No piece of modern technology would be complete without a GPS function; your phone will alert you to where the nearest coffee shop is, your car will guide you directly to your destination with a friendly voice, and your computer will tell you exactly where to find the address of that meeting you’re scheduled for the next day.
With the prevalence of this technology now secured, how much does the man on the street actually know about it? Here are a few facts you might not have heard before:
- Like almost all significant technological advancements this century, GPS was originally developed for use by the army, namely the US military, in order to keep a better track of its vehicles when in operation. Work on GPS began way back in 1973, and was fully completed by 1994. These origins are why the GPS network most of us use today is still owned by the United States.
- Even despite the perceived end of the cold war during the 90s, many nations still feared that having given the gift of GPS, the United States could quite easily take it back again, and started developing their own alternatives. Russia has its own ‘Russian Global Navigation System’ which has been online since 2007, and a European Union fronted ‘Galileo’ system is currently being devised along with Chinese and Indian equivalents.
- When using GPS to pinpoint a location, at least 3 satellites are needed, and often 4 or more will be used to garner more accurate results. This happens through triangulation, and is the basis of the theory behind the technology.
- The uses for GPS are myriad, and growing all the time. As well as for navigational purposes, such as fleet tracking, in black boxes on airliners, and on most boats, there are also other uses like as an emergency precaution for hikers to ensure they can be found easily in case of an emergency, and also by cartographers to create the most accurate maps yet.
- You would expect that after over 15 years in full operation, the satellite network of GPS would slowly be losing accuracy and is edging towards old age and breaking point. However, new satellites take the place of older ones, and methods for using the technology constantly improve, meaning that the accuracy of the system is always improving.