China completes global satellite navigation network to rival US-led GPS

26 Jun 2020

Image: © NicoElNino/

This week in future tech, China’s latest attempt to establish itself as a leading global power has seen it develop a rival to GPS called Beidou.

While the Global Positioning System – known commonly as GPS – has become synonymous with global navigation systems, the technology’s development and oversight is distinctly American. Now, however, CNBC reports that China has completed its own global satellite network that will rival GPS in its capabilities.

Called Beidou, the network has been two decades in the making and will look to wean the Chinese state and developers off GPS. It also means that should China ever become involved in a military conflict with the US, it can maintain global navigation if it is cut off from GPS.

The launch of the final satellite earlier this week was broadcast on Chinese state TV and was the second attempted launch after a previous attempt was postponed due to “technical issues”.

This is the third iteration of Beidou and consists of 30 satellites, building on the second iteration that was completed in 2012. Yang Changfeng, chief designer of Beidou, previously claimed that half of the countries in the world are already using the network.

Vodafone launches IoT heat detector tech

As businesses begin to reopen, Vodafone has launched a new real-time remote temperature scanning solution called Vodafone Business Heat Detection.

Thermal cameras onsite at businesses are connected over Vodafone’s end-to-end encrypted internet-of-things (IoT) network as a means of quickly identifying staff, customers and visitors who may show signs of an elevated temperature.

The thermal camera analyses body temperature, a key indicator of the presence of a fever, and sounds a discreet alarm to alert when a specific temperature threshold is exceeded. The system can screen up to 100 people a minute with up to eight people in the field of view.

“IoT is already beginning to transform how businesses will reopen and operate post-pandemic,” said Paula Corcoran, Vodafone Business IoT product manager.

“Over the next few months, businesses will want to ensure they can go back to producing goods and services, while at the same time protecting the wellbeing of their employees, customers and visitors to their premises.”

Virgin Hyperloop signs deal with Spirit AeroSystems

We may be one step closer to having trains flying through tubes at more than 1,000kph after the signing of a deal between Virgin Hyperloop and Spirit AeroSystems. Its purpose is to work towards the first real-world prototype of a hyperloop train using the latter’s engineers, fabricators, builders, supply chain and technicians.

“As a new form of mass transportation, hyperloop opens up a new segment of diversification for us in the transportation space,” said Keith Hamilton, director of programmes and business development at Spirit AeroSystems.

“Our collaboration with Virgin Hyperloop is a prime example of our belief that this burgeoning industry is a game changer. Through leveraging our values and core competencies of designing and manufacturing aerostructures, many of the skills are transferable to produce the hyperloop bogie.”

Canon reveals camera to help autonomous cars

Japanese manufacturer Canon has announced the development of the world’s first single photon avalanche diode (SPAD) image sensor which allows cameras to measure distances and create 3D images with less latency and more accuracy.

SPAD sensors are desirable for autonomous vehicles because they allow a single photon of light to be converted into multiple electrons. This improves capture speed and accuracy, which are important for these vehicles’ lidar applications.

The sensor is able to distinguish between overlapping objects in real time and accounts for the impact of glass or translucent materials on light. Also, the sensor is capable of up to 24,000 frames per second with one-bit output, allowing for slow-motion capture of fast movement within an extremely short time frame.

In addition to autonomous vehicles, the sensor has applications in areas such as healthcare, scientific vision and gesture recognition.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic