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How GPS Works in Mobile Phones (Detailed)

Global Positioning Systems comprise 3 different elements, known as segments.

These three segments work in unification to give you accurate information about your whereabouts.

  1. Space Segment

The Space Segment pertains to the satellite count in the entire constellation. These satellites orbiting the Earth are responsible for broadcasting signals to people regarding the time and topographical position. This segment comprises 29 satellites that revolved around the Earth at an interval of 12 hours at an elevation of 12,000 miles.

The space segment’s primary function is to navigate the signals and store and broadcast the set of messages forwarded by the control segment. These transmissions are monitored via constant atomic clocks.

The Space Segment is created by a satellite group with an adequate number of satellites. This segment makes sure there is a minimum of four satellites working concurrently from anywhere in the world, at any point in time.

  1. Control Segment

The Control Segment is the 2nd element of the Global Positioning System comprises 5 Earth-based monitor stations, a ground antenna, and a master control station. These stations are equipped with nuclear clocks that are scattered across the world. The primary control activities pertain to operating and tracking the satellites in space and controlling broadcasts.

These monitoring stations are located in all the major continents, namely Europe, Africa, North/South America, Australia, and Asia. They observe the satellite signals and then send the valid information over to the master control station. All abnormalities are studied under the master control station and directed back to the GPS satellites via ground antennas.

  1. User Segment

The User Segment includes a GPS receiver, which obtains the signals from GPS satellites. This uses the broadcasted details to compute the user’s distance, time, and place from each satellite in a three-dimensional view.

The User Segment is primarily of use for missile guidance systems, U.S. military, and civilian applications in nearly all types of fields. Global Positioning System broadcasters and receivers comprise things like smartphones, watches, cars, and telematics tools.

An Explanation of How GPS technology Works

There is significant science involved in understanding how the Global Positioning System works. Basically, it works via a technique known as “trilateration.” Trilateration is responsible for gathering signals from satellites to determine location information and calculating the exact speed, location, and altitude. Some people mistaken the process of trilateration with triangulation. However, the latter is used for measuring angles while the former measures distances.

Satellites that circle the Earth transmit signals to be researched and understood via a GPS device positioned on or close to Earth’s surface. A GPS device should take in signals from a minimum of 4 satellites to determine your location accurately. The satellites in the constellation rotate twice a day on a 12-hour interval. Each satellite can transmit a distinctive signal, time, and detour. A GPS device can detect signals from over 6 satellites at a given point in time.

How the Satellites Operate

A solo satellite transmits a microwave signal collected via a GPS device and utilized for computing the distance between two points; the satellite and your GPS tracking device. GPS devices only provide details regarding the distance between the two spots; hence, one satellite is insufficient to give you detailed information on your location.

Satellites cannot provide you with information on the angles. Therefore, the GPS device’s location can be practically anywhere on Earth. When a 2nd satellite is added, another circle is created. The area automatically narrows down to 1 or 2 points amidst the intersection point of the two rings.

With the addition of a 3rd satellite, it becomes easier to determine your device’s location since it lies at the point where these 3 circles intersect. Since we reside in a 3-dimensional world, it is easy to understand that each satellite creates a sphere rather than a circle. As the three spheres intersect, two intersection points are formed. That said, the point closest to Planet Earth is chosen.

When a GPS device moves across different locations, the radius (distance from the satellite) also changes. A new radius leads to new spheres, and together they give you a new location. Along with the estimated time signaled from the satellite, this data can be utilized to determine the speed, the estimated time arrival, and the distance to your arrival point.

The Uses and Applications of Global Positioning Systems

GPS is a tool that you can definitely depend on when choosing a powerful tool for organizations across a wide range of industries. Pilots, surveyors, ship captains, initial responders, scientists, and workers in the farming and mining sector are just a handful of people who benefit from GPS on a routine basis in their work.

These people widely use the information derived from GPS for preparing precise maps and surveys, managing accurate measurements of time, finding directions, and tracking locations. GPS works per all types of climatic conditions. Though there are various uses and applications of GPS, the five ultimate reasons why GPS is primarily used for is as follows:

  1. Navigation – traveling from one location point to another.

  2. Location – Finding the exact place

  3. Tracking – Observing and keeping track of moving items or people.

  4. Timing – enabling you to select accurate time measurements.

  5. Mapping – to create a map of the whole world.

For your understanding, here is a section on the types of industries that use the GPS application:

  • Health and Fitness

Nowadays, many brands like Samsung and Apple are introducing high-tech smartwatches. They come with an impressive wearable technology that simply maintains a track of all your fitness activities. So, suppose you want to calculate the distance from one point to another during running or walking; these watches are facilitated with GPS technology for your assistance.

  • Entertainment

In the entertainment sector, GPS can be assimilated into various activities and games such as Geocaching, Pokémon Go, etc.

