Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 11:44 UK

UK positioned for sat-nav prizes

European SatNav winners
Sci-Tech members and the contest's organisers on Tuesday

UK company SciTech Systems has swept this year's European Satellite Navigation Competition.

The competition honours the best ideas from small and medium enterprises that will make use of the Galileo satellite positioning system.

Galileo, Europe's biggest space project to date, will outperform existing sat-nav systems in coverage and precision.

The winning idea is a sat-nav locator and communication system, built into a lifejacket, that starts when immersed.

Masterful win

The competition, formerly known as the Galileo Masters, is run in a number of mostly European regions, and this year included Taiwan and Australia.

As well as winning the overall competition, garnering the title of Galileo Master, Sci-Tech's idea won the UK's national competition, called the UK SatNav Challenge, which is run by the Hertfordshire Business Incubation Centre (HBIC).

The Galileo Master prize includes 20,000 euros in cash and six months' business "incubation" at HBIC under the auspices of the GSA, the European regulatory agency for the new sat-nav technology.

It also won a new prize offered by the GSA for the most promising idea that will utilise the globally integrated sat-nav services provided by Galileo, GPS, and the Russian GLONASS system - a prize that allows a further 12 months of business incubation anywhere in Europe.

Soyuz with Giove-B (Esa)
A European Commission and European Space Agency project
30 satellites to be launched in batches by end of 2013
Will work alongside US GPS and Russian Glonass systems
Promises real-time positioning down to less than a metre
Guaranteed under all but most extreme circumstances
Suitable for safety-critical roles where lives depend on service

Sci-Tech's idea was born at a meeting of tech-minded yachtsmen in a bar, Sci-Tech co-director Peter Hall says, who wondered why a sat-nav-enabled system for people lost at sea wasn't on the market.

"There are a number of devices on the market that use RFID to say that someone has gone out of range - you know that they're there, and when they're not there you assume they've gone over the side," Mr Hall told the BBC.

"But none of them track where the person is in the water. You know where they were, but if you're in a strong-running tide they're not going to be there when you go back, they'll be somewhere else," he added.

Sci-Tech's approach is to use a device attached to a lifejacket that, when wet, taps into Galileo or other global satellite positioning networks. Upon acquiring a location, the coordinates are sent by radio broadcast to the boat or rescue vessels.

With the position of the person in the water, Mr Hall says, the on-board part of the system can guide the vessel back to the person by feeding data into existing, commercial maritime navigation systems.

Spooky service

Second in the UK contest was Spook, from Manchester-based Littlestar media. Spook aims to be the one-stop interface for so-called "geo-location" media services.

As a "media repository" of geographically specific information, Spook will serve as an information and experience service that provides multimedia content based on a mobile user's present location.

The core of the Spook idea is a website where users can upload "experiences" such as a riverside walk or historical tour - complete with images, video, or sound files - defined by the locations associated with the media.

As other users come into the area defined by the experience, they can choose to download it to their sat-nav-enabled mobile device.

"It's not the so-called 'walled garden' approach," Mr Tait told the BBC. "It can be used across all smartphone platforms llike Apple iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and so on. And it's free."

As the Spook community rates and edits the experiences, Mr Tait expects the approach to be an "experience wiki" providing tailored, geographically specific media to smartphone users everywhere.

Adrenaline rush

Anaphylaxis pen (Allerayde)
The new sat-nav diabetic pen could save hundreds of lives

Third in the UK's national contest was Allerayde, a company that provides "auto-injectors" which provide adrenaline or epinephrine for people who experience anaphylactic shock, for instance in an allergic reaction.

When the pen-shaped injectors are used, patients should seek medical attention to prevent further complications from the shock. The new idea is to fit the pens with sat-nav electronics that, when used, alert a local "angel centre" of the user's location via a mobile phone network.

"Patients should get medical backup, and nine times out of ten, people just don't bother," says Michael Rhodes, head of Allerayde.

What's more, Mr Rhodes adds, some collapse even after administering the drug. He estimates that of the few thousand pens that are used in cases of anaphylaxis annually in the US, some 800 die.

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