The Miniaturization of GPS Systems

Positioning is an increasingly important part of an embedded design as more and more devices become mobile. Adding this capability into equipment that has to be smaller, lighter and have longer battery life is a major challenge. At the same time there are the challenges of implementing an effective wireless design with high performance and low power, while meeting the requirements of the project timeline and the certification authorities.

These challenges are being addressed by a new generation of wireless modules that are using the latest miniaturization technologies to make use of the various global positioning systems (GPS) around the world, with the footprint of GPS modules falling dramatically over the last few years.

GPS has several varieties, from the US GPS, Europe’s Galileo, Russia’s GLONASS and the Chinese Beidou systems. Modern wireless chipsets from a wide range of suppliers provide access to all these satellite systems, and advances in silicon manufacturing technology provide access to all these systems.

The Miniaturization of GPS Systems

However, these devices still have to be integrated into a design and there are key components such as SAW filters that cannot be integrated into the silicon, and therefore provide a limit to the amount of miniaturization that is possible purely from silicon.

The integration of the silicon devices can help reduce the power consumption, although there are challenges of RF and digital integration that means the most advanced process technology is not appropriate. There are also issues of static current leakage that increase the power and the handling of noise in the system which can mean more power is required to get the required performance. Higher power consumption means more heat generated and larger batteries required; both of which limit the amount of miniaturization that is possible.


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