What is GPS, and how does it help us every day?

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We are already used to finding our way to any point in the city in just a few seconds: you open the maps on your phone and type in the address or the name of your destination. The navigator immediately calculates the time en route and offers several options: walk, drive, or take public transportation. But how does the program calculate your location, even more so with phenomenal accuracy? All thanks to the GPS satellite system.

In this material, we will tell you how GPS works, analyze the principle of GPS and answer other questions related to GPS technology. Let’s say at once – for most everyday tasks, like playing Bollywood Roulette game or morning sports, and you don’t need the Internet. It is a valuable function of the smartphone, but optional.

What is GPS

GPS is an abbreviation for the Global Positioning System. It is needed for the convenience of navigation: to exit the subway, you can get to the nearest store or pharmacy, and following a car in an unfamiliar city is not tied to a huge paper map with the need to draw a route with a pencil on paper. These examples are relevant to everyday life, but GPS is also used extensively in logistics (both maritime and overland) and other business areas.

History of the Origin of GPS

Like many other achievements of human genius, the GPS was initially developed solely for military purposes. However, after the Soviet Union launched its first artificial satellite, Sputnik

1, in 1957, American scientists noticed that the frequency of the received signal increased as the satellite approached and decreased as it moved away.
This observation made it clear to the researchers that if they knew their exact coordinates on Earth, they could measure the position and speed of a satellite, which also worked in the opposite direction: knowing precisely the position of a satellite, they could determine their rate and coordinates.

Practical application of this knowledge began to take hold only ten years later, in 1967. Then the U.S. armed forces launched their military satellites into low earth orbit, and this space program was called Timation. Then the concept underwent a series of rebrandings – the system of satellites was renamed to DNS, later to NavSTaR, and the modern name GPS was received only in 1973.

Over the next two decades, 24 satellites were put into orbit; the last one went into service in 1993. From this moment on, it became possible to use the GPS to precisely aim missiles at stationary objects in the air and later at mobile things on the ground.

The civil application of GPS was out of the question because the business sector needed to see the potential for earning from this technology. The use of GPS is still free.

How does the GPS system work?

To understand how GPS works, it is necessary to understand what a GPS consists of. GPS includes three main components:

  • space;
  • controlling;
  • and the user.

For the entire system to function, there must be a minimum of 24 satellites in space. Currently, there are more than 30, and the U.S. puts new modules into orbit with varying regularity.

The calculation of coordinates and determination of the location occurs as follows. First, the user device calculates how much GPS signal goes from the satellite to the receiver. This signal also contains an array of data, among which are the satellite coordinates in space. The signals from three satellites allow you to get latitude and longitude data at once. The receiver performs calculations using geometric formulas and finds the user’s coordinates with an accuracy of 1-5 meters.

The control segment is the service stations located mainly in tropical regions of the Earth. These can also include ground antennas and monitoring stations. They are needed to avoid software failures on the satellites and make adjustments to their firmware.

What is GPS used for, and why is it needed?

What is the purpose of GPS? At first glance, this question can be quickly answered even by a schoolboy without the Internet. But the topic is more complex (but quite interesting). There are a lot of non-trivial ways to use technology. They differ, first of all, depending on what device uses GPS. So let’s look at specific examples. But first, let’s destroy one of the myths created mainly by Hollywood blockbusters that “anyone can be found via GPS”. It looks very effective in the movies.

The reality is somewhat different. Of course, the intelligence agencies of various countries can use modern technological advances for operational purposes as auxiliary methods, but more often, they have enough of other, more traditional ways.

Types of GPS-devices

Today there are GPS modules, even in the most ultra-budget smartphone models. And they are quiet enough to avoid getting lost in an unfamiliar area, find the correct address or get by car in another city. But more highly specialized devices are sharpened for specific purposes and tasks. We will talk about them below.


It is the most popular class of devices using GPS. Navigation applications are also available on smartphones, but they use A-GPS (Assisted GPS) technology, which offers the best results on a constant connection to the Internet. Car navigators often do not require an additional link to the World Wide Web, so they are more suitable for long-haul truckers or drivers, who usually drive on the roads without mobile network coverage.


Devices for tracking something or someone in space. Usually, trackers have no display and no controls in their most minimalistic design. Through a wireless connection, a GPS tracker connects to an application on a smartphone or computer, and it is possible to obtain data about the movement or the current location.

The tracker can be installed in children’s watches so that you are always aware of where your child is at any given time. Similar trackers are installed in the collars of pets, for example, to know where your cat is walking on its own and who left the cottage.

GPS receivers

GPS receivers are professional equipment. It differs from ordinary navigators and trackers by increased location accuracy, as they are made from better quality components. Mainly it concerns the receiving antennas, which is why their cost differs significantly on the larger side compared with household devices. GPS receivers are used for geodetic works in drawing up maps of the area and for military purposes.