Tech level high but commercialization lacking
China's self-made BeiDou Satellite Navigation System is ready for wider consumer market application, but an orderly industrialization strategy is required, experts said at the BeiDou Industrialization Forum held in Gu'an, North China's Hebei Province on Tuesday.
The BeiDou technology has reached the same level as the U.S.' Global Positioning System (GPS), but the industrialization of BeiDou is an urgent issue that needs to be resolved so that it can achieve more widespread application.
In terms of performance alone, BeiDou is at the same level as GPS, said Deng Zhongliang, a professor with the School of Electronic Engineering at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
"For example, with the enhancement of XiHe, the wireless network for fused communications and navigation, BeiDou can provide not only outdoor positioning, but also indoor positioning. In this aspect, it leads global navigation technologies," he told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Currently, the price of BeiDou chips for automobiles has been reduced to 20 yuan ($3.14) from 200 yuan. That is about the same level as GPS chips.
BeiDou can be used in a variety of areas, including geographical data collection, surveying, mapping and navigation.
The popularization of BeiDou should be combined with specific industry applications, such as smart wearable devices, said Fan Benyao, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Although a lot of companies have been involved in the research and development of BeiDou applications, they are in a somewhat disorderly state, Fan said. This can lead to repeated research and development, which is a waste of resources, he noted, adding that the industrialization of BeiDou should be regulated.
"The industrialization of BeiDou lies mainly in applications - how to develop sectors that have not seen BeiDou applications and how to promote domestication of BeiDou-related technologies that have been widely applied," Fan said.
"Now, most new smartphones are equipped with both GPS and BeiDou, and how companies develop BeiDou-based applications to meet specific needs will create industry segmentation. They can selectively make products catering to mass consumption or certain industries," Deng said.
Many private enterprises at the forum expressed their hope of providing services based on BeiDou.
"Our company plans to adopt BeiDou positioning technology, partially replacing GPS, for future projects," Xia Mingwei, project manager with Beijing Bikece Technology Co, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the forum.
Bikece provides visualization services such as detecting leaking underground pipelines.
Serving B&R initiative
Apart from the domestic market, BeiDou has covered about 30 countries and regions along the routes of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative, such as Pakistan and Southeast Asian countries.
After the launch of 18 BeiDou satellites in 2018, China can provide basic services to these countries.
Asked why countries that already use GPS would need BeiDou, Deng said that with China-made smartphones being exported to other countries and regions and BeiDou covering the Asia-Pacific region, people in these countries and regions are naturally exposed to BeiDou.
"In regions surrounding China, BeiDou's positioning function is superior to that of GPS. It can provide more effective navigation services," he said.