The Science Behind Tracking and Your Global Positioning System

GPS MapThe Global Positioning System, which is commonly referred to as ‘GPS’, is a global navigation satellite system that many utilise today. It proves the location, time and weather conditions of a specific place on earth through a constellation of 27 GPS satellites that orbit around the planet. It began with the U.S. military as a navigation system and eventually opened up for public use.

Understanding How It Works

The solar-powered satellites orbit the earth at 12,000 miles and complete two rotations on a daily basis. Arranging these satellites in an orbital order ensures that there would be at least four visible satellites in the sky. The GPS works through a receiver that locates at least four of these satellites to calculate the distance in between each one in determining its location.

For everyday use, an example of a GPS receiver is JobLogic’s work tracking software. In managing operations, an embedded Google Maps enables a manager to track his or her mobile works in selecting the best available person for a location-specific job. With every status change stamped with GPS, a manager can verify the electronic time sheets the app captures. GPS allows the software to record every travel and labour schedule, and this fully integrates the other aspects of the job such as costing and analysis.

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The science behind this is the mathematical principle, trilateration. This works in both 2D and 3D spaces, wherein the former uses three circles and the intersection of each, with the centre, or radii, of each circle serving as the reference point for determining distances. In applying trilateration in 3D spaces, instead of circles, the principle uses spheres — which makes it trickier to visualise.

GPS receivers use four or more satellites to increase precision in providing altitude information. In doing so and applying trilateration, it relies on the location of at least three satellites and the distance between you and each satellite. The receiver can determine the locations and distances by analysing the radio signals, both high- and low-frequency power, from the GPS satellites.

With connectivity now readily accessible through devices such as smartphones, a range of our daily activities, such as driving, gaming apps and work tracking, rely on the use of GPS to make life easier.

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