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Mobile GPS navigation

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Title: Mobile GPS navigation  
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Subject: Global Positioning System
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Mobile GPS navigation

A GPS navigation device is a device that receives Global Positioning System (GPS) signals to determine the device's location on Earth. GPS devices provide latitude and longitude information, and some may also calculate altitude, although this is not considered sufficiently accurate or continuously available enough (due to the possibility of signal blockage and other factors) to rely on exclusively to pilot aircraft. GPS devices are used by the military, by aircraft pilots, by sailors, and for recreational purposes by the public.

GPS devices may have capabilities such as:

  • maps, including streets maps, displayed in human readable format via text or in a graphical format,
  • turn-by-turn navigation directions to a human in charge of a vehicle or vessel via text or speech,
  • directions fed directly to an autonomous vehicle such as a robotic probe,
  • traffic congestion maps (depicting either historical or real time data) and suggested alternative directions,
  • information on nearby amenities such as restaurants, fueling stations, and tourist attractions.

GPS may be able to answer:

  • roads or paths available,
  • roads or paths that might be taken to get to the destination,
  • if some roads are busy (now or historically) the best route to take,
  • The location of food, fuel or other needs,
  • the shortest route between the two locations.


As with many other technological breakthroughs of the latter 20th century, the modern GPS system can reasonably be argued to be a direct outcome of the Cold War of the latter 20th century. The multibillion dollar expense of this program was initially justified only due to the competitive military interests that took place during the Cold War.

In 1960 the US navy first successfully proved and soon afterwards began use of its Transit satellite based navigation system to aid in ship navigation. From 1960 - 1982, as the benefits of a satellite based navigation system were proven over time, the US military consistently improved and refined its satellite navigation technology and satellite system. In 1973, the US military began to plan for a comprehensive worldwide navigational system which eventually became known as the GPS (global positioning satellite) system. In 1983, in the wake of the tragedy of the downing of the Korean Airlines Flight 007, an aircraft which was shot down while in Soviet airspace due to a navigational error, president Reagan announced that the navigation capabilities of the existing military-GPS system were to be made available for dual civilian use, however, civilians were to initially only be given access to a certain slightly "degraded" positioning signal.

This new availability of the US military GPS system for civilian use required a certain technical collaboration with the private sector for some time, before it could become a commercial reality. In 1989, Magellan Navigation Inc. unveiled its Magellan NAV 1000—the world’s first commercial handheld GPS receiver. These units initially sold for ca. $2,900 each. In 2000 the Clinton administration ordered the removal of military use signal restrictions, thus providing full commercial access to the use of the US GPS satellite system.

As GPS navigation systems became more and more widespread and popular, the pricing of such systems began to fall, and their widespread availability steadily increased. Also, several additional manufacturers of these systems, such as Garmin (1991), Benefon (1999), and TomTom (2002) entered the market. Benefon's 1999 entry into the market also presented users with the world's first phone based GPS navigation system. Later, as the smart phone industry developed, the inclusion of a GPS navigation system eventually became standard equipment for most smart phone manufacturers. To date, ever more popular GPS navigation systems and devices continue to proliferate in a seemingly endless variety of newly developed software and hardware applications.

While the American GPS system was the first system to be deployed on a fully global scale, and to be made available for commercial use, the American system is not the only system of its type. Due to military and other concerns, similar global or regional systems have been, or will soon be deployed by Russia, the European Union, China, India, and Japan.

Consumer applications

Consumer GPS navigation devices include:

  • Dedicated GPS navigation devices
  • GPS modules that need to be connected to a computer to be used
  • GPS loggers that record trip information for download. Such GPS tracking is useful for trailblazing, mapping by hikers and cyclists, and the production of geocoded photographs.
  • Converged devices, including GPS Phones and GPS cameras, in which GPS is a feature rather than the main purpose of the device. Those devices are the majority, and may use assisted GPS or standalone (not network dependent) or both. The vulnerability of consumer GPS to radio frequency interference from planned wireless data services is controversial.

Dedicated GPS navigation devices

Dedicated devices have various degrees of mobility. Hand-held, outdoor, or sport receivers have replaceable batteries that can run them for several hours, making them suitable for hiking, bicycle touring and other activities far from an electric power source. Their screens are small, and some do not show color, in part to save power. Cases are rugged and some are water resistant.

Other receivers, often called mobile are intended primarily for use in a car, but have a small rechargeable internal battery that can power them for an hour or two away from the car. Special purpose devices for use in a car may be permanently installed and depend entirely on the automotive electrical system.

The pre-installed embedded software of early receivers did not display maps; 21st century ones commonly show interactive street maps (of certain regions) that may also show points of interest, route information and step-by-step routing directions, often in spoken form with a feature called "text to speech".

Manufacturers include:

Mobile phones with GPS capability

Due in part to regulations encouraging mobile phone tracking, including E911, the majority of GPS receivers are built into mobile telephones, with varying degrees of coverage and user accessibility. Commercial navigation software is available for most 21st-century smartphones as well as some Java-enabled phones that allows them to use an internal or external GPS receiver (in the latter case, connecting via serial or Bluetooth). Some phones using assisted GPS (A-GPS) function poorly when out of range of their carrier's cell towers. Others can navigate worldwide with satellite GPS signals as well as a dedicated portable GPS receiver does, upgrading their operation to A-GPS mode when in range. Still others have a hybrid positioning system that can use other signals when GPS signals are inadequate.

