Adventure, Uncategorized

How GPS Works in Mobile Phones (Detailed, What To Do If Lost)

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.


  • Can I use GPS for activities other than navigation? Absolutely! You can use GPS to find hidden treasures (geocaching), to track your runs (who needs a witness for that new personal best?), or even to control a drone (just make sure it doesn’t fly off to join its satellite friends).
  • Is there a way to use GPS without sharing my location? While GPS does pinpoint your location, it doesn’t share it unless you give it permission to. So, you can wander off into the wilderness without your phone tattling on your whereabouts.
  • Why does my GPS want me to U-turn so much? Maybe it enjoys watching you turn around? More likely, it’s just trying to get you back on track after a wrong turn. Or perhaps it’s testing your U-turn skills for an upcoming driving test?
  • Does GPS drain my battery? Unfortunately, yes. Using GPS is like letting your phone have a conversation with space. It’s thrilling, but it can tire your phone out pretty quickly. Consider bringing a portable charger if you’re going to be using GPS for an extended period.
  • Can I use GPS in airplane mode? Generally, yes. Your phone switches off its chatter with cell towers in airplane mode, but it can still have a natter with GPS satellites. However, it might take longer to get your location, and some devices/apps might not allow it.
  • Can GPS work in space? The GPS system could theoretically work in space (it does talk to satellites, after all), but currently, it’s only intended for terrestrial use. So unless you’re planning on hitching a ride on the next SpaceX launch, you probably don’t need to worry about this one.
  • Why does GPS sometimes show me in the wrong location? Maybe it has a quirky sense of humor and thinks it’s funny to place you in the middle of the ocean. More likely, it’s due to a momentary glitch or a signal blocked by something like a building or heavy foliage.
  • Why does my GPS signal bounce around in the city? Tall buildings can reflect GPS signals, causing your location to “bounce” on the map. It’s like the signals are playing a game of intergalactic ping pong. This is known as the “Urban Canyon” effect.
  • Do I need a GPS if I have a map? Depends. Are you a seasoned explorer who can navigate by the stars and can read a topographic map upside down in the rain? Or do you get lost in your hometown? GPS can be a helpful tool, but it’s always good to have basic map reading skills as a backup.


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.

If you are lost in the wild, then do not panic, use your gps, make a signal, conserve water and build a shelter. You have to survive long enough to find your way out or be rescued. Here is how to improve your sense of direction.

Exploration of the unknown can be all fun and games until things start to go seriously wrong.

If you ever feel like doing something with a dash of excitement and head out to hike and veer off the track, effectively getting lost you could be in potential danger.

The wilderness can be pretty unforgiving and will not spare you in the least if you do not know how to take care of yourself with whatever little resources you have. These tips just may help save your life someday if you do get cornered into a tight spot.


1. Do Not Panic:

Once you start panicking and hyperventilating you will not be able to think straight. If you cannot think properly you are done for. This is why it makes for an important step. Once you feel the panic setting in, opt for some breathing exercises so that you can calm yourself down effectively and start brainstorming ways to get out of there.


2. Tell Someone Where You Are Going:

If you cannot take someone with you it is best to at least let him or her know where you are going and give them a proper visual description. If you do not return after a certain time period your absence will definitely be noted.

They can let the proper authorities know who can start the search and rescue as soon as possible to get you out of there. Make sure that they have all the details of the route you intend to take and the landmarks you are likely to come across the path. This will help them narrow the area down and find you sooner.


3. Pay Attention To Your Surroundings:

When you are out and about it is a good idea to be highly attentive and observant of where you are going as well as any distinct landmarks that stand out. This way you can try to find them to get back on the right track if you get lost. They may even help you find shelter for the time being until someone comes looking for you.

Start building a shelter with trees, leaves, and mud.


4. Use The Equipment:

The very first thing to do is to check if you have any coverage so you can alert someone. If that is not possible try to use a GPS to get an idea of your bearings, as that will make it easier to know where you should go. If you do not have that there are ways of making your own compass that you should be aware of.

