People use GPS extensively every day, but not many people know how it really works. How can smartphones know where you are, so you can use them as precise instructions when driving?
Let's open the hood of the GPS and see how it works.
How the GPS Finds You
Let's say you are walking in the woods when you get lost. But it's fine: you have the intelligence to download the official application of this forest. This application aims to help you find your way, wherever you are.
The way the app does this is through five flares that are installed around the forest: one at each corner and one right in the middle. Use the application to ping one of the beacons and it tells you how far you are. Easy!
You punctured tower 3, the middle one. The results are in – you're about 5.5 miles from flares. You think you are free at home, but there is a problem: it does not indicate which direction you are from the flare. You can be north, south, east or west of the flare, nobody knows. Therefore, you can say that you are somewhere within a 5.5 mile radius around the flare. Very useless!
You decide to ping tower 2 in the hope that it will be more useful. Not at all, as you say you are distant 3.2 km. There is also no address. Great. This is also just a useless circle.
But wait a minute; What happens if we combine the data we get from the beacon? 3 with the flare 2? If we 5.5 miles from Flare 3 and 3.2 miles from 2, then it puts us here:
That is much more useful! While the information from a beacon is not very useful, we are getting more and more ideas about where we are when we ping multiple flares. Then we can collect data from each beacon and find where we are.
How GPS triangulation works
As you may have guessed, the example above is how the GPS found you. When you activate GPS, your cell phone begins to communicate with the GPS satellites that orbit Earth. The satellite cannot tell you exactly where you are, but you can see how long it takes to receive the requests and calculate your position based on this.
As in the previous example, a satellite will give you a rough idea of where you are. Have you ever activated GPS on the map, and what you see is a big circle around where you are now? This is because your cell phone only talks to a satellite, making a rough estimate of where you are.
Everything becomes smoother as more satellites respond. Your cell phone takes all the information that comes from this satellite and finds where the ring was found. This is called "triangulation" and how GPS works!
Find your way with GPS
We often use GPS when we find our way, but it's not immediately clear how it works. Now you know how satellites find where you are and why you sometimes put circles "here" that are so useless throughout the city!
Is GPS an accurate guide for you? Let us know below.
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