I remember conveying luggage from Oyo town in Oyo state to a village in Umuahia in Abia State with a friend. It was supposed to be late-night travel, so we set out for the journey late in the afternoon. Getting to Onitsha in Anambra state, it was already past 10 pm and the busy express road was already deserted with few heavy vehicles like ours on the road. The driver being unfamiliar with the route, we needed to ask questions but it was already late, so we couldn’t find anyone to ask. It immediately dawned on us that we were all alone in the journey and we must find our way to Umuahia by any means necessary.
The thought of Google Maps on my Android device quickly flashed my mind. I hastily opened the application, with the in-built GPS feature on my device, it automatically detected our current location and I locked in our destination and it directed us with utmost precision through the night down to the village in Umuahia. The GPS was indeed our lifesaver that evening.
What is GPS?
The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally known as Navstar GPS, is a satellite-based radio navigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. Launched on February 22, 1978, the GPS was limited to the military, not until 1980 when it became open to civilians.
How Does The GPS Work?
The GPS is a beautiful piece of technology that has reshaped our world in ways we can not fathom. It provides users with Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT). The system consists of 3 segments – Space, Control and User Segments.
1. The Space segment: This space consists of a nominal constellation of 24 operating satellites that transmit one-way signals that give the current GPS satellite position and time.
2. The Control Segment: The control segment consists of worldwide monitor and control stations that maintain the satellites in their proper orbits through occasional command manoeuvres, and adjust the satellite clocks. It tracks the GPS satellites, uploads updated navigational data and maintains the health and status of the satellite constellation.
3. The User Segments: The user segment consists of the GPS receiver equipment, which receives the signals from the GPS satellites and uses the transmitted information to calculate the user’s three-dimensional position and time.
At any given time, the GPS can read signals from six or more satellites. When a satellite sends a signal, it creates a circle with a radius, when we add second, and third satellites, it creates second and third circles, and the location is narrowed down to one of two points where the circles intersect. The device’s location can finally be determined, as the device is at the intersection of all three circles.
How Accurate Is The GPS?
The accuracy of the GPS is dependent on some of these factors:
1. Physical obstructions: The accuracy of the GPS is higher in open areas with no adjacent tall buildings that can block signals. This can result in miscalculations of the satellite distance known as an Urban canyon.
2. Numerical miscalculations: This happens when the device hardware is not designed to some specifications.
3. Artificial interference: Interruptions to the GPS device due to GPS or spoofs.
Atmospheric conditions: Ionospheric delays, heavy storm cover and solar storms can all affect GPS devices.
How Useful Has The GPS Been?
It is not an overstatement to say that the GPS have improved our lives, businesses and human experience in ways we least imagined. With the use of GPS, we can rely on technology for safety without wavering, bank on its leading and direction.
Some uses of the GPS includes the following:
1. Mapping: The GO Creating maps of the world.
2. Location: The GPS since inception has been id immense help in determining position.
3. Navigation: It has also aided in the movement of people or objects from one point to another.
4. Tracking: GPS helps in Monitoring objects or movement of persons.
5. Emergency Response: In cases of emergency such as a natural disaster, first responders use GPS for mapping, weather prediction, keeping track of emergency personnel, and ensuring prompt response.
6. Transportation: Just like we have today, logistics and companies make use of the GPS to carry out their businesses. GPS trackers are currently being installed in personal and commercial vehicles to guard against theft and also to improve driver productivity and safety. A truck tracker for instance can be used to support route optimization, fuel efficiency, driver safety and compliance.
7. Health and fitness: GPS is integrated into Smartwatches and other wearable technology to track fitness activity.
8. Construction: GPS enables companies in tracking and off-road equipment.
Other uses of the GPS include: Tracking and navigation of agricultural equipment in the farm, GPS is used in autonomous vehicles, mobile communications, it also strengthens security formations.
In conclusion, the GPS has indeed improved every part of our human experience. It has created business opportunities, strengthened the security of lives and properties. The integration of the GPS into smartphones has boosted user experience and made the world even smaller in our palms.