The Accuracy of GPS

To ensure that your GPS device is working accurately, it should firstly build an association with aspects like the compulsory number of satellites, the location environment, the ionosphere, etc. Depending on the receiver’s strength, this process takes somewhere around a few seconds or minutes. For instance, your car’s GPS tracking system will usually form a link more swiftly than the GPS receiver in your smartphone or smartwatch.

The majority of devices have some kind of position caching that makes GPS detection faster. If it remembers the former location, your GPS device speedily analyzes the forthcoming satellites the next time it is scanned for a GPS signal. Other elements that can affect the accuracy of GPS and should be considered are:

  • Atmospheric conditions

Keep an eye out for changing atmospheric conditions such as dense storm covers, ionospheric delays, and solar storms. They can all hinder GPS accuracy.

  • Physical barriers

The arrival time measurements can be chiefly affected if there are massive barriers on your way, such as trees, buildings, mountains, etc.

  • Mathematical miscalculations

This can affect your accuracy if your GPS device’s hardware is not upgraded enough or designed appropriately for specifications.

  • Ephemeris

This is quite rare, but the circular plane within satellites could be outdated or incorrect in some circumstances.

  • Man-made intrusions

This factor comprises deceptions or GPS jamming devices. GPS accuracy is higher in unobstructed spaces without any physical barriers like towering buildings or landscapes that can jam the signals. When some devices are encompassed by obstacles like huge buildings, such as in places like downtown Toronto or Manhattan, this can be a factor.

In such cases, the satellite network signals are first jammed and then rebounded off a building. Here they are interpreted by the GPS device. This can often cause miscalculations in the distance and estimated time arrival. Luckily, many of these hindrances have been identified and are being resolved quickly.

If it is cool, pull on extra clothing if you have brought any along and try to build a fire if night befalls the area making it hard for you to get out right then and there. You should also know about edible plants and berries that are not toxic so you can thrive on them if you run out of food.

GPS vs. GNSS Devices

A Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is a navigation system that provides worldwide coverage. Even though GPS is a subsection of GNSS, the receivers are categorized under their respective names. In 2020, there are 2 wholly functioning GNSS systems, namely:

  • Global Navigation Satellite System of Russia (GLONASS)

  • Navigation Signal Timing and Ranging of the United States (NAVSTAR)

A GPS receiver can only interpret information from the satellites orbiting around the GPS satellite network. Contrariwise, a GNSS device can gather information from GLONASS, GPS, and other systems concurrently. GNSS receivers have an availability of 60 satellites for observations.

Even though your devices require only a minimum of 3 satellites to find its whereabouts, a higher number of satellites lead to greater accuracy. A GNSS device views a more significant number of satellites. Hence the accuracy it provides cannot be surpassed by GPS. However, GNSS receivers are not without their set of disadvantages:

  • The GNSS chips are much more costly compared to the ones found in GPS devices.

  • The bandwidth of GNSS tends to be broader (1559-1610 MHz) in comparison to GPS (1559-1591 MHz). This signifies that standard radiofrequency constituents of GPS like filters, antennas, and amplifiers, are not fit for GNSS receivers. This might lead to higher cost implications.

  • Energy consumption tends to be slightly higher for GNSS receivers because it is associated with many satellites. It also runs more calculations to detect the location.

5. Know Your Equipment:

Before you go hiking you should know just what kind of equipment you should bring along and how to use them so you can get by even if you are lost. The very first thing is of course food and water. This should be present in plentiful supply so that you do not run out at any point and you can sustain yourself until you find a way out of the messy situation.

Additionally, having a lighter is a smart idea if you do need to build a fire to keep yourself warm. Though most hikers do have a cell phone and GPS to try and navigate back to the track, it is always better to have a conventional map as well in case your gadgets run out of battery or suffer any damage.


Triangulating your position in the Wilderness

The advancement of material and health science has made it easier for outdoor buffs to stay out in the wild. The prevalence of modern gadgets like smartphones, satellite phones, and GPS ensures that you won’t be lost if you are out in the woods.

A good survivalist must have an array of talent that will keep him alive out in the wild. A survivalist knows how to forage for food, hunt food, look for potable sources of water, construct a shelter, and navigate the wild and not get lost.

