GNSS for crisis


As the measures of the lockdown, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are starting to slow down and society is getting ready for the recovery and the ‘return to routine’, the GNSS response is becoming increasingly important.

During the past two months, several GNSS-Galileo-based cell-phone apps have been launched to try to head off the pandemic spread. These initiatives are capable of tracking geolocation and mobility of infected people, detecting which city zones pose a high contagion risk and help users to connect up to the emergency healthcare system. For example, the satnav-based location tool is able to monitor the spread of the disease. Other apps help citizens decide whether or not they have coronavirus-compatible symptoms, feeding back instructions and recommendations on the basis of the assessed results.

These apps have been used for tracking and thereby facilitating resources that will help both government authorities and individuals to curb the coronavirus spread.

However, satellite navigation goes one step further and some apps have the purpose to meet some of society’s needs after the lockdown. It is the case of the initiatives that look to alert people with the aim of keeping the safety distance in places such as supermarkets or pharmacies where there could be higher risk of contagion.

In support of these news challenges generated by the post lockdown situation, ESA’s Galileo navigation Science Office is also encouraging some internal initiatives, like the future launch of a dedicated “COVID-19 space hunting platform”, to be integrated as part of the GSSC services, to support on-going COVID research initiatives, notably those where geolocation is of relevance, that may cope with some society needs.

As stated on the ESA’s article, ESA’s partner agency the GSA, European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency, working with the assistance of the European Commission, has put together a list of the mentioned apps that are already giving a response and will help the citizens from now on. Most of the apps that are on the list are already helping people and can be found in app stores.

Thanks to the GNSS response, society will have greater access to COVID-19 information, staving off the collapse of hospitals and health centers under heavy demand and preventing the possible new outbreaks once measures are weakened.