Tech Facts

How GPS Works


Image via Flickr creative commons from Qole Tech

Many drivers now rely on GPS satellite navigation systems to get them from A to B each time they have to drive to unknown territory, such as when driving to a holiday destination. The rise in popularity of such systems as opposed to the traditional use of a road atlas shows humanity’s willingness to embrace new technology and to move with the times as far as technological developments are concerned. But how does GPS actually work?

Principals behind GPS

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Basically put, this system transmits signals to receivers on the ground to determine positioning. In order to work best, GPS systems need to have an unobstructed view of the sky, which means they are only used outdoors and generally away from forested areas or tall buildings.

GPS satellites transmit data to show their location and the current time of day. That’s how the receiver can register the location of the satellites. Of course, the accuracy of the determined position depends on the type of receiver. Hand-held GPS units usually have about 10-20 metre accuracy, while other types can obtain a much higher accuracy just by using an alternative method called Differential GPS, known as DGPS.

GPS in cars

As mentioned above, many people invest in GPS navigation systems for their vehicles in order to help direct them to where they need to be. They can also tell you just how close you are to your destination, which saves you having to drive around in circles trying to locate somewhere new. There is a fantastic range of GPS from all for an affordable price so you need never get lost in the car again.

The thing that makes GPS so great for in-car use is that it contains mapping software, enabling the device to pinpoint exactly where you are on the road map and to provide turn by turn directions to get you from A to B without any hassle. What’s more, car GPS also comes complete with other useful functions such as updated traffic information and locations of the nearest restaurant or petrol station. You can also buy a portable DVD player at Halfords to keep your passengers entertained on long car journeys.

GPS watches

Sports fanatics such as runners and cyclists use GPS watches for various reasons: they can record your progress and the amount of effort you put into each performance, spurring you on to improve each time you go out; they offer precise navigation, which is incredibly useful if you are exercising out in the countryside and suddenly become lost; and they can also be used as a weather tool, signalling just how close you are to the rainfall or when the next thunderstorm is likely to hit.

A GPS watch picks up signals to calculate your latitude, longitude, speed and altitude to within a few feet or metres. That means it can show you your location, as well as your average speed per mile and how high up that mountain was that you cycled up. And you can do all this simply by glancing at the watch on your wrist.

Mobile GPS

You only have to glance around you these days to see everyone glued to their mobile phone. As such, it is necessary to have GPS enabled software in mobile phones nowadays as people use them to locate the nearest bar or the location of the restaurant where they have a table booked for 7pm. Another great function of GPS in mobile phones is that is can be used to track the owner’s whereabouts, increasing the levels of safety for youngsters whose parents worry about them when they are out and about. Who’d have thought that GPS could be used for so many different purposes?

One thought on “How GPS Works

  1. Pingback: GPS Monologue | Journey of a Creative Playful Explorer

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