GPS systems have become increasingly popular, portable and affordable. Sales for this small navigation system are off the charts, and they are the hottest ticket at every electronics store and big box retailer around.
So what is GPS exactly, how does it work, and why is it so popular? What other uses are there for technology? For the answers to this and more, keep reading.
What is GPS?
GPS is an abbreviation for Global Positioning System. This technology was developed by the US Department of Defense, and employs a network of 24 strategically placed satellites around the globe. It was originally intended for military use only, but the government made it available for anyone to use in the 1980s. That coupled with latest advances in portable technology has made GPS the new hot item. It is extremely popular with those who drive for a living, such as couriers.
How Does it Work?
A GPS receiver uses signals transmitted by these GPS satellites to triangulate exact locations. The 24 satellites circle the planet twice a day and transmit signals to the earth, which are what the receivers use. The receivers basically use the difference between the time a signal was transmitted and received to calculate how far away the satellite is.
In order to track movement as well as calculate an object's latitude and longitude, a GPS receiver has to get signals from at least three satellites. If you add one more satellite to the mix, you can track altitude as well. One the receiver has the location, other variables can be accounted for such as speed, distance to destination, and more.
New advances in GPS technology such as Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and Differential GPS (DGPS) have made it possible to get accuracy down to within three meters of a signal. While WAAS is widely available in newer GPS systems, DGPS requires additional equipment and is mostly used in marine systems and by the US Coast Guard.
Popular Uses for GPS
The most common application for GPS is in small receivers that can be mounted in your car or carried by hand. These compact devices are usually used for directions, and include speakers that give turn by turn spoken directions to avoid being distracted by looking at a tiny map. But GPS users are discovering new uses for the technology daily.
One of the first widespread uses of GPS before the handheld was the Lo-Jack. This was a chip implanted in a vehicle that police stations could use to locate stolen vehicles. The Lo-Jack became the inspiration for locating other objects, especially living ones.
GPS collars have become popular for wandering pets. So when little Spot or Fluffy can't be found, you can simply use a GPS signal to find them. Missing children can be found with a popular cell phone software that uses the GPS signal to locate them.
The new handheld revolution owes a lot of its success to the iPod. This popular portable music player spawned the invention of parallel hard-drive technology, which allows you to double the disk space of a hard drive without increasing the physical dimensions.
So as you can see, the GPS has a lot a reasons for its recent success. And with a sharp and steady increase in sales, the technology has become a lot more popular and affordable than before. You can buy a inexpensive receiver with a major name brand starting at about $ 150.