Makers are exploring the module and antenna lines, and integrating GPS receivers into vehicle systems.
USB-based models continue to drive production in Chinaâs GPS receivers industry with a 70 percent share of the total output. The type is forecast to remain the staple line even as units with Bluetooth, RS-232 or PS/2 support are rolled out.
With declining demand for stand-alone GPS receivers, R&D initiatives are not geared toward developing new products. Makers are nevertheless undertaking several steps to boost sluggish sales. China suppliers are venturing into module and antenna manufacture. Some are integrating the receiver function into car alert and navigation, and in-vehicle tracking systems to offer multifunction devices. Several manufacturers, including Skylab M&C Technology Co. Ltd, are looking to provide total solutions to reduce overall costs and bolster margins. The maker also provides modules, rolling out more than 800 models in this category last year.
As demand remains on a downward trend, however, more enterprises are expected to pursue the line only as a secondary product. Among them is Shenzhen Sunkin Technology Co. Ltd, which plans to integrate GPS receivers into its car alarm systems.
Apart from slowing sales, China suppliers also face rising production costs and the appreciation of the yuan. Fierce competition from GPS-enabled releases such as smartphones and personal navigation devices is another challenge. Four out of five mobile phones will incorporate GPS functions by end-2011, according to iSuppli. Smartphones, in particular, will be taking the lead due to their navigation function. About 320 million GPS-enabled handsets will be exported this year, and compete head-on with portable navigation equipment and PC/PDA receivers.
In terms of R&D, makers are hard-pressed to follow the miniaturization trend and lower power consumption. According to companies interviewed, compact GPS modules are difficult to design because these require power consumption below 70mW.
Despite these concerns, mainland China remains the biggest production hub for GPS receivers worldwide, accounting for more than 50 percent of global supply. Lower manufacturing costs and active R&D prompted Taiwan makers to move to the mainland in recent years. Some local electronics companies are shifting facilities to inland provinces due to labor costs but most GPS operations may not follow suit.
There are about 50 GPS receiver suppliers in the mainland. The module sector consists of nearly 30 companies, the majority of which are based in Guangdong province and the Yangtze River Delta region. Because of the relatively mature supply chains in these two locations, the bulk of makers of GPS trackers, vehicle tracking systems and portable GPS devices are also found in these areas.
GPS receiver selection
Taiwan: Makers highlight 3D mapping, multimedia & networking capability
China manufacturers of GPS receivers offer units with various interfaces, including USB, Bluetooth, RS-232 and PS/2. With applications fixed, companies are not releasing new products as existing models satisfy current demand.
USB GPS receivers, also known as GPS mice, are used with computers and enable location and information transmission. They can serve as power supplies for modules.
Bluetooth GPS receivers take up more than 20 percent of overall shipments. These transmit GPS signals to mobile phones, PDAs and laptops via the wireless standard. Mainly used for car and personal navigation, units have a built-in battery and are cordless and compact. User convenience is further increased by the fact that the latest handsets and PDAs are equipped with Bluetooth. These, however, consume more power.
Meanwhile, only a few makers are offering GPS receivers with RS-232 and PS/2 interfaces because of the limited demand for these devices. Most products in these categories are designed for specific clients. Other China suppliers also provide GPS receivers for customized applications such as marine GPS antenna receivers. The latter boasts advanced functions than regular models as they need to be water-resistant and have serial ports that connect to control centers.
In general, the sensitivity and the type of module and chipset used are important quality considerations. The average sensitivity at present is about -160dBm. Some variants, such as those of Skylab M&C, support up to -165dBm. The companyâs SKM55 model is one example. It supports WAAS, EGNOS, MSAS and GAGAN. The RoHS-compliant device measures 46x45x15mm.
The GPS module is the main component of a receiver, and accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the total cost. Many models adopt SiRFstarIII chipset, while others use solutions from MediaTek and Atheros. Makers purchase inputs from local solution providers or from Europe and Taiwan suppliers.
Taiwan GPS receiver suppliers are offering value-added products with larger screens. To differentiate devices, software innovation such as 3D mapping, and multimedia and networking capability are integrated into the latest releases. Such development efforts are undertaken to boost waning demand due to the rising popularity of GPS-enabled smartphones and off-brand models from mainland China.
The automotive market is one major driving force in the line. Outdoor portable GPS is also increasingly seen as a promising segment. Regarded as high-end, these units are designed for jogging, hiking, motorcycling and biking. They display altitude, trip time, total distance covered, average and maximum speeds, and calories consumed. Other variants have track view, sunlight-readable touchscreens, barometric pressure, compass, and heart rate and cadence measurements.
In general, entry-level variants feature 3.5 to 4.3in resistive touchscreen displays. Personal navigation devices with screens smaller than 3in are designed for outdoor use. Midrange models have a 4.3 or 5in LCD and multimedia player, and support digital TV reception and text-to-speech functions. High-end units adopt 4.3in or larger capacitive touchscreens.
Some pack a sunlight-readable display, voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth handsfree, and more than 4GB built-in memory.
The worldwide GPS market, which also comprises enabled smartphones, PNDs and in-vehicle devices, hit 106.5 million units last year, according to Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute. With networking connectivity becoming an important trend, the ratio of connected PNDs is forecast at 55 percent by 2017, and that for in-car systems 90 percent.
Taiwanâs output of GPS products is expected to reach 34.26 million units valued at $3.8 billion by end-2011. PNDs will account for 90 percent of the total volume, a trend that will persist in the next few years given sluggish demand for receivers.
Holux Technology Inc.
Model: GPSmile 63B
Holux Technology Inc.
Model: FunTrek 130 Pro
Holux Technology Inc.
Model: GPSport 245
Shenzhen Sunkin Technology Co. Ltd
Skylab M&C Technology Co. Ltd
Supa Technology Co. Ltd
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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