2009 Finalist: Leaders of Tomorrow
Leading The Way With GPS
Dr. Chris Goodall was introduced to GPS (Global Positioning System) when one evening he found himself lost in Grizzly country in the Yukon. At his father’s suggestion he dug from his pocket what he considered to be a toy, the GPS his father had given him for Christmas. In spite of his skepticism, the device led him and his father to directly back to the trail.
“Since then I’ve been hooked on it,” says the avid hiker and camper. But the engineer in him quickly recognized the limitations of the GPS. “It doesn’t work under trees and it’s not accurate indoors,” he notes. Dr. Goodall was driven to find a better system. “It’s in my DNA to explore,” he explains. “I’m trying to make positioning systems that work everywhere,” he adds.
And there’s no better place to do that than Alberta, already a hub of geomatics research and innovation. Dr. Goodall is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Geomatics at the University of Calgary and a co-founder of a high-tech startup based on his research called Trusted Positioning Inc. He has submitted three patents, of which he was inventor of two—one related to self-calibration of devices intended for high-volume consumer sales; the other related to multiple inertial sensor integration. The company’s specialty is low-cost navigation and location technology for vehicles and portable consumer electronics, like cell phones. Dr. Goodall’s commercialization strategy includes affordability and usability for mainstream adoption, while providing an “always there” accurate position wherever the mobile device may be used.
“One of my patents is about calibrating errors autonomously, as the personal device is used, to remove cost constraints of the technology and optimize accuracy and reliability” he explains. “The other is about integrating GPS with multiple acceleration and turning rate sensors to measure position, velocity, and attitude more reliably.” Typically these systems are used to navigate ships, submarines and aircrafts; Dr. Goodall’s invention is built for portable applications that are not tethered to a platform.
Beyond his capabilities as a businessman and a scientist, Dr. Goodall is a master communicator. As a postgraduate student at the University of Calgary, he was involved with several organizations helping to help raise awareness of geomatics among people outside the field.
“I found it very inspiring to talk at conferences and grad schools about the issues of technology and commercialization and having the opportunity to speak to potential students about opportunities in the field,” he says. “I like to talk about Alberta being a hub of knowledge in the area. We’re not exporting highly qualified personnel because we’re doing the work ourselves right here,” says Dr. Goodall. “A lot of important contributing people are here,” he says. “I can be a piece of it and help keep it going. And I can reflect back on my teachers who have been so instrumental in my career development.”