NovAtel Inc.

2005 Winner: Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology (>25M)

Inventing and Leading in a Technology-Driven GPS Industry

NovAtel Inc. has navigated to a position as a world leader in the Global Positioning System (GPS) industry thanks to its superior technology innovation, customer service, progressive management, and emphasis on return on investment. In 2002, the Calgary-based company renewed its focus in these key areas to further its position as a top provider of precise positioning technologies for industries that require location, navigation, tracking, mapping and timing information. The strategy paid off almost immediately. After improved results in 2002 and 2003, NovAtel’s revenues increased 39 per cent to $53.9 million and net income more than tripled to $12.8 million in 2004.

NovAtel designs and sells high-precision GPS and other positioning components and sub-systems to leading Original Equipment Manufacturers and system integrators for end users principally in the aviation, geomatics (surveying and mapping), mining, precision agriculture, marine and defence industries. NovAtel’s products combine hardware, such as receivers and antennas, with software to enable its customers to use GPS and other satellite navigational systems across these vertical markets. In 1995, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration named NovAtel supplier of choice for its Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) reference receivers, which form the core GPS ground infrastructure for future air traffic navigation systems in North America. The system allows direct routing of aircraft and significantly reduces air traffic congestion. NovAtel has since developed reference receiver technology for similar national networks in Japan, Europe, China and India.

Development of the original WAAS is an example of how NovAtel has chosen to invent and lead in a technology-driven industry. NovAtel researchers anticipated a requirement and co-developed an error-reduction technology – Multipath Estimating Delay Lock Loop (MEDLL) – even before an opportunity for commercialization appeared. The design was so successful, the FAA sole-sourced NovAtel when it contracted the second-generation WAAS receiver in 2003. As a result of NovAtel’s continued investment in advanced research and development, the company is leading the way in precise positioning technologies.

While NovAtel’s research focuses on core GPS innovation, it also includes “GPS+”, the combination of precision GPS integrated with other, complementary satellite system technologies, communication devices and/or positioning sensors. In 2004, NovAtel introduced a system combining GPS and inertial technologies to offer continuous attitude and positioning performance, even in environments where GPS alone is unsuitable. As well, the company recently demonstrated a leading-edge dual-frequency, dual-mode Galileo/GPS receiver it developed for the ground reference infrastructure of Galileo, a satellite navigation system being developed by the European Union.