GPS turns 25 years old, young at heart

2014-04-24 12:00
Nokia's Here Maps offer an alternative to Google's software. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Nokia's Here Maps offer an alternative to Google's software. (Duncan Alfreds, News24) (Duncan Alfreds)

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Cape Town - It has become a cultural phenomenon and resulted in a range of services targeted to specific locations - and, of course, it helps you when you are lost.

The Global Positioning System or GPS turns 25 years old this year and even though the technology is technically adult, there is much more about to exploit about the location based satellite system.

Roger L Easton is widely credited with the invention of GPS after his work developing the Naval Space Surveillance system for the US Navy.

However, GPS was intended to be strictly for military use until Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down after flying into Soviet airspace in 1983.

Under US President Ronald Reagan GPS technology was expanded for civilian use, even though the most accurate GPS was reserved for the US military, under a programme known as Selective Availability.

Competitor technology

Bill Clinton ordered Selective Availability switched off in 2000.

Today, GPS is available in most smartphones and tablets and is generally free to users, including companies who want to use the technology to offer services.

Its competitor technology, the Russian Glonass was launched in 1982 is also seeing wide support by mobile phone manufacturers, including Apple.

However, Glonass receivers do not enjoy wide commercial support due, in part, to the domination of GPS and a period when the Glonass system was not fully functional.

In SA companies like TomTom and others make use of GPS services to deliver traffic information as part of its location based boutique of services.

In addition, GPS services can be a lifesaver if you are stuck while travelling or involved in an accident.

"These services can be a lifesaver, given the unpredictability that weather, poorly maintained roads, dangerous drivers, and other risks bring to your journey on your way to your holiday destination," said Jacques Swanepoel, managing director of Cellfind.

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