GPS Technology: More Than Just Directions

by Huishan F
Technology has become a major aspect of our daily lives, so much so, that we often take it for granted. Aside from giving us way to communicate and contact each other through the internet and wireless ways, it also provides us a way to determine “where are we” in the world, through the use of GPS, or Global Positioning Systems. This technology has allowed us to find where we are and where we need to go, making paper maps obsolete. It brings us information on where things are at the very minute and provides up to the minute updates on the current status. What used to be a technology used by the US military to track submarines has now become an indispensable technology to be used, not only in our pedestrian lives, but as an important, crucial tool in business. Today’s business world depends heavily on GPS technology to make business more productive and more efficient.

The start of GPS technology began when Sputnik, the soviet satellite, was launched in 1957. Scientists soon realized that this satellite could be used to tracking locations on the earth. Soon afterwards, the US Navy conducted their own satellite experiment called TRANSIT, which was based on 6 satellites used to track submarines. In 1973, Ivan Getting and Bradford Parkinson led a Defense Department project based continuous navigation tracking, which led to the direct development of NAVSTAR GPS. This consisted of the launching of 24 satellites, with the last one launched in 1993. (James)  These 24 satellites are in constant motion, monitoring areas equally around the earth in a grid like pattern.  The concept of GPS is based on the computation of 4 satellites. Using atomic clocks on each satellite, radio signals can be sent in order to compute the longitude, latitude and altitude of an object within 100 feet, with the use of a receiver on earth.  (Taubes) This technology can allow exact pinpointing of vehicles or objects, which can have great value to people and companies.

The availability of GPS in everyday life has spawned a business industry unto itself. Advancements in GPS technology has allowed for economical GPS tracking for the everyday consumer. Using simple portable navigation receiver devices that can be installed or mounted in a car, one can use GPS to map out accurate road/street directions to exact locations anywhere in the world, making the use of traditional printed maps obsolete. The portable GPS industry is a multi billionaire dollar industry, with companies like Garmin, Tom Tom and Magellan leading the way. This competition between GPS portable navigation system manufacturers has led to new, more accurate navigation devices at a cheaper cost, allowing most consumers the ability to purchase a device.

Businesses rely heavily on the use of GPS technology to track delivery of goods and supplies.  Delivery companies like UPS and FedEx not only use GPS technology to provide accurate and precise road directions of locations for their drivers to use when delivering packages, but it can also track a package on a plane and provide minute to minute updates on estimated delivery times.  Trucking and shipping companies can use GPS to know the exact location of a truck and predict when supplies and product will arrive. Airlines and cruise ships use GPS to predict current departure and arrival times for passengers, and provide systems for air avoidance at airports. Telecommunication companies and IT departments from every aspect of the business/financial sector use GPS technology to synchronize their land-based computer networks to the atomic clocks on the satellites.  GPS is an invaluable tool for not only providing minute to minute information on deliveries and shipments, but can also provide information to save lives (as in ambulances) and protect countries (in use for missiles systems).

The future of GPS technology is expected grow, as in makes its way to major countries like China. One market-research firm estimates the worldwide GPS market will total $75 billion by 2013. (James). In the meanwhile, there are more and more technologies being developed using GPS, which will provide an expanding market for the consumer and business.

Work Cited

James, Randy. (2009 May, 26), A Brief History of GPS, from Time Magazine, http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1900862,00.html

Taubes, Gary. (1997, April), The Global Positioning System, The Role of Atomic Clocks, from Beyond discovery, www.beyonddiscovery.org/content/view.txt.asp?a=458