SHANGHAI - The application of the Compass Navigation Satellite System, a Chinese global navigation system, will create a market as big as 400 billion yuan ($61.54 billion) by the end of 2020, the head of China's navigation management office said.
Compass, also known as the Beidou system, has a similar function to the US-developed Global Positioning System (GPS), the European Union's Galileo and Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System. It provides positioning, navigational and measurement services for military and civilian use.
Ran Chengqi, director of the China Satellite Navigation Management Office, said the office recently hired a third party to evaluate the country's navigation market. According to its report, the market is growing by 30 to 50 percent annually and the industrial chain surrounding Compass could generate 400 billion yuan in revenue by 2020.
The global navigation industry is an emerging and promising market. "Worldwide, the market value will reach $400 billion to $500 billion by 2020," Ran said at the second China Satellite Navigation Conference in Shanghai, from May 18 to 20.
In addition to military applications, the Compass system is widely used in the fishing industry, which accounts for 62 percent of civilian use, followed by meteorology, transportation and telecommunications.
Brad Parkinson, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, best known as the father of the GPS, painted a more speculative picture for the application and development of navigation systems.
He said automobiles could become fully automated through compatibility with the GPS and other systems such as Compass. Another vehicle's position could be transmitted to your car, which would automatically adjust its speed to avoid hitting the other.
"The only limits for the application of a global navigation satellite system are the limits of human imagination," he said.
Next to the US and Russia, China is the third country to design and manufacture its own navigation satellite system.
On April 10, the eighth Beidou navigation satellite was put into orbit. China intends to launch eight more by the end of next year to cover the Asia-Pacific region, and the system will ultimately consist of 35 satellites.
An automobile navigation device using compatible Compass and GPS signals can be bought in Beijing for about 10,000 yuan. Besides the conventional functions, one highlight is that it can send text messages, said Liu Zhonghua, president of Beidou Tianhua Co, which manufactures the device.
"It is very popular among lovers of mountain climbing. I sold a dozen recently," he said.
"With a larger scale of production, the price of the device will become more competitive," he added.
The Compass navigation system has also been applied to weather forecasting since 2010 in a trial program that improved the accuracy of forecasts and significantly reduced costs.
"We plan to put the positioning system into nationwide weather forecasting in 2013 and 2014," said Cao Yunchang, deputy director of the China Meteorological Observation Center.