When I was a kid, two of my hometown’s burger drive-ins attracted the hungry attention of my sister and myself, causing us to hound our parents to take us “out to dinner” upon the slightest pretext. Only one of them, however, boasted a sign claiming “400 million served.”
This was a staggering number to an eight-year-old. I hypothesised that everyone in the world must have consumed several by now a very good argument for me to have one tonight.
The desire to provoke similar reasoning could form part of the motivation for the China Satellite Navigation Office to announce that sales of BeiDou based chips have exceeded 80 million. Ran Chengqi, Director of the CSNO, delivered the number in a report on the 10th China Satellite Navigation Conference held in Beijing on May 22.
“It would be stretching a point to say that satnav chips are the burgers of the future, but it’s not an exaggeration to assert that they are becoming a commodity on the world market.”
Now, 80 million falls well short of 400 million, but that next hurdle is well within reach, considering the size, potential and explosive growth of the Chinese market, to say nothing of others along the Great Belt and Road, a global development area of infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and organisations in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The BeiDou number pales in comparison to the 3.15 billion units of total GNSS chips that global consumption is expected to hit in 2022. By a reasonable projection, BeiDou-enabled chips will by then constitute a major if not the lion’s share of that number.
Of course, GPS-enabled chips will form a greater majority, if not the totality. All chips will unless the world radically changes be GPS-enabled to start, and then have some combination of other GNSS in addition.
Big Numbers. Ran Chengqi further said that 22-nanometer dual-frequency BeiDou chips are ready for commercial applications.
According to the China Global Television Network, 116 new positioning-capable cellphone models applied to enter the Chinese market in the first quarter of 2019; 82 of them carry BeiDou-enabled chips. The latest government report on the scale of China’s satnav industry anticipates it will reach 400 billion yuan (US$ 57.8 billion) by 2020.
The news agency stated that more than six million vehicles in 36 cities use BeiDou; long-distance operations and precision farming help raise output by 5% while saving 10% of fuel costs; and more than 70,000 fishing vessels employ BeiDou’s short messaging service.
BeiDou’s rapid success in a relatively short term echoes that of GPS and GNSS in general. It would be stretching a point to say that satnav chips are the burgers of the future, but it’s not any exaggeration or distortion to assert that they are becoming if they have not already become a commodity on the world market.
By the way, those golden arches have since 1994 stopped counting and updating their published burger tally. All the signs simply say “billions and billions served.”