Thinking about taking a trip to the Midwest? Dude Ranch probably? Or into the Sequoia forest? Among other things you’ve packed, you’ll have to see if you have packed your GPS device. With the pace at which technology is developing and time is rolling, only a handful of people don’t know what a GPS device is. GPS is short for Global Positioning System and it helps you locate your position on the globe. If you have stumbled on Google Maps or Google Earth, you’d know that it gives you a satellite view of the whole planet, or well most of the planet. A GPS is something like it except that it gives you an almost accurate position of where you are. This pinpointed location helps you understand the nearby landmarks and trace your way out to the nearest highway or a motel – simply put, it doesn’t let you get lost.
You’ll obviously have the question – how do these amazing cool gadgets work? First off, you’ll have to realize that the device that you hold in your hand communicates with satellites. Your position on the globe is calculated by precisely timing the signals sent by satellites above the Earth. Typically, the signal that is exchanged between the GPS device and the satellites contain information about the time at which the signal was sent and the almanac information of the satellite. If you have studied Basic Math 101, you’ll know that to calculate a position of a point in space, the distance of the point from three different points in space is necessary. Well, this concept is something like it. It simultaneously locates three satellites near you and sends out signals. Based on the time it takes to reach each satellite and back, it calculates an accurate position of where the GPS device is located. Once the position is calculated, it is easy enough to manipulate the way it is displayed on screen. If you add the flash screen of the Earth and trace the map on it with latitude and longitude markings, you get a phenomenally good presentation. Typically, four satellites have more accuracy than three, but it can be done even with three points in space.
If you want to buy a GPS, you’ll have to consider the reason why you’re buying it. There are different types of GPS devices used for different purposes, of which the most common ones are the automobile GPS devices and the portable devices. It is really hard to come across a new car today that does not come with a GPS device. Efficient as it is, it tells you where you are at every point on the road throughout your road trip. They draw power from the car for their operation and have an excellent degree of accuracy. Portable GPS devices are hand-held devices and need an external power source to operate. While a fixed GPS can’t be moved if you want to switch cars, the portable GPS can be moved. Both these devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes but it is obvious that the size of the portable device is not constrained by the necessity to fit onto the windshield and dashboard of the car. A portable GPS device may be a standalone device or the mode of map tracking can be incorporated in cell phones, PDAs and car tracking devices.
GPS Navigators are devices that use the concept of GPS to enable the traveler to find places. For any particular place, GPS navigators have the latitude and longitude while also calculating the altitude of the place. The accuracy of these devices is par excellence and you can completely trust the GPS navigator to lead you to the right path. You’ll find that the GPS navigator uses a graphic interface to give you information which can be better read and understood. If you have an automobile GPS, it might even have voice recordings giving you directions to a particular place. Typically, it answers all your questions pertaining to where you are, what roads you have to take to reach your destination, the shortest route or the best route in case of traffic block and even restaurants and fuel stations. They work in pretty much the same way as a normal GPS does except that they communicate a lot more times in a given timeframe.
If ever you’re lost in another city or on the freeway and are trying to find your way to the closest motel, the GPS navigator would be a lifesaver. Cycling trips, motorcycling trips and even motocross launches across countries require you to have a GPS at all times. The fact that you decide how expensive your GPS device is going to be is an impelling agent for you to get one. It starts from about $50 for the basic version and ranges from $150 to $300 for a midsized and more accurate device while the most expensive devices priced at $1000 could have a multitude of other features.
Completely different from the ubiquitous GPS devices is the data logger. It uses the same satellite positions to log the movement of a particular GPS device not necessarily in the same location as the data logger. It captures every movement of the device and records it in its drive so that it can be plugged into a computer for further analysis. GPS tracking is a similar concept and features different modes of tracking – single and continuous tracking. Single tracking is carried out over regular intervals of time and give the position of the device over a period of time. Continuous tracking is more effective in the sense that it frequently communicates with the satellite to give an accurate position of the device. If you’re a spy, you definitely have to go for the continuous tracking device to locate the position of the arch-villain.
You’ll find that the GPS data loggers and trackers find applications in many fields. The commonest application is the car-tracking device; a small electronic chip is placed inside cars which enable you to track the position of your car when it is stolen. The same concept has been extrapolated to cell phones also. If you watch National Geographic, you’ll find that they use small electronic chips and attach it to the feet of migratory birds so that a pattern can be established as to their yearly migratory pattern.