The GPS, or Global Positioning System is a technical marvel. It's one of those things we don't think much about at all in our lives and probably take for granted. I bet there are still some people out there in this world who believes GoogleMaps is powered by the sheer magic of unicorns and moonbeams.
Even wondered what our lives would be like without GPS?
When was GPS technology created?
GPS was originally created by the United States Department of Defense in the early 1980s. But guess what? It was used as a military application and was never intended to be released to civilians. It was only in the late 1990s that the patent for GPS was released for commercial use. It has since become a multi-billion dollar industry with every smart phone having its own GPS tracking system inbuilt within.
So how does GPS technology actually work?
There is a group of satellites currently orbiting earth with the sole purpose of transmitting precise signals to your GPS receivers. GPS receivers can be your phones or car tracking devices. These GPS receivers will convert use these signals to calculate and display your accurate location, speed, and time.
How do they convert it? Through the marvels of mathematics!
GPS receivers use the mathematical principle of trilateration, which is the process of determining locations of points by measurement of distances using the geometry of circles, to pinpoint your exact location. All thanks to the power of computing, your GPS device is able to calculate and display the data within seconds. Which is why you don't need to wait half an hour before your GoogleMaps show you how to walk to that famous cafe you're trying to find.
GPS receivers are usually accurate to within 15 metres, but the ones in your smart phones are generally accurate to 5 metres. One weakness of GPS is that its signal has trouble penetrating indoor spaces. This is why some GPS navigation gets lost once you enter a building as it's unable to capture enough position data from the signal through the structure walls.
GPS privacy concerns
Because your phone's mapping apps require an active GPS connection, there have been concerns raised about invasion of privacy through this active connection.
Personally, I think the threat is low, but if you are worried, you can switch off the location technology on your phone. If you are using an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > switch off Location Services. If you are using an Android phone, go to Settings > Location > Google Location Settings > Location Reporting and Location History > switch off both.
By doing this, you basically have no cause for concern about privacy issues, but it also means you won't be able to use all mapping apps. Another alternative is to go through the long list of apps in the Location Services screen and below 'Share My Location', you can choose to set your mapping apps to 'Always' and then set the other apps to 'Never'. This ensures you take control of which apps use your location data rather than switching all of them off.