GPS and Other Navigation Systems

Photo by  Mike  from  Pexels

Photo by Mike from Pexels

Depending on when you were born, you might be too young to remember a time before navigation systems were popular.  Now that we can use this technology in our cars and on our smartphones at any time we wish, most of us take it for granted. In this article, you're going to learn a few things about this powerful technology and hopefully gain some appreciation for it in the process.

Most people refer to navigation systems as 'GPS', but this term represents just one of the many systems out there. The term 'GPS' actually refers to the Global Positioning System. Once upon a time, this system was known as 'NAVSTAR GPS' and was operated by the United States Air Force. At first, the United States Government launched navigation satellites into outer space for the benefit of their military. After the 1980s, everyone was allowed to use this system, leading it to eventually become an essential feature on our smartphones and in our cars.

What most people don't realise is that GPS isn't the only navigation system that exists! Orbiting around the earth in outer space are many other satellites that perform the same function. While GPS is owned and operated by the US, there's also GLONASS by Russia, DORIS by France, COMPASS by China, Galileo by the European Union, IRNSS by India, and QZSS by Japan. Not all of these systems are global, though. Some of them only focus on specific parts of the world, like IRNSS, which concentrates exclusively on India. 

Everyday users who own popular smartphones and other devices rely mainly on GPS and GLONASS. Through these devices, users can know their exact location at any time with an accuracy of up to just a few meters. This ability might not seem that important at first glance, but so many apps these days depend on it! For example, your favourite food delivery app can find you instantly and allow for your food to be delivered right to your doorstep. Ridesharing apps also rely on the same feature so that drivers can find you quickly. Plus, your movements can be traced from your pickup right to your dropoff points, making the journey even safer for you.

GPS and other navigation systems aren't just built into our smartphones these days. When it comes to the automotive industry, which is becoming more and more high-tech, GPS and other navigation systems are becoming an essential feature. This feature comes in two forms: standalone (like using navigation devices or an app on your phone), and in-dash navigation systems.

Standalone or portable navigation systems are those that you can purchase in pretty much any tech store or download as an app on your phone. In-dash systems are those that come as part of your in-car entertainment (ICE) system, which has a small screen that can show you directions. Both of these forms come with their pros and cons, and you might find that one is more suitable for you than the other.

Let's take a look at their fundamental differences.

Standalone or portable navigation systems are usually cheaper, and the odds are that you already own one in the form of your smartphone. Since its compact, your device can move with you from one car to another at any time with no problems. Also, it's easy to update those maps on your device to make sure you're always going the right way. However, portable devices are easy for people to spot and tempting for thieves to steal. You need to either mount the device on your dashboard or hold it in your hand while driving, which can be quite distracting and dangerous if you're driving. Don't forget; you may clutter up your car if you're using a charging cable to keep the device powered at all times.

If your car is new and it came with an in-dash navigation system, then there's no need for you to buy any new devices. Everything will look neater since there aren't any cables or accessories mounted anywhere, and it might be less tempting for thieves to steal. However, since it's built-in, it would be more difficult if you ever wanted to buy a new system for your car. Also, depending on the service provider, it might cost you money to keep those maps up-to-date.

In conclusion, it's quite apparent that navigation systems like GPS are now a common feature in our lives, especially when it comes to driving. We no longer have to decide whether or not we want to use navigation systems. But what we can choose is what devices we use those systems with, be it built-in systems, or through standalone devices like our smartphones.