More bespoke solutions also exist for smartphones with inbuilt GPS capabilities. Some such phones can use tethering to double as a wireless modem for a laptop, while allowing GPS-navigation/localisation as well.[1] One such example is marketed by Verizon Wireless in the United States, and is called VZ Navigator. The system uses gpsOne technology to determine the location, and then uses the mobile phone's data connection to download maps and calculate navigational routes. Other products including iPhone are used to provide similar services. Nokia gives Ovi Maps free on its smartphones and maps can be preloaded.

According to market research from the independent analyst firm Berg Insight, the sales of GPS-enabled GSM/WCDMA handsets was 150 million units in 2009,[2] while only 40 million separate GPS receivers were sold.[3]

GPS navigation applications for mobile phones include on-line (e.g. Waze, Google Maps Navigation) and off-line (e.g. iGo for Android, Maverick) navigation applications. Google Maps Navigation, which is included with Android, means most smartphone users only need their phone to have a personal navigation assistant.

Many Android smartphones have an additional GPS feature, called EPO (Extended Prediction Orbit). The phone downloads a file to help it locate GPS satellites more quickly and reduce the Time To First Fix.[4]

Laptop PC GPS

Software companies have made available GPS navigation software programs for in-vehicle use on laptop computers.[5] Benefits of GPS on a laptop include larger map overview, ability to use the keyboard to control GPS functions, and some GPS software for laptops offers advanced trip-planning features not available on other platforms.

GPS modules

Other GPS devices need to be connected to a computer in order to work. This computer can be a home computer, laptop, PDA, digital camera, or smartphones. Depending on the type of computer and available connectors, connections can be made through a serial or USB cable, as well as Bluetooth, CompactFlash, SD, PCMCIA and the newer ExpressCard.[6] Some PCMCIA/ExpressCard GPS units also include a wireless modem.[7]

Devices usually do not come with pre-installed GPS navigation software, thus, once purchased, the user must install or write their own software. As the user can choose which software to use, it can be better matched to their personal taste. It is very common for a PC-based GPS receiver to come bundled with a navigation software suite. Also, GPS modules are significantly cheaper than complete stand-alone systems (around 50 to €100). The software may include maps only for a particular region, or the entire world, if software such as Google Maps, Networks in Motion's AtlasBook mobile navigation platform, etc., are used.

Some hobbyists have also made some GPS devices and open-sourced the plans. Examples include the

Commercial aviation

Commercial aviation applications include GPS devices that calculate location and feed that information to large multi-input navigational computers for autopilot, course information and correction displays to the pilots, and course tracking and recording devices.


Military applications include devices similar to consumer sport products for foot soldiers (commanders and regular soldiers), small vehicles and ships, and devices similar to commercial aviation applications for aircraft and missiles. Examples are the United States military's Commander's Digital Assistant and the Soldier Digital Assistant.[9][10][11][12] Prior to May 2000 only the military had access to the full accuracy of GPS. Consumer devices were restricted by selective availability (SA), which was scheduled to be phased out but was removed abruptly by President Clinton.[13] Differential GPS is a method of cancelling out the error of SA and improving GPS accuracy, and has been routinely available in commercial applications such as for golf carts.[14] GPS is limited to about 15 meter accuracy even without SA. DGPS can be within a few centimeters.[15]


GPS maps and directions are occasionally imprecise.[16] Some people have gotten lost by asking for the shortest route, like a couple in the United States who were looking for the shortest route from South Oregon to Jackpot, Nevada.[17][18] In May 2012, Japanese tourists in Australia were stranded when traveling to North Stradbroke Island and their GPS receiver instructed them to drive into Moreton Bay.[19] Other hazards involve an alley being listed as a street, a lane being identified as a road,[20] or rail tracks as a road.[21]

Privacy concern

Due to the popularity of GPS devices, privacy of the user becomes a subject of debate. This is because GPS devices can give geo-location information of the user. This is considered as private information and nobody should violate private information without legal approval. However, there were several incidents where the privacy of GPS devices was questioned.

Since GPS devices can give the user's exact location, this helps advertising agents to give more relevant advertisement to the users based on their current location.[22] The agencies might promote shops which are nearby to the users, rather than totally irrelevant shops. The advertising agency also will store the user's location for the agency's future uses.[23] However, the regulatory agents all around the world (especially USA and Europe) start to consider whether geo-location data should be a sensitive data or not. If the data is sensitive data, the marketing team of an agency can not store geo-location of people since this a privacy violation.[24] However, if the regulatory agents choose to consider geo-location as non-sensitive data, then private companies can have permission to store the user's location in their database.


Privacy concerns also arise when employers use GPS tracking units to track their employees' location, for example using vehicle tracking systems.[25] This raises a major question about whether this violates personal privacy of employees. It raises a lot more concern for privacy violation if the employers collect geo-location data of their employee after work hours and during their holidays. In 2010, New York Civil Liberties Union filed a case against the Labor Department for firing Michael Cunningham after tracking Michael Cunningham's daily activity and locations using GPS device that has attached in his car.[26] This raises few questions regarding the limit of surveillance. The worst privacy violation is done by FBI when they tracked down Antoine Jones GPS devices even without any search warrants. Later the Federal Appeal Court rejected FBI's surveillance data as a proof against Antoine Jones.[27]


GPS devices are also used by private investigators in order to give more information to their clients. They will plant their own GPS devices in order to know more about their target. Moreover, some rental car services use the same technique to prevent their customers from going out of their targeted area. They charge additional fees for those who violate their rules. They get this information by using the car's GPS devices.[28]

See also


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