GPS turns 20 years old this week –

It’s a part of our daily lives and Colorado has played a big role in the Global Positioning System.

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GPS has its 20th anniversary this week. What’s remarkable about this is that it is a technology that pervades our lives yet is only 20 years old.

Of course the public didn’t get to use it 20 years ago. When they eventually did, it was deliberately encrypted such that only the military had a high level of accuracy.

In the early days, I don’t feel quite so old now, we bemoaned the deliberate lack of accuracy for portable devices including the first Navman units, that was being inflicted on us, the top of the line unit in my car, for $6,000 included gyros and inertia sensors and a paddle on the wheel calibrated to all of these devices to improve accuracy. A lot different to Google or TomTom maps on my iPhone.

In later years accuracy became more important, for example in New Zealand Road User Charges were designed for commercial vehicles through a rebate system. The concept was that if trucks traveled on non public roads, i.e. farms, airports and other locations which weren’t constructed and maintained out of taxes, then using RUC logbooks as evidence, operators could claim a rebate against the driving they did off those roads. This started with drivers having to get out of their car every time they went off-road, get the mileage of their wheel hubometer and then write the number into their book and the same when they went back on the road, for subsequent data entry into a computer.

Truckers were delighted when GPS meant that it could all be calculated automatically with Fleet Management systems.

GPS played a big part in agriculture, in forestry, combined with digital terrain mapping and also in road design, especially highways, using fundamentally the same aerial LiDAR orthophotography technologies they are now using in driverless cars. They were a couple of zeroes more expensive than the smaller units being used today. The very latest are even handheld and used by Police at serious crash scenes to be able to build 3D models of incidents.

Today GPS pervades our lives. It is in our mobile phones, our computers, our cars, in smartwatches and fitness systems, in high end cameras, in bracelets to track elderly people and those who need special health care, in wild animals to monitor their behavior and in ankle bracelets to ensure the behavior of people on home detention. It is used to protect valuables, to monitor sport, to guide golfers around the courses of the world and to target potential shoppers as they go about their day.

It guides drivers to their destinations, avoiding traffic road closures and accidents along the way, saving time, money and allowing them to relax a little, not having to worry if they are going in the right direction, or how far away the next gas station is.

From a system launched in a satellite 20 years ago, to enhance the accuracy of military activities to a point where for a few 10’s of dollars there are gadgets for Africa, GPS has had a far greater impact on our lives than most of us realise.

Today GPS is enabling us to have discussions about driverless and autonomous cars, about drones and prepare for technologies we haven’t even thought of. It is creating new jobs and products that don’t even have names yet, but could be commonplace in 2-5 years.

See on Scoop.itLocation Is Everywhere

About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
This entry was posted in Fleet Management, GPS, LiDAR, Location Based Servces, Police, real time traffic, RUC, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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