30 facts about GPS everyone should know

GPS is part of everyday life, and we take it for granted. Whether you’re scouring Google Maps for directions in an unfamiliar neighborhood or tracking a vehicle, GPS is a fantastic tool. You can explore the world and monitor loved ones across the globe through location sharing apps, wristbands and more. But do you know the facts about gps?

You might use GPS everyday but how much do you actually know about it?

Below, we present 30 amazing facts about GPS everyone should know!

  • GPS was originally used by the US military after the cold war made them realize they needed a system for global navigation. 
  • GPS was inspired by LORAN and the Decca Navigation System, both of which proved vital to help ships and planes navigate at long range in during WWII.
  • The Soviet Union’s Sputnik is key to the history of GPS: its 1957 launch prompted two American physicists to identify the satellite’s movements in orbit through its Doppler Effect.
  • The Doppler Effect is a core component of GPS. It relates to the changing of signal frequencies from GPS satellites, which helps them to identify an object’s position.
  • Interesting fact about gps , the earliest version of GPS was referred to as Navstar.
  • The original Navstar satellite was sent into orbit in 1978.
  • Just 9 of these ten Navstar satellites reached orbit upon launch, as the other was destroyed during a launch failure.
  • In 1989, the first complete GPS satellite (a ‘Block II’ satellite) was launched, with an estimated then-cost of around $5 billion.
  • The highest-quality GPS signals were restricted to military use until May 2000.
  • Thirty-one active GPS satellites are in orbit.
  • GPS in cars was only introduced in 1996.
  • Australia has shifted so much since its GPS coordinates were last updated in 1994 that all coordinates now need to be adjusted by 1.8 metres for automated vehicles.
  • A pair of shoes titled ‘No Place Like Home’ feature integrated GPS, which can be used to lead the way home by clicking the heels together three times (just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz).
  • Hilarious on the list of facts about gps, In the late 1990s, BMW chose to recall the GPS system in its 5 Series vehicles because many male drivers refused to take directions from the in-built female voice.
  • After a Korean Airline plane was shot down in 1983, President Ronald Reagan allowed public access to the secret military system DNSS (now known as GPS).
  • According to a survey conducted by a US-based market research company, close to two thirds of new-car owners were still using their smartphone’s GPS apps to navigate (rather than the on-board systems) within the first 90 days of ownership.
  • According to a survey conducted by a US-based market research company, close to two thirds of new-car owners were still using their smartphone’s GPS apps to navigate (rather than the on-board systems) within the first 90 days of ownership.
  • ‘Analogue GPS’ was an old precursor to GPS, dating as far back as 1932. This revolved around scrollable maps showing your route and destination, in an obviously much more basic format than modern devices. The pages of the map scrolled automatically as the car moved and attached to the speedometer.
  • The Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator came before the aforementioned device, debuting in 1927. This was worn on the wrist and presented scrolling pages showcasing the user’s locations. Manual winding was required to stay on top of your location, but at least the device needed no batteries.
  • Certain cameras capable of GPS-tagging will automatically disable this feature in China, as there is a law forbidding mapmaking / surveying with no license to do so.
  • GPS used to include a feature known as Selective Availability (SA), which was a safety precaution put in to prevent enemy forces using civilian GPS systems to guide weapons precisely. This would create deliberate mistakes of up to 100 metres to the public GPS. It’s been disabled since 2000.
  • Before the SA was deactivated, errors were created randomly through the use of a cryptographic algorithm. This was created with a seed-key available to authorized holders only.
  • The COCOM Limits are restrictions placed on GPS tracking devices to prevent tracking once said device is believed to be moving faster than 1,000 knots at an altitude of 18,000 metres. This was designed to stop GPS being used with ballistic missiles.
  • Very Interesting fact about GPS, American taxpayers fund the worldwide GPS service, which is free to other countries. 
  • To keep the GPS service running, US taxpayers spend a staggering $2 million each day.
  • Galileo is an alternative to GPS being created by the EU and the European Space Agency, which will be accurate to just one metre.
  • When it is completed in 2019, the Galileo will implement a search and rescue system that enables distress signals to be pinpointed at any location in the world.
  • GPS devices / apps created by various brands (TomTom, Waze) feature celebrity voices for more fun navigational assistance. Kim Cattrall, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Homer Simpson, Darth Vader, Yoda, and more are all available to make driving with GPS more personal and engaging.
  • One Roger L. Easton is widely believed to be the main inventor of GPS technology, working with Ivan A. Getting and Bradford Parkinson. He worked on it during the 1960s and ‘70s. He passed away at 93 years old in May 2014.
  • GPS satellites create ‘constellations’, made up of between 24 and 30 different satellites, but only four are needed to identify your location on Earth accurately.
  • Solar storms, solar flares and interference from various global systems can all affect GPS signals. Though solar flares move at the speed of light, they have been seen to disrupt GPS receivers as much as one hour after they occur.

That’s it — 30 fascinating facts about GPS!

As you can see, this service has a rich, amazing history that makes its current status as a user-friendly everyday tool all the more impressive. As GPS technology evolves, it will be exciting to see how it advances further in the future.

Do you have any other facts about GPS you want to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below!

Aigerim Berzinya

Aigerim Berzinya is the Marketing Director at Turtler GPS Ltd. and as the company's globetrotting backpacker uses the app and SHELL device while hiking abroad or in the mountains to stay connected and safe.

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