As a lifelong techie I’m constantly reminded of erratic pacing for changes in our industry. Hardware and software lurch at dizzying rates while advanced concepts, with dramatic potential for exploiting improved technology, languish unused for years. Whether in GPS/GNSS receiver configurations, surveillance, collision avoidance, or various other areas, needed solutions await industry’s willingness to change the status quo. A basic function in today’s systems is source-to-destination data transmission. Quite often an urgent need can be met, not by more precision nor higher data rates nor larger capacities, but simply a different selection of information content.
Space limitations preclude full elaboration here; see other parts of this site and the references cited below. Although today’s modus operandi limits both military and commercial systems. I’m not implying that inertia plus oversimplification in methodologies are entirely to blame for “missing the boat” in all instances. Additional factors are well known (e.g., safety often requires smooth – thus, coordinated – “old-to-new” transitions). It is striking, though, to witness how much effect the one facet noted above (selection of information content) can exert on overall performance. I elaborate on that in several publications – some available on this site.
No criticism is intended nor implied here; yesteryear’s designs lacked access to today’s technology, and other lifelong techies have a different set of uncommon insights (not unusual). To fortify claims just made, I’ll do two quick things. First, for just one of many topics with potential (but unused) enormous improvement I’ll show at this site – a recognized real-world example: collision avoidance, in both two (runway incursions) and three (near miss in-air) dimensions. Second, in addition to the 100+ book pages viewable from this site, I cite a small but representative fraction chosen from about 90 manuscripts I wrote or coauthored:
- “System Integration: Performance Doesn’t Measure Up,” NAECON Symposium, Dayton Ohio, 1993 — later printed in IEEE-AES Systems Journal
- “Send Measurements, not Coordinates (Co-au)” IONJ, Fall 1999, pp. 203-215
- Unfinished Business–Glaring Absences from the Achievement List IEEE PLANS, Monterey CA 2004
- “ADSB (2nd-) Best Foot Forward?” (Co-au), Air Traffic Control Journal, v50 Summer 2008, pp 17-18.
- InsideGNSS Fall 2008, pp.29-32
- GPSWorld Dec 2009, pp. 8, 10, 12
- Robust Design for GNSS Integration ION-GNSS, Savannah GA, Sept. 2008
- Aging SV’s – We Have Solutions ION-GNSS, Savannah GA, Sept. 2009
In applications across-the-board (in-air, maritime, space-related, or on land), depth of insight despite complexity is a make-or-break factor. Although that merely states the obvious, we repeatedly observe adherence to older techniques that could not capitalize on capabilities offered by recent technological advances. In addition to the previously mentioned “slower-is-safer” constraint it is instructive to consider some further restraints:
- Up-front needs face resistance from creatures of habit with short-term focus.
- Younger workers, brilliantly adept with computers (operating systems, data flow, etc.) are less familiar with the functional intent of the design.
- Many system designers have the “shoe on the other foot” (versed in theory but lacking depth of software coding or computer operations in general).
- Emphasis on management technique produces decision-makers with insufficient technical preparedness.
These challenges must be met to avoid failure, as described in the sixth reference cited above which ends by stating “The industry can either adopt changes or continue to settle for performance levels at a minor fraction of the intrinsic capabilities available from our present and future systems.” Claims I make here can invite much skepticism. Fair enough, but those willing to explore in depth the references just cited will see potential for unprecedented benefits.