  • Mining, construction, and off-road trucking

From determining equipment’s location to calculating and enhancing asset allocation, GPS applications help firms boost return on their assets.

  • Transportation

Many logistics firms utilize the telematics system to ensure their drivers’ safety and productivity. A truck tracker is an essential component to ensure the efficiency of the route, fuel, compliance, and driver safety.

  • Farming

There are different seasons for planting crops, hoeing, and harvesting, that farmers have to take care of. Since the seasons are recurrent, farmers place GPS receivers atop their farming equipment and tractors. This enables them to map a schedule of their harvests to follow the same program every time they perform weeding and planting.

  • Aviation

Many new airplanes use GPS receivers to offer passengers and pilots the aircraft’s position in real-time. They even include a map with several destination points, based on the locations where the airplane operates. Airplane operators also use it to determine the safest, fastest, and fuel-efficient route to the arrival point. The GPS application also keeps track of the airplane and redirects the path for pilots during weather changes.

  • Science

This field makes intensive use of the GPS application, mainly because there are infinite branches of the science field. Before the emergence of the GPS application, scientists used plastic and metal bands for tagging animals. Ever since the application was established, the GPS application can now be adjusted into the animal’s collar and automatically record their movement and whereabouts.  

  • Telecommunications

Mobile phones are facilitated with the GPS application to give users the ultimate level of consistency, precision, and stability of operations. Even though a clock fulfills the same function, the GPS is supportive of the origin of corresponding time zones with the aid of satellite signals.  

  • Social Activities

Many social doings have amalgamated GPS technology, including paragliding, camping, cross-country cycling, hiking, skiing, skydiving, cycling, geocaching, etc.

  • Marine

Boat and ship captains require highly precise direction-finding applications to steer clear through the water and reach their destination safe and sound. The GPS application assures that the routes and weather are clear, and no such difficulty can delay navigation.  

  • Military

The GPS system and its application were first developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. From here onwards, this system was implemented within several military forces across the globe. Other countries are even considering using their own satellite networks as defense mechanisms in times of war. The GPS application has distinctive uses now and is widely used for mapping positions of machinery and vehicles when war hits them.

Other Essential Uses of GPS

As mentioned above, the use of GPS is prevalent across the majority of sectors and situations. Despite the usual applications of tracking your locations, stuff, and people, there are many other things it helps you with.

  • Tracking for Law Enforcement

The Police use GPS during the investigation periods to target suspects and catch criminals. It is also used for keeping track of the people whose lives are threatened.

  • Keeping an Eye on the Elderly

As people age older, they tend to be crankier. A few elderly people get annoyed when they are being monitored continuously. As a result, they might stroll off to isolated places and have difficulty in tracing their route back home. It is also possible that they can get injured and require immediate medical aid.

The GPS devices can help here as they simply have to tap a button, and their family will receive an alert. These devices appear in minuscule units that can be placed on their clothes or wearable watches that are not eye-catching.

  • Speed Monitoring

GPS trackers are used to giving you a thorough report of vehicles’ speed estimates. This lets them view the forecasts in real-time and are also noted for further reference. Monitoring your vehicles’ speed enables you to cut down on your fuel consumption, alleviate the chances of accidents, encounter fewer speed tickets, and reduce the damage to your car. 

  • Useful for Disabled People

People with a disability or special needs might sometimes experience a scenario in which they are left on their own by their family or caretaker. A GPS system is exceptionally beneficial for this circumstance since it can track their location and assist them during emergencies.

  • Public Safety and Disaster Relief

A GPS is widely used for monitoring the environmental and climatic conditions of a particular location. This is the primary reason why it is recommended to be used for managing ecological disasters. The supplies and emergency vehicles are followed via GPS.

  • When Travelling or on a Vacation

While you are vacationing on a parallel side of the world, it is quite common for you to be unaware of the locations you are heading to. It is hard to travel to a foreign city without knowing your way. Even though a map provides you all the sites, it can be quite challenging to interpret. In this case, navigation applications are highly recommended. They let you access accurate data and also send forth a rescue alert in times of emergencies.

  • Listening to Hidden Conversations

A few monitoring devices have the feature of listening to secret conversations via audio recording. These devices are prevalent in government agencies because they are authorized to do so. A recording device with GPS might be implanted within your office, car, or house premises for tracking your whereabouts.

  • Accessing your Vehicle from Mobile, Laptop, or Tablet

If you link your vehicle’s tracker with your mobile device, you can locate your car anytime. This particular GPS application helps when you have lost your vehicle or somebody borrowed or stole it.

  • Immobilizing a Stolen Vehicle

Some tracking systems let you stop your car instantly if it has been reported stolen. This application immobilizes your vehicle automatically, even if it is in motion. This way, you can find your car back.

