GPS satellites get a serious upgrade

Apr 22, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog
Navstar-2F satellite of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Image: USAF

(PhysOrg.com) -- GPS has become such an integral part of the new technology in our lives that we really do not give it much of a thought. It gets us to our destination without getting lost. It helps the ambulance to find us when we dial 911 on our cell phones. It lets you become the mayor of your gym for all those check in's.

When you get down to it, all of that technology is powered by a set of 24 satellites, and most of them have been up there for quite some time. The time has come for an upgrade. The newest version of a is called the GPS IIF and it is enhanced with more than one new upgrade.

The GPS IIF is expected to double the accuracy of GPS, which is just as good of news for fans of Foursquare as it is for the FAA. One has to wonder exactly what doubling that accuracy really means. Well, currently GPS can estimate your location to an area of about 20 feet. When the next generation satellites are in place, this location will be narrowed down to an area of two to three feet, making pinpointing locations less like a range, and more like the spot you are standing on.

This enhancement means that the next generation of GPS technology may be able to work with augmented reality technology indoors. Imagine having a virtual docent at the Met, or a guide to help you around your new college campus. The possibilities with this level of accuracy are intriguing.

Currently, only one of these satellites, the GPS IIF SV-1, is in and fully operational since August 2010. The second IIF , SV-2 is planned to launch this year. Eventually 10 other units will join them, and that is when you can expect to see the upgrades.

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User comments : 15

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Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2011
It thought current gps was much more accurate, just for civilian use it was purposely made this way.
ThanderMAX
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
Increase in the signal gain could have been another improvement for avg joe
plasticpower
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
It doesn't tell whether you'll need new equipment. I'd assume not. They should also increase the broadcast frequency. The refresh rates on location fixes are a bit too slow, for my liking at least.
chthonic
5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2011
"It lets you become the mayor of your gym for all those check in's." Is this referring to some application that runs on a mobile phone? If not, I have no idea what this means...I'm 50 and I'm feeling excluded from the sandbox, though I didn't realize physorg.com WAS a sandbox. I thought it was a site for digests of current science journalism.
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
yeah probably specifically the facebook mobile app, it lets you 'check in' your location for everyone to see.
docjape
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2011
Now, I always thought that the accuracy for civilian use was about 20feet. But, last year I and a few friends were testing the GPS functionality of our smartphones and what did we find? That the accuracy depended on software as well as hardware - and when we all used the same piece of software accuracy was between 30 and 5 feet (standing still) and between 50 and 10 feet when moving? So average accuracy about 20 feet?
thewonderingrabbit
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
This would greatly benefit geocachers!:)
Mayday
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
Now one could create a piece of software that will identify the driver of a vehicle(when you exit the parked car) and be able to send the speeding ticket to the correct person. Not only will speeding ticket revenues skyrocket, but they can get rid of all those expensive radar guns and speed traps. They already can access your location data. You may need to get a larger mailbox. Or heck, they can save that money too and email you the tickets.
Mayday
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
Let's say the accuracy of this new gps holds up in court. Your devices have been tracking you for some time and maybe, just maybe, there is a record stored somewhere. What, exactly, is the statute of limitations on a speeding violation. When they figure this one out, there's gonna be a whole lotta people in for a surprise. But the states' deficits will vanish overnight. Cha. Ching.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
It doesn't tell whether you'll need new equipment. I'd assume not. They should also increase the broadcast frequency. The refresh rates on location fixes are a bit too slow, for my liking at least.

Software update should do it. The GPS devices you or I would carry are jsut receivers that can do precise red-shift math. If your receiver is more sensitive than the old standard (which most are) the limiter was the calculation.
exBrit
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2011
First a compliant about the continuing lack of scientific fluency in so many physorg.com news items. I can work out what 'an area of about 20 feet' is supposed to mean, but 20 feet is not an area measurement. physorg.com should go metric and stay metric. I believe the writer intended to say 'to an accuracy of +/- 3 meters'.
Secondly, and I say this as a US taxpayer, why has the US government never sort to profit from this free service and save we taxpayers at least the cost of the system.
A $10 license fee paid by the manufacturer of any device that uses GPS would have raise $10's of billions of dollars by now, and GPS enabled devices would still be great value. It's not too late to start now.
PinkElephant
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2011
The GPS devices you or I would carry are jsut receivers that can do precise red-shift math.
Not red-shift; phase-shift. Big difference there.

Also, the better GPS devices would have a gyroscopic backup (e.g. for the times when you go into a tunnel, or you're driving downtown.) And if their software is written well, thanks to the inertial tracker feedback their position fix would improve over time, as they are able to statistically filter out satellite-driven inaccuracies.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
The GPS devices you or I would carry are jsut receivers that can do precise red-shift math.

Not red-shift; phase-shift. Big difference there.
You're correct, but military grade uses both, that's an exception though so you're completely correct.

pubwvj
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
Mapping. In the 1990's my GPS was accurate to within a meter. Then the government scrambled it so that my "better" high accuracy GPS is accurate to more like 6 to 8 meters. This makes it almost useless to use for mapping work on our farm and in our family forests. I look forward to the accuracy going backup. Frankly, since it was accurate to 2 to 3 feet in the 1990's an upgrade should make it accurate to under a foot. That would be real.
cmorrill321
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
"It lets you become the mayor of your gym for all those check in's." Is this referring to some application that runs on a mobile phone? If not, I have no idea what this means...I'm 50 and I'm feeling excluded from the sandbox, though I didn't realize physorg.com WAS a sandbox. I thought it was a site for digests of current science journalism.


I'm 26 and just the other week learned this has to do with the site Foursquare, it let's people notify others where they are going. I think mayor refers to the person in charge of certain locations on the site. *shrug*