Written by Lyndsey Morgan
Do you know that a boxed turtle was able to help the police track down a marijuana grower? Using the GPS, this turtle was able to accomplish this extraordinary feat (for a turtle)! GPS is an amazing system that can pinpoint the exact location of the place you are standing on earth right now, at any place, any time and at any weather. Most people have the notion that the only purpose of a GPS is to give driving directions. If this is all it does, just rely on your map!
What is GPS?
Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that supplies accurate location and time reports in all weather, anytime, anywhere on or near the Earth as long as there is no visual obstruction to its four or more GPS satellites. These satellites are owned and operated by the United States government and is freely accessed by anyone with a GPS receiver.
Before anything else, learn more about GPS through this Resource Page. There are hundreds of uses for GPS, here are a few practical examples:
1.) GPS can be used as a child-locator which appears like a watch or a cell phone.
2) When used as a finder for straying pets, it is a special backpack that can be fitted to your pet.
3.) Used in combo with your mobile phone, GPS allows you to call for assistance from anywhere, and your location can be easily tracked.
4.) For health buffs, you can use your GPS as an exercise monitor. It tells you how many miles or kilometers you have covered while running, walking or cycling.
5.) As a fun bonus, GPS device can create a high tech scavenger hunt where each team uses GPS receivers to get the clues.
6) If your GPS unit has traffic, you will be directed automatically to find the best route to reach your destination without delay.
How does it work?
GPS satellites send signals to its receiver on the ground; the function of GPS receivers is mainly to accept satellite signals; they do not transfer signals to anyone. These sensitive receivers are operated outdoor for they require a clear view of the sky without any kind of obstruction. Their operations rely on a very accurate time reference from the U.S. Naval Observatory atomic clock.
Each satellite sends information indicating its location and current time. Their operations are synchronized so repeating signals are send simultaneously. Moving with the speed of light, signals may reach their receiver at slightly different times due to their distances. There are 24 operational GPS satellites at all times which orbit for a period of 12 hours. Stations on ground track each satellite’s orbit.
What are the major GPS Companies?
There are many GPS companies; here are five of the more popular brands.
1) Garmin Ltd. is a leading provider of GPS navigation systems and technology. Gamin is the manufacturer of GPS systems for the electronic market consumers and the aviation industry. Its uses are for: avionics, boating, car navigation, fishing and other recreational purposes.
2) TomTom Inc. is a global company based in Netherlands but it operates in over 16 countries. Specialized applications are: GPS devices for PDA’s and Pocket PCs market and navigation software. It leads in the in-car GPS market with its Tom Tom GO series and it is a provider of mobile GPS solutions for Smart.
3) Thales Navigation is a leader in providing GPS systems for both professional and consumer market segments. Its brand name for consumers is Magellan; while for professionals, the brand name is Thales Navigation. For consumers, GPS provides solutions for automotive and recreational markets. Its professional segment provides surveying, GIS/Mapping and OEM products.
4) Sony Corporation. This well-established electronic giant also manufactures street navigation GPD systems for cars.
5) TeleNav Inc. provides GPS street navigation solutions for users of mobile phones, Blackberry wireless devices, Palm Treo and Windows Mobile Phone devices. It works with various mobile phone networks as Verizon, Nextel, and Cingular.
For more information and product reviews of these companies, refer to the sites below.
Seven Musts in buying your GPS system:
1) Must have an accurate navigation system.
2) Must be easy to use.
3) Must have a long- life battery.
4) Must be able to name the streets.
5) Must have real-time traffic stats.
6) Must have absolute clarity of screen and audio. And
7) Must consider the GPS size and weight.
Additional expense to consider in purchasing GPS System
It’s great to own a GPS and enjoy its benefits; however, to make the most out of your system there are items you need to buy. These are some of your add-on expenses:
1) Traffic Updates are your best alternative to economize on gas and avoid highway traffic. By subscribing to traffic updates, you are provided a route to avoid traffic. Traffic updates are worth its cost.
2) Memory card stores information and important data. Although an addition to your budget, you will not regret its practicability. There are different types of memory cards; some are used in the GPS systems to store its applications and maps.
