with GPS,” the Isro chairman said at his 2020 New Year Day press conference. “The most used area for the NavIC system will be in mobile phones,” said the Isro official.
Isro and the chipmaker Qualcomm have developed and tested chipset platform across their portfolio which can support NavIC. The initiative will help accelerate the adoption of NavIC and enhance the geo-location capabilities of mobile, automotive and the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in the region, according to Isro.