5 Things you might not know about GPS

The ‘Global Positioning System’, or GPS as most of us will probably know it as, is now almost omnipotent when it comes to consumer technology. Mobile phones and satellite navigation systems are just two examples of their use, but with all this saturation, there are still a few things you probably didn’t know about everyone’s favourite new technology.

1. GPS was originally created for the military
Like a lot of new technology, GPS was first devised for military use, namely the US military, after the department of defence wanted a new way to keep track of its military vehicles. The project began in 1973 and was done by 1994. This is the reason that the GPS network today belongs to the United States.

2. There are other networks…
Nations that feared the US could cut off access to their network at any time they wanted developed their own systems. Amongst them are the Russian Global Navigation System, operational and available for consumer use since 2007, and an EU backed ‘Galileo’ system. China and India are also said to be developing systems similar to GPS.

3. 3 Satellites are needed to find a location
The GPS system that most of us use has in its network 24 satellites. At least 3 need to be in range in order to triangulate a single position, and more often than not 4 or more are used to get a more precise reading.

4. GPS’ uses are numerous
As well as commercial interests like fleet management and giving drivers directions, GPS trackers are often found in boats, and always in commercial airplanes. Hikers use them as a safety precaution to make sure they can be found easily if lost, and cartographers can now create the most accurate maps ever put to paper thanks to the technology.

5. GPS is always improving
New satellites take the place of older ones, precision constantly increases and as a result the power of GPS devices improves, for commercial and personal use.
The useful and ever-present aid of GPS that we enjoy today is the result of decades of research and development, and it’s interesting to find out how much work went into the technology that we now take for granted in our pockets.