Navigational Compass – It comes in different forms: magnetic compass, thumb compass, solid-state compass, specialty compass, gyrocompass, and GPS receivers as a compass. A compass is an aid used for orienteering and navigation. It shows the direction relative to the north, south, east, and west points.

Topographic Map – It is a map that has the details or reliefs of the terrain of a specific location. It will show peaks, ravines, forests, buildings, lakes, rivers, and other water forms through contour lines. It will show points of interest.

Binoculars – A pair of binoculars will prove handy in visually inspecting the terrain, identifying landmarks, and viewing the lay of the land from a distance.

It can also be used to inspect the ground that you are expected to traverse. Spotting crevasses and plotting safer routes can be achieved with the help of the binoculars.

Navigational Knowledge

Find North, South, East, and West using the Sun – The sun always rises from the east and sets in the west. It can be used to know roughly where the cardinal points are. Plant a stick and observe where the sun shadow is pointing. That direction is north.

The North Star – Polaris will always direct you to the North. Polaris can be identified through the pointer stars of the Big Dipper. The pointer stars are the two brightest stars far from the handle.

Our regular lives are marked by signs and rules to some extent. We stay in a place that is familiar to us or if we do head somewhere new we familiarize ourselves bit by bit.

This can be further helped by signs marking just about every road as well as the businesses having their names flashing to stand out that can make it easier to identify the way back. However, there could be times when things are not in your control the way you need them to be.

This could happen while you are hiking, wander off the trail, and get lost along the way. It is a possibility that you might not have a compass on you but despite that, you can identify north and get your bearings so you can head on back.

Use The Map Of Stars:

If it is nighttime and you are stuck somewhere in the northern hemisphere, this method is ideal for you. You do not need to look around you in a frenzy trying to determine specific landmarks to know where you came from. All you need to do is spare a glance at the dark sky and the glittering diamond-like stars above to know your bearings. The best way to find out where north is by identifying

Polaris or better known as the North Star. Since it is fairly bright you should have no real trouble finding it. However, if you are having a hard time identifying it look for the Big Dipper first. Trace the line that points to a specific star. That will undoubtedly be Polaris, which will guide you out of the messy situation you might be in.

Track The Shadow In Front Of You:

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and something most people learn about in school itself. If you are stuck in a forest it should be pretty easy to find a long stick that you can plunge into the ground to make it stand upright.

This is one that you will have to do in the day rather than the night. Keep in mind that the sun rises from the east and sets in the west so this may differ depending on which hemisphere you are in. As it keeps rising, a shadow will form in front of the stick you place on the ground.

Place a stone or something unlikely to blow away at the end of it. As the sun rises and creates a shadow in the original spot that will be considered east and the shadow will continue to move west. Standing perpendicular to the stick can help you find north.

Use Your Analogue Watch:

Analog watches can be extremely helpful in trying to determine where the north is as opposed to digital ones. If you have one of those with a hand pointing to the hour and one pointing to the minutes the task will be made infinitely easier for you.

First, keep a note of where exactly the two are pointing as you raise the watch in your hand up to the sun. If you live in the northern hemisphere, what you need to do is point the hour hand towards the sun. Since the sun rises in the east, drawing a perpendicular line to the one pointing at the sun can help you figure out which way north is. From there on it is merely a matter of following the right path and ending up in a safe place where you can find other people to help you along.

Getting lost somewhere in the wilderness or any other place without any distinct landmarks can scare the living daylights out of just about anyone, to say the least. Times like these panicking and hyperventilating can make you lose control and make you unable to think straight.

Try to practice slow, measured breathing, and calm yourself down before drawing up your own compass by locating the north. This will help you get back to the comfort and familiarity of civilization in no time at all.

Other Essential Equipment

Knife – A versatile and essential tool needed in any trip outdoors. A knife can be used to prepare game and fish caught.

First-Aid Kit – The essence of uncertainty in a trip to the wild makes it a good idea to pack an emergency kit. These kits are expected to handle small-scale health issues like blisters and cuts. It must also pack over-the-counter medications, disinfecting agents, gloves, bandages, pen, and paper.

