What is GPS Used For

What is GPS used for exactly? A GPS receiver takes signals from a constellation of 24 satellites that orbit the earth-converting those signals into real time positioning information that is accurate to within 30 feet.

Modern GPS Applications

Although the Global Positioning System (GPS) was originally designed for military use, the technology was declassified and released to the public in 2000. Much like personal computers, the technology quickly became smaller, faster and cheaper. In less than a decade, GPS units have spread like wildfire and are in use in wide array of applications. Here are just a few:

  • Navigation. Although GPS technology was initially used to navigate commercial vehicles, the units have quickly migrated to portable devices that can be perched on your car's dashboard. These units can give voice activated turn-by-turn directions to help drivers plan their routes, avoid traffic jams and find points of interest along the way.
  • Mapping. GPS tools are used to provide quick, accurate position information for the creation of maps. Mining companies, forest fire fighters and city officials use GPS data to create maps for a variety of uses.
  • Planning. Combining GPS data with other information, government officials have been able to create specialized databases called Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS databases have become important tools for coordinating resources, services and emergency response distribution.
  • Tracking. With the reduced size of GPS receivers, they have been successfully used as tracking devices to monitor the movements of endangered animals, work release prisoners and teen drivers.
  • Scientific Investigation. Scientists have used GPS units to monitor the movement of tectonic plates and holes in the ozone. GPS receivers have also been used to map oil spills and locate ancient ruins.
  • Geocaching. Invented in May 2000, geocaching uses GPS receivers to create a high-tech treasure hunt. Today, there are over 850,000 caches hidden in over 200 countries. 
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