What is GPS and How Does GPS Tracking Work?

Today, with the help of GPS, you can book an ola or uber cab for taxi services, food gets delivered to your destination with GPS data, online shopping, vehicle tracking all are possible with GPS! 

Have you ever thought the technology behind the GPS and how GPS as a system function to deliver accurate information?

In this article, we explain the technology behind GPS and how this technology impacts various industries.

How did it begin?

What started out as a military operation by United States Army to aid the global intelligence, in efforts to combat the Cold War, GPS or Global Positioning System has come a long way from its inception.

The very first GPS was developed in the mid-1960s by the U.S Navy and was used to navigate oceans more preciously.

As the world moves forward with a huge amount of research and development in the field of technology, GPS now is freely available to anyone with a GPS receiver in place, and smartphone applications are one its biggest beneficiaries.

Historical background of GPS 

The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally NAVSTAR GPS, is a satellite-based radio navigation system which was owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. 

It is one of the global navigation satellite systems that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere in or near the Earth. It requires an unobstructed line of sight to four or more of the GPS satellites. Obstacles such as mountains and buildings block the relatively weak GPS signals.

Working Principle behind the GPS Technology

Global Positioning System consists of three segments: 

  1. the space segment, 
  2. the control segment, and 
  3. the user segment. 

The U.S. Air Force develops, maintains, and operates the space and control segments.

The GPS satellites give out special signals which are processed by a receiver.  The space segment consists of a constellation of satellites transmitting radio signals to the user. 

For this purpose, 24 operational GPS satellites are maintained, 95% of the time. To ensure these 31 satellites are being maintained as a backup to cover up any breakdowns. 

These satellites transmit radio signals which are captured by the receivers. GPS satellites fly in the medium Earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km. Each of these satellites orbits the Earth twice a day.

The control segment consists of a global network of ground facilities. These facilities help in tracking the GPS satellite, monitor their transmission and send commands. 

The current Operational Control Segment includes (OCS) a master control station, an alternate master control station, 11 command and control antennas, and 16 monitoring sites. 

How User receives GPS data?

The user’s GPS receiver is the user segment of the GPS. In general, GPS receivers is comprised of an antenna, tuned to the frequencies transmitted by the satellites, receiver-processors, and a highly-stable clock. 

In addition, they might include a display for providing location and speed information to the user. A receiver is often described by its number of channels, signifying how many satellites it can monitor simultaneously. 

Originally it was limited to four or five channels, but it had typically increased over years 2007. Now, the receivers can have between 12 and 20 channels.

The GPS receiver gets a signal from each GPS satellite. The satellites transmit the exact time, the signals are sent. By subtracting the time the signal was transmitted from the time it was received, the GPS can tell how far it is from each satellite. 

The receiver also knows the exact position of the satellites, at the moment it receives signals. So given the travel time of the GPS signals from three satellites and their exact position in the sky, the GPS receiver can determine your position in three dimensions.

What is the accuracy level of GPS?

GPS position is not perfect. Some errors you have some control over. As a GPS user, you have some control over the first type of error – you can wait for the satellites to move into better geometry or plan your data collection for a good time of day. 

You cannot control multi-path error, but you do need to recognize when it may occur and pay close attention to the measurements that you are taking. Orbital and Satellite Clock errors as well as atmospheric delays are invisible to you, but you can avoid them by using differential correction. 

There is nothing that you can do about your receiver clock errors. GPS receivers will generally report an estimate of the accuracy of the position being reported by the unit at the time. 

The reference station calculates the errors in the GPS signals by comparing its known position to the position derived from the satellite signals. The stations actually calculate the differences between measured and actual ranges for each of the satellites visible from that station. This calculated difference is called the “differential correction”

Role of GPS Technology in Transportation Industry

GPS technology has fully transformed the transportation industry. From your smart mobile device, you can easily locate your vehicle, manage cost and plan driver’s assignment. 

GPS tracking will enable you to keep track of your vehicles and also enables you to see which vehicle is in motion and towards which direction. Some systems stores data within the tracking system itself known as passive tracking and some send information to a centralized database on a regular basis known as active tracking.

Passive GPS Tracking System

A passive GPS tracking system monitors location and stores its data on journeys based on certain types of events. For instance, this kind of GPS system may log data such as where the device has traveled in the past 12 hours. 

The data stored on this kind of GPS tracking system is usually stored in internal memory or on a memory card, which can then be downloaded to a computer later on when required for analysis. 

Active GPS Tracking System

An active GPS tracking system is also known as a real-time system as this method automatically sends the information on the GPS system to a central tracking portal or system in real-time as it happens.

This is usually a better option for commercial purposes such as fleet tracking or monitoring of people. This is also a useful way of monitoring the behaviour of employees as they carry out their work and of internal processes and procedures for delivery fleets.

Importance of GPS in various Industries

Communications, energy, emergency, transportation and space satellite deployment all depend on GPS, and the loss of GPS signals could have unimaginable impacts on our society. 

This technology has fully transformed the transportation industry, GPS technology today extends further than just a tool to help drivers to navigate from locations. 

From your smart mobile device, you can easily locate your vehicle, manage cost and plan driver’s assignment. GPS tracking will enable you to keep track of your vehicles and also enables you to see which vehicle is in motion and towards which direction. 

These features are ideal towards running a successful transportation or logistics business without making too many calls or going through a huge amount of reports in order to make decisions. 

GPS tracking technology can work wonders for your business and the benefits are immeasurable.

Rasika is an engineering graduate and writes articles on topics related to technology, telematics, fleet management. She is interested in sales and marketing to explore opportunities, especially in content marketing.

Call Now ButtonCall us