3) Plugs/Cords are essential parts to your GPS; so be sure to buy the right specifications and brands that go well with your system. Most companies will replace broken plug or cords.
4) Upgraded Maps - GPS will assist you to follow the shortest and fastest routes to a particular destination. Maps should be updated at least once per year. While some GPS manufacturers will provide you with a free updated maps; however, many manufacturers require you to purchase updated maps.
How to Operate a GPS
If you own a GPS receiver, it includes a step-by-step instruction on its operation in the form of a handbook. However, if you do not own one but you want to know how to operate it, follow these guidelines:
There are different sizes of GPS receivers; some are small, others are bigger, there are handheld ones and others with more complex systems. Present models have a computer outlet where the device can be connected to a PC with suitable software.
1) To acquire a satellite signal, you have to stand on a fairly open space high level area; then switch on your receiver. You may have to state which country you are located. Most receivers will show a graphic image of the placement of the satellites above.
2) You will start getting satellite signals and a display of signal strength is a sign that you have good connection. Three satellites will send you signals and will do a rough calculation of your geographical location. They will be able to tell you about longitude and latitude. More satellite connections will add to your altitude above sea level.
3) Wait for a few minutes and watch for 5 or more satellites to appear which determines that your receiving conditions are good. At around 15 meters, the accuracy of your coordinates (the latitude, longitude and altitude) will be stabilized.
4) After establishing your first position, you can now move around with your GPS receiver. Your receiver acts like a compass providing your direction in degrees. Most devices enable you to deposit a series of momentary positions showing a graphic picture of the route you are following.
This is your safeguard when you are treading an unknown territory for you will know which route to go back.You can use your map to pre-select a route, store the coordinates along with your desired route and under the guidance of your GPS, and go toward your destination.
What are Points of Interests or POI?
With your GPS, you are assured of safety in your travel and in reaching your destination on time. With the coming of summer, you are prepared to hit the road. Provide yourself with updated maps and updated listing of Points of Interest (POIs). POI means Points of Interest which are locations essential to make your travel a wonderful experience.
Key categories relevant to your travel are:
3) Restaurant chain locations
5) Gas stations
You can download them from data base in your GPS system. While some are free, there are others that require a fix fee. You will need a PC or a Mac Compatible for the installation.
Additional tools, tips and suggestions
To complete this resource page, here are more tools, tips and suggestions.
Some GPS Tools
1) GPS Visualizer is online mapping software that helps you create custom maps using the data stored in your device.
2) GSM phone tracker is a device of tracking cell phones using GSM signals by determining the whereabouts of the cell phone and the location of the individual carrying it.
3) The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger is a safe device that offers you security just about anywhere in the world. With its satellite communications, it works even in places where there are no cellular phones. An annual service fee is required.
4) Bushnell's Backtrack is a small personal location finder using GPS to help you trace your way back to a location. It is useful wherever you are: be it a lonely trail or crowded parking lot.
5) The iPhone and iPad 3G with its built-in GPS chips are helpful tools in pinpointing your exact location when you lost your way.
6) Emergency Distress Beacon is free and enables you to get help from family and friends. Start up the app and press a button and your coordinates will be displayed. You can then send e-mail to your emergency contacts.
Tips for New GPS Users when driving
1) Be patient, give your GPS receiver enough time to locate satellites before calculating your initial location.
2) When you get the initial location, set waypoints towards your home and other important locations. Waypoint on the map will facilitate your driving.
3) Pay attention to your driving and not at your GPS.
4) Observe status screen to determine the sensitivity of your GPS to signal obstructions.
5) Tunnels are obstructions that block GPS signals but you can regain signals as you leave this obstructed area.
6) Safeguard your GPS; do not leave it exposed at the dashboard of your car, keep in a safe and secured place.
Some basic suggestions when owning a GPS unit:
1) Learn to set a waypoint of your present location;
2) Acquire the skill of entering coordinates of a different location from a map or other reference source;
3) Determine directions from your present location to another route;
4) Be adept in using the altimeter and built-in compass; and
5) Study replacing the batteries.