Fire-starter Kit – A firestarter will provide an individual way to create fire for cooking, light, security, signalling, warmth and heating.

Emergency Shelter – In case you get injured or stranded in the trail, you’ll have ways to protect yourself from the elements.

Extra Food and Water – It is quite essential to have extra food and water in case of an emergency or else you can eat wild berries.

Headlamp or a flashlight – There are no sources of artificial light in the wild. Having a source of light in the dark is a plus. It is also advisable to carry extra batteries or a way to charge the item.

How to Triangulate Your Location in the Wild

  1. Ideally, you need to be at a high point. These locations are often identified in topographic maps. Once you are at the vantage point, scan the surroundings and pick three features or landmarks. These features could be structures, peaks, rivers, and trails.
  2. Open the map and try to match the landmarks you have observed.
  3. Orient the map with the compass. Ensure that the north of the map is pointing the same way as the north of the compass.
  4. Find the landmark or the direction of your travel on the map. Draw a line.
  5. Next, find the first feature or reference point you have identified on the map. Orient the compass so that it points to the true north. Make sure that your reference point is in the direction of travel. Draw a line.
  6. Follow the same procedure with the second and third reference points. Plot the lines on the map.
  7. Check where the three have intersected or have formed a small triangle. This is your approximate location.



If you are lost, then use your watch as a compass.

There are times when we set out in the hopes of finding a dash of adventure and get served a whole boatload of it.

You may plan a hiking trip with some of your friends and while walking along the path decide that you need more thrill out of it.

One bad decision could lead to another and you may end up leaving the trail behind and exploring the raw wilderness awaiting you beyond.

Since you would not be familiar with the paths and trees, unfortunately, tend to look more or less identical, you and your group may find out that you are undeniably lost. Since people do not always carry a map or GPS with them when they feel a spark of recklessness, you may be left only with your wits and possibly a watch. To find out how you can use this watch to find your way back read on.

The Northern Hemisphere:

You should definitely not forget that the difference between whether you are present in the northern hemisphere or the southern can completely alter the route that you need to take.

If you are stuck in an unknown location in the northern hemisphere and you happen to have an analog watch on you, it will not be hard to find your way back. The first thing to do is to take off your watch and hold it out towards the sun in your hands. The reason why you need an analog watch rather than a digital one to make this work is that it has the hour and minute hands that are needed to line up the different directions.

Once you hold your watch up, align the hour hand with the sun and point it there. You will however need to be careful of the timings as if it is before noon you need to go clockwise and in the afternoon it will have to be measured counter-clockwise. When you have the hand lined up, find the bisecting line that cuts right between that hand and the 12 o’clock marking. This will point out north for you.

The Southern Hemisphere:

The southern hemisphere will more or less require the same tactics but with a bit of an added twist. Much the same you need to hold up your watch in your hand towards the sun so that it is aligned. However, this time the 12 o’clock mark will be aimed at the sun rather than the hour hand, effectively reversing the previous method.

Once more, you need to draw up an imaginary line cutting through the middle of the 12 o’clock mark and the hour hand, and the direction that it will point to will be north. The one pointing directly the opposite will of course be south.

This way you will have an entirely functional compass that can help you find your way back to a place populated with enough people that can help you figure a way out of the mess. Do make sure that the sun is properly visible in the day when you choose to use this method for as much accuracy as you can get out of it. That is a vital aspect when you have nothing else to go by and could mean the difference between life and death in extreme situations.

Other Compass Tricks:

Though the trick with the analog watch is highly useful one should definitely branch out and be updated on the rest as well. If it is nighttime for example and you may have to wait for hours for the sun to come up yet you just want to get out of there already, you can simply look for Polaris or the North Star which will show you where north is.

It is not easy to find your bearings especially if panic takes root when you get lost. Being crafty and knowing such tips and tricks can get you out of tight spots and situations that can turn nasty really fast. Make sure that you are always able to find out which direction to go towards so that you are never truly lost.

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