Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have undergone remarkable advancements in recent years, and several new constellations are now in operation. The Singapore Satellite Positioning Reference Network (SiReNT) managed by SLA has also evolved to support different types of GNSS and their relevant applications.
Today, high-precision satellite-based positioning has brought about immense value to our daily lives by promoting efficiency and sustainability. They drive a wide range of smart applications including IOTs (Internet of Things), environmental monitoring, emergency services, as well as benefits for social and community uses.
In Singapore, the increase in demand for high accuracy positioning, navigation and monitoring data has seen an over three-fold increase in the number of industry users for SiReNT, from around 120 in 2016 to over 400 in Oct 2023.
This article discusses how advanced GNSS technologies are revolutionising traditional positioning-based applications across industries, elaborates on the capabilities and impact of SiReNT, and explores new possibilities of deploying satellite-positioning systems for more mainstream benefits.
Advanced GNSS Technologies: A Revolution in Precise Positioning
Traditional positioning methods that are based on landmarks and maps are increasingly being replaced by GNSS technologies. GNSS systems utilize a network of satellites to pinpoint an individual’s or object’s precise position. This precise positioning enables a wide range of possible applications in various industries such as transportation, construction, environmental monitoring, and more.
SiReNT: Setting Singapore’s Leadership in Satellite Positioning
Developed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), SiReNT is the national infrastructure that receives and corrects satellite signals from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to enable real-time high precision positioning, navigation and monitoring applications with an accuracy of between 3 to 5cm. Launched with five initial GPS reference stations, the infrastructure has since grown to 10 reference stations across Singapore to enable various Smart Nation driven applications.
Key Features of SiReNT:
1. Precise Positioning: SiReNT boasts unparalleled precision and accuracy, enabling users to determine positions with up to 3 cm precision. SiReNT is used to support construction automation, precision engineering, smart nation initiatives and others.
2. Robustness in Urban Environments: Unlike traditional single system satellite positioning, e.g. GPS, SiReNT supports the use of multiple satellite positioning systems, i.e. GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BEIDOU, QZSS (collectively referred to as the Global Navigation Satellite System – GNSS) and ensures that users will achieve precise positioning in urban environments.
3. Enhanced Efficiency: With SiReNT, users are able to reference Singapore’s national positioning reference frame, the SVY21. By doing so, datasets captured using SiReNT can be interoperable with other datasets that use SVY21 referencing. This is especially useful in situations, for example, where the developer of an autonomous vehicle determines its positions using SiReNT, and compare those positions to a road map that has road markings, curb lines, and bus bays, so they can be overlaid reliably for precision navigation.
4. Enhanced Security: SiReNT incorporates advanced security features, guards against spoofing and jamming, and ensures the reliability of critical applications. This is done via a multi-layered monitoring process from individual GNSS reference stations to the entire network.
SiReNT Drives Positive Impact Across Diverse Industries
SiReNT enhances efficiency, safety, and sustainability, and has useful applications in diverse industries. Here are a few examples:
1. Support Singapore’s Surveying and Mapping Framework: SiReNT supports Singapore’s surveying and mapping framework by establishing the link to Singapore’s national positioning reference frame, SVY21. It ensures that all cadastral and mapping data is homogeneous and interoperable. When a land surveyor captures land lot boundary data using SiReNT, this data is useful for many parties such as the project developer, architect, engineers, and the land authority, who may then enhance the dataset according to their specific purposes.
2. Autonomous Platforms and Robots: In the autonomous mobility sector, SiReNT’s pinpoint accuracy improves the positioning and navigation of autonomous vehicles and robots. SiReNT leverages satellite positioning and enables such platforms to achieve accurate absolute positioning without the reliance on sensors.
3. Enable Precision Construction: SiReNT enables precision construction capabilities and supports applications like semi-autonomous piling, tower crane operations and asset management. The SiReNT Real-time Kinematics (RTK) application is used on construction sites around Singapore to precisely position foundation piles and ensure height thresholds are not breached by machinery.
4. Environmental Monitoring: SiReNT data is used to track adverse weather patterns and sea level rises. Scientists and researchers can improve monitoring algorithms by using SiReNT data to complement and enhance existing datasets to better understand weather patterns and changes.
Empowering Individuals and Communities for Social Good
Beyond commercial and industrial benefits, SiReNT also brings social and community benefits. The increasing adoption of GNSS-based applications, such as taxi ride-hailing, food delivery, wayfinding and even property transactions bring added convenience and benefits to the community. Accurate navigation also enables better access to healthcare, education, and emergency services, particularly in remote areas. We are also exploring more innovative applications of SiReNT in social well-being, entertainment, and more.
Every year, SLA partners with Space Faculty to organise the annual GNSS Innovation Quest (GIQ). Using advanced satellite and robotics technologies, students create engineering solutions to tackle challenges that can improve the daily lives of Singaporeans. The GIQ also serves as a platform to educate students on the use of satellite positioning data and services. In future, students who have taken part in the GIQ may potentially find a career in geomatics. SLA also leads a GNSS based seminar at the annual Global Space & Technology Convention (GSTC) that is organised by the Singapore Space & Technology Limited (SSTL) where system operators and domain experts share the latest innovations in satellite positioning applications and technologies.
Developing and implementing advanced GNSS technologies like SiReNT comes with various challenges, including GNSS signal interference threats, cybersecurity threats, and the need for global compatibility. Addressing these challenges requires innovative solutions, international collaborations, and robust regulatory frameworks.
In the future, we envision a seamless and interconnected world where GNSS technologies are integrated into everyday life. This includes improved navigation for autonomous vehicles and robots, enhanced environmental monitoring and disaster preparedness, and other precise positioning applications that can enhance our journey towards a smart nation. Moreover, advanced GNSS tools should be readily accessible to the public to allow more people to benefit from their advantages.
SiReNT’s pivotal role in Singapore and the advancement of GNSS technologies demonstrate the ongoing transformation of positioning methods across a variety of industries. SiReNT has proven to be a successful innovation and it demonstrates Singapore’s leadership in satellite positioning applications. Besides driving positive impact on surveying and mapping, autonomous technology, construction automation, and environmental monitoring, SiReNT has also enabled many applications to benefit the community.
About the Author
Dr. Victor Khoo, the Director (Survey and Geomatics) of the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) is responsible for the development of Singapore Digital Twin which involved a program to modernise 3D national mapping; development of new datasets, data models and standards; new 3D data management; and the collaboration for applied research in smart cities applications.
Prior to joining SLA, Dr. Khoo was involved in research and collaboration work in the Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP), NUS and School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTU; focused in the areas of Satellite Remote Sensing and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).