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Where The Heck Am I?

Where The Heck Am I?

It dawned on us the other day that we have become so used to GPS devices, that they have become such a big part of our lives that many people really don’t know what they are. Do you? It is easily one of those things that we take for granted. But do you understand how it works?

In this article we will discuss what global positioning systems (GPS) are, how they work and what these tools can be used for.

What Is A Global Positioning System (GPS)?

According to this government website a Global Positioning System (GPS) “is a U.S.-owned utility that provides users with positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services. This system consists of three segments: the space segment, the control segment, and the user segment. The U.S. Air Force develops, maintains, and operates the space and control segments.”

In another explanation the online encyclopedia explains that GPS is an “unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. The system provides critical capabilities to military, civil and commercial users around the world. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.”
It has been called an essential element of the global information infrastructure because it is free and open and very dependable and has led to the development of hundreds of applications affecting every aspect of modern life from cell phones to wristwatches to bulldozers, shipping containers and ATMs.

GPS systems boost productivity in areas such as farming, construction, mining, surveying, package delivery, logistics and wireless services to name a few.

It is essential to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) that will enhance flight safety while increasing airspace capacity. It is also a critical part of the US national security with applications in virtually every aspect of military operations.

“It was first used by the Air Force in 1972 and approved by the U.S. government for public use in 1983. The three elements that comprise GPS are the 24 or more satellites that circle the earth sending radio signals from their location in orbit to the GPS receivers on the ground. Then there are basically five separate monitoring stations that send data back up to the satellites. And finally the GPS receiver picks up the signals from the satellites to work out your exact location.”

Here are some of the more unusual uses for GPS systems.

Since senior citizens are one of the fastest-growing segments of our society, tracking seniors with Alzheimer’s who live in nursing homes with the GPS system is becoming more common every day. When they wander away from their facilities and can’t remember who they are or where they came from, a GPS can help locate them and easily saving loved ones and police anxiety, time and money.

How about tracking your children? When you need to see where they are, a GPS can tell you.

And so many vehicles these days have GPS built into their vehicles to not only provide directions, but also points of interest, landmarks and restaurants along the way.

The OnStar road assistance program is built on GPS technology. It provides valuable assistance in a roadside emergency even to the point of saving lives from an accident.

The GPS enables you to track anything from pets to luggage to friends at a concert, graduation or any other big gathering.

Recently park rangers at Yosemite national Park have begun fitting their local black bear population with modern GPS  collars to learn more about their feeding, mating and general activities in order to keep track of them. They have been tracking bears for the last 16 years.

The problem is, visitors leave food in their cars and bears can rip open a car to get a quick snack.

Unwanted bear encounters have dropped by 92% since 1998 when the park started this program. But in the first 10 months of 2014, the instances of bears raiding campgrounds are up by 35% compared to last year mostly due to drought conditions which cuts off the food supply. An extremely troublesome bear may have to be relocated in the park or even put down.


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