Global Positioning System (GPS) – The Future of Geo-Tagging

GPS technology has helped to produce several applications on land, at sea and in the air. Mr. Chan has developed and integrated various GPS applications for mobile devices. He profitably managed a portfolio of services like navigator, friend finder, directions and location finder in his professional career. In this article, he discusses what you should know before you decide to buy one for personal use.

What is the best gps system?

Invented and developed as early as in the 1970s by the United States Military technology department, the Global Positioning System, or GPS, has become one of the most sought-after civilian technologies today. Used by armed forces to precisely tag soldiers using geometric axial coordinates, it now serves to present digital maps in smart-phones, dashboard-mounted GPS devices and computers.

Being a fairly accurate satellite-driven technology, GNSS satellites orbiting the earth transmit accurate microwave signals within a matter of seconds. These are then received by GPS receivers, and processed further. The distance between tagged objects or exact coordinates of present locations is thus revealed. Usually, the GPS receivers compute transmissions based on its distance from at least three satellites. The resultant time delay between each signal is then calculated to reveal exact coordinates on the GPS device. This explains how does the GPS system work.

8 practical uses of GPS for everyday people

Today, GPS has become a part of our hi-tech lives, setting up a mutually-agreed upon location for a date to even rescue operations. GPS is used in cars and other modes of surface and air transport and mobile phones. It is also used as handheld receivers by adventurists, explorers, map-makers and of course, by specialized units in firefighting, rescue operations and disaster management. Some of its more specialized areas of use include –

1. High-altitude Balloon tracking, used often for meteorological purposes

2. Forest explorers, hunters and mountaineers use to it to chart their routes

3. Agricultural purposes, (mounted in tractors) especially during night time in vast tracts of land, keeping track on livestock and targeting crop duster

4. Easy Traffic-navigation during rough weather conditions like fog, heavy rains or blizzards

5. Shipping, Logistics and Fleet management also use GPS for mid-sea ship tracking. One of the most preferred GPS fleet trackers is manufactured by pioneering GPS makers Fleetmatics.

6. Smart phones like those running on the Google-based Android, Blackberry, Apple’s iPhone and others also use GPS for a plethora of uses. In fact, the Apple App store has an excellent application called PocketNav, which helps in marine navigation, and costs only a few dollars.

7. Fitness enthusiasts, who are into adventure sports and vigorous outdoor activities often use a GPS device that also has a heart-rate monitor and distance/speed tracker. They could be worn in cool straps, pouches or even mounted on cycles or shades. GPS for recreational purposes are, in fact, extremely common, with many races, angling championships and sports rallies making use of them.

8. The accurate mapping features of the GPS devices, combined with its unique topographical detail and precision is also beneficial for portable aviation and charting individual flight routes.

There are also a host of other uses for the GPS today. You can use GiSTEQ’s USB GPS dongle as GPS receiver which will help you to use various application to your Netbooks, Eee PCs, UMPCs or Laptops for different applications. You can also download various utility softwares.With the infusion of new technology, GPS has become more user-friendly and extremely easy to use. However, the technology might still appear kind of intimidating for some, so here are 7 points to remember while getting a GPS device for personal usage:-

If you are a business traveler, then it makes sense for you to go for a Bluetooth-based GPS device with text-to-speech capabilities. That way, even if you are, for example, an English speaker in China, the GPS device will not only show you the street locations, but also tell you how exactly to pronounce the mandarin names. Some devices even have the added capability of crunching applications like currency and language converters, world clocks, dictionaries etc.

If you are not a business traveler, but would still prefer to be on the state of the art technology, you could browse through the GPS models of Garmin, TomTom and Magellan. In fact, phone manufacturers like Kyocera, Garmin, Nokia and Apple have been constantly streamlining their GPS modules to provide state-of-art graphical maps, which could even be personalized. So, maybe you are looking for that little-known awesome Chinese ramen-shop in downtown Los Angeles, you could tag it for future reference!

GPS Visualizer is a free, easy-to-use online utility that creates maps and profiles from GPS data (tracks and waypoints, including GPX files), driving routes, street addresses, or simple coordinates. Use it to see where you’ve been, plan where you’re going, or visualize geographic data (business locations, scientific observations, events, customers, real estate, geotagged photos, “GPS drawing,” etc.). This is extremely useful application.

Comparison between smart phone-based GPS applications and GPS personal navigation devices

In case you go for Smart phone-based GPS applications, you’d probably get to choose between the pricier capacitive displays, which would be based on AMOLED, OLED or Super-Clear LCD screens, or resistive displays. Capacitive displays are more user-responsive, and touch-screens could be maneuvered by a flick of a finger, much like the iPhone, or the Android-based HTC Desire series. Due to their super-clarity and precision, they are smaller in size, and while offering superior usability, might not accommodate larger maps in their screens. In comparison, resistive displays are slower, and register with a definite pressure to the fingers.

Dedicated GPS Personal Navigation Devices (PND) use resistive larger touchscreens that accommodate bigger maps, in more topographical detail. So, it shows you more than just a few blocks in radius, and might be actually better to show you unexpected corners and hairpin bends/U-turns while driving or biking. The larger screens also accommodate street information, weather and traffic updates and applications like temperature tickers, timers etc.

If you are thinking of using the GPS as a primary application, the PNDs are better options for you. Most dedicated PNDs could be attached to the windshield, using swivel bracket mounts or plugs, and are also compatible with traveling charger ports/adapters. These mounts are sturdy, and could be attached in front of the dashboard for best viewing angle while driving. So you don’t end up craning your neck. However, in comparison, smart phone mounts offer a restricted viewing angle, doesn’t provide as much support to the GPS screen and wobbles during a rough ride. Retailing for anything from $16 to $100 for brands like Belkin, these might or might not come with a charger attachment.

Is availability of updated map is important point to consider?

The nature of GPS maps are also one of the biggest decisive factors which you should consider before you buy a GPS device. The more comprehensive GPS databases and information-based maps could be either downloaded as initial packets, like iPhone app-bundles, or downloaded on the go, like MotionX GPS and Nokia GPS map bundles. While these are great for their attention to detail, precision and adequacy of helpful information in real time, they might not be available in locations with inadequate cellular networks. Which is why if you are an explorer, an adventurer or just someone who travels through a lot of terrains, you’d probably prefer the on-board maps and initial bundles. PNDs provide these maps on-board, for annual upgrade charges of $70 to $90, approx.

If you are a city-surfer, breezing through places like Hong Kong, Singapore and New York, you would probably want to experience the sights and sounds. Smart-phone GPS navigations are wonderful for you, as they offer you a wealth of details like traffic conditions, train schedules etc in real time. On the other hand, PNDs are essential GPS devices with minimal internet/3G/multi-spectrum connectivity, and extremely basic internet options. However, form a price-point perspective, both smart phones and PNDs cost about $450 (as inclusive bundles). Smart phones are available in one or two-year contracts from providers like Verizon, Vodafone and AT & T Cellular.

I believe that the above guideline on how to buy a GPS system will help to you to buy best GPS device or equipment at reasonable price from online portals like Amazon.com or other electronic shops.

So, the bottom line is, GPS is a great device for personal navigation, but probably won’t come cheap for most of us. While there is great demand for refurbished GPS devices, nothing beats a factory-fresh model in terms of network support, user-friendliness and warranty claims. With great discounts often on offer, good reviews and prompt product support, your GPS can become your most-trusted friend on the roads!