  • Track Hazards like Fires and Oil Spills

A GPS effectively keeps track of environmental hazards that would usually require a lot more time if it was not for its application. Hazards like oil spills and fires can arise in places with severe weather conditions. A GPS lets these experts monitor the changing needs of these locations so it can provide swiffer relief.

  • Enhancing the Accuracy of Weather Forecasts

Determining an accurate report of the weather conditions is a primary use of GPS. This kind of technology is efficient in anticipating ground and atmospheric temperature levels. 

  • Access to Accurate and Apt Information

A GPS enables you to benefit from apt and precise information, which is why it is used intensively for giving you details on the directions and locations. Its accuracy is beneficial in various sectors like farming, military, surveying, mining, etc. 

The Advantages of GPS

GPS is one of the most life-saving technological advances that has made our lives on Earth much better and more comfortable. Some of the many advantages of GPS include:

  1. Reliability

Due to the availability of information via the satellites revolving around the Earth every 12 hours, these GPS systems can broadcast accurate orbital parameters and signals to you. This permits the system to decipher and interpret coordinates with an impressive amount of accuracy. With a minimum of two low-power radio signals, GPS signals comprise 3 kinds of information.

This is related to essential bits of information such as the broadcasting satellite body, its location, and the position of GPS receivers at any given point in time. Though they are already consistent, these constantly modifying technologies allow GPS systems to be more reliable with time.

  1. Convenience

GPS technology has added convenience to our lives to quite an extent. It is included in several models of vehicles and versions of phones, making it easier for you to travel on the road. They are highly compatible with modern-day cars in a way that it can state how many meters further the next turn will be. With such advancements, the users can prepare beforehand for steering their vehicles.

The primary factor of convenience comes from the system voice administered features. Now, drivers just have to tap the button and give commands to the GPS system of their vehicles regarding the location of their desired destination. The GPS system can understand human voices and measure the route at the same time you are driving.

  1. Weather and Traffic Alerts

One of the primary benefits of GPS in vehicles is that they can measure the route to your destination in accordance with traffic reports and time-sensitive weather. Hence, when you are taking the busy highway route and come across an accident that has delayed your estimated arrival time, your vehicle’s GPS system will immediately start working as per changing traffic and road conditions.

After some seconds or so, it will calculate the next efficient route to reach your destination. On the other hand, excellent and reliable GPS systems inform you when there is a need to adjust speed levels. It also tells you to stick to a particular route to prevent accidents when an imminent climatic threat or severe weather condition is about to strike your area.

  1. Low Cost

The satellites through which GPS systems work are already paid for, upgraded and controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense. The best part about using GPS is that it is nearly free. The only expense you have to bear is the software and device to begin using it. Mobile Applications like Google Maps and Sygic Navigation also offer GPS services, free of cost.

  1. Easy to Use

Finding Directions via GPS is typically relatively easy. It does not take much time, effort, energy, or skill as opposed to traditional technologies and methods. Observing and reading a map is not something everybody can do. You simply need to enter the destination on your GPS device and leave the rest to it. GPS is instilled with easy and efficient technology and can be used for multiple tasks such as studying and conducting a survey on the rotation of tectonic plates.

  1. Ease of Access

Probably the best aspect of GPS is its ability to operate via satellite signals. Hence, GPS is available to all the countries and can be accessed from any part of the world. With this technology, there are no risks of being stuck or getting lost anywhere.

The Disadvantages of GPS

Just like the many advantages and uses of a good and reliable GPS system, there are some drawbacks to it as well.

  1. Technology requires update

Technology is, after all, technology. Every technological creation has drawbacks, and so does the GPS. Technology is not all-encompassing, and there will inevitably come a time when it will fail. Contemporary technological advancements like GPS can also experience brief intervals in making a decision.

They can break and leave you unattended in what can be an incredibly crucial time. It is essential to update technology since it cannot learn on its own. In many instances, the roads’ names might change, new signals might emerge, new road diversions might be formed, and many new roads might be constructed.

If your GPS device does not have updated GPS technology, you might probably get yourself in trouble. Many times, the GPS in their mobile device and vehicles have led people in the wrong way.

  1. Solely Relying on Technology

When the conventional means of knowledge, such as interpreting a map, are overlooked, you can often be stuck in grave situations. And if you face a problem where new technology is not of much help and unable to resort to traditional methods, the case can be inescapable. It is not in every instance that technology will be available for your assistance.

Satellite networks should maintain a continuous line of sight with the receivers. While driving, if you get stuck in a situation with adverse weather conditions or pathetic GPS signals your location, you can often get lost on an unknown road. The point is that our extreme reliability on technology is increasing worldwide, which is incredibly worrying.

It is essential to minimize dependency solely on technology. Even though technology is more reliable than human intellect, maintaining a balance between both is crucial. As an important note, you should not just neglect and overlook the physical maps, ever. It is integral to be able to read maps during circumstances when technology fails to assist you.

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