A few years ago, a debate raged over whether or not telematics applications would really take off. Now, it's hard to judge where they'll stop. Viewing screens and DVD players are already showing up in a lot of vehicles. One company is even promising access to satellite television.
At last month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Delphi Corp. (www.delphi.com) unveiled its newest antenna system. It claims to be the first system to track a geo-stationary satellite from a moving passenger vehicle. Currently, some military and other specialty vehicles utilize geo-stationary satellite-tracking technologies. Yet they rely upon large radomes.
In contrast, the Delphi vehicle demonstrates antenna technology that's fully integrated into the roof of a current-model sport-utility vehicle. The company's satellite-antenna reception system is thin enough to fit between the roofline and the interior headliner. The company claims that the system delivers excellent performance in all regions of the continental U.S. (Of course, the TV will cut out if the satellite signal is obstructed.)
To make this system possible, the company had to compensate for the fact that existing geo-stationary satellites are intended for reception by stationary platforms. Delphi designed an antenna system that's fully steerable in both horizontal plane and elevation. As a result, it can consistently track the satellite as the vehicle changes directions and altitudes. To make sure that the system works adequately enough, Delphi also leveraged advances in vehicle altitude sensing, satellite discrimination techniques, and sensor fusion.
Much of this project depended on Motia's (www.motia.com) Cross Country mobile direct-broadcast-satellite (DBS) technology. It places smart-antenna technology into low-cost silicon. Cross Country also provides superior reception in a low-profile format. Most importantly, it can electronically track the satellite signal in elevation while in motion. Clearly, Delphi found the right partner for its technology. Now, the industry will see if it's found the next killer telematics application.