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GPS navigation

Obtaining directions via satellite. Technically, GPS refers to the satellite infrastructure that enables navigation. However, most people use the term "GPS" to refer to the navigation program in their phone, tablet or car. See GPS.


(1) (General Print Server) An IBM mainframe feature that lets TN3270 clients access LPD/LPR printers via the SNA/VTAM network. See TN3270 and VTAM.

(2) (Global Positioning System) A satellite-based radio navigation system run by the U.S. Department of Defense, officially known as NAVSTAR GPS (see also GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou). Created for the military, the GPS system is not only used by consumers, but in numerous industries, including agriculture, oil, gas, mining and construction.

For consumers, it means no more asking directions when GPS receivers are built into vehicles (see in-dash navigation) or into mobile units that can be taken anywhere (see portable GPS, CarPlay and Android Auto).

Three or Four Satellite Signals Required
The GPS system was designed so that signals from at least four satellites would be on the horizon at all times, sufficient for the GPS receiver to compute the current latitude, longitude and elevation anywhere on earth to within a range of 15 to 70 feet (see latitude). If signals from only three satellites are received, the location can be derived, but not elevation. If less than three, the system cannot compute its current location unless it is tied to the speed of the vehicle (see in-dash navigation).

The Satellite System
In six different orbits approximately 12,500 miles above the earth, the system's 24 medium-earth orbit (MEO) satellites circle the earth every 12 hours. They constantly transmit their current time based on atomic clocks and current location on two frequencies in the L-band labeled L1 (1575.2 MHz) and L2 (1227.6 MHz). Most receivers pick up L1, while more advanced receivers pick up both signals for greater accuracy by determining and removing ionospheric delays.

A GPS receiver calculates the distance to the satellites by comparing the times the transmitted signals were sent with the times received. By knowing the precise locations of