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Beidou pilot program to help the aged

By Song Shengxia (Global Times)

08:35, June 25, 2013

Shanghai launched a pilot program to popularize the use of China's homegrown Beidou Navigation Satellite System in vehicles transporting children and the elderly, a move that analysts said Sunday will boost the use of the Beidou system by the general public.

Shanghai will invest a total of 190 million yuan ($30.65 million) to build 50,000 ground terminals for the Beidou Navigation Satellite System in the next 18 months, officials of the Shanghai Municipal Government said Friday at a press conference.

The terminals can help locate schoolchildren and allow school bus drivers to check whether schoolchildren have gotten on or off the bus. It can also help teachers monitor students' whereabouts during spring and autumn class outings, said Zhang Hongzhou, director of the Qingpu District Science and Technology Commission in Shanghai.

The system can also allow the elderly to send out help signals when they get lost and trigger alarms if they fall and need assistance, Zhang said, noting that the government will buy or lease the terminals for the elderly and for people with special needs.

"Currently, 90 percent of the applications of all the global positioning and navigation systems around the world are for civilian purposes. Shanghai's program is aimed at promoting Beidou's use by the common people," Li Zuohu, an engineer at the China Satellite Navigation Office (CSNO), which is managing Beidou's construction, told the Global Times Sunday.

"As a new satellite navigation system, Beidou is in an infant stage of application. The government's policies to encourage the use of the system in different regions across the country and various industries and fields such as transportation and weather forecasting will expand the scale of the application and reduce the costs," Li noted.

In January, the Ministry of Transport required all long-­distance buses, tourist coaches and vehicles carrying dangerous goods in nine provinces to install the Beidou system before June as a precondition for the approval of transport permits.

The central government has already invested around 3.5 billion yuan to boost industries related to the Beidou system.

"The expanded application of the Beidou system will advance the development of a wide range of industries such as electronics manufacturing, telecommunications, agriculture and entertainment," Li said.

According to an estimate by GNSS & LBS Association of China, the Beidou system may unleash a potential market worth 225 billion yuan by 2015 and 400 billion yuan by 2020.

"But whether Beidou will be widely accepted by the public depends on its quality and affordability," Li said.

"Due to the large size of its chip and its high cost, the Beidou system is still not readily accessible to ordinary people but must rely on the government and companies (a business-to-business model) to promote its use," Yan Xiaojia, an industry analyst at Analysys International, told the Global Times.

"It will be some time before the Beidou system takes the place of the dominant GPS in China's market," Yan said.

China started to build its own space-based positioning, navigation and timing system in 2000 to compete with the US-built Global Positioning System (GPS).

The Beidou network, which has military applications and currently consists of 16 operational satellites, started providing public services to Asia-Pacific countries in December 2012.

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