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The Future of GPS

Credit: iStockphoto

Credit: iStockphoto

By Drew Turney

With jammers now available for only $20, civilian and military use of GPS is no longer secure. Has the GPS had its day, or will a competing system soon take over?

Drew Turney is a freelance writer.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

“It’s an exquisite technology but it was designed in the time of record players and vacuum tubes, and the design brief to the engineers was to track intercontinental ballistic missiles. They never imagined a world with iPads and mobile phones.”

That’s how positioning system entrepreneur Nunzio Gambale describes the global positioning system (GPS). Like the Internet, the GPS has morphed into something quite different from its original purpose, an enabler for other tools and industries to piggyback and make life better for everyone.

And it’s much more than just finding the address of a party late at night with your TomTom or tagging iPhone photos with your location on Facebook. Driverless harvesters in vast farmlands sow thousands of square kilometres, patiently trundling up and down fields while GPS signals direct them with an accuracy of around 10 cm.

Approved by the US Congress because of its defence utility, the GPS frequency band is divided into three segments – military use, commercial use and one for the rest of us with our satnavs and tablets.

Even though they have the capacity, the US military isn’t likely to shut the whole thing down in the event of a war like you’ve heard. It has its own very strong dedicated signal and, as we’ll see, security concerns have been prompting official calls for an alternative for some time.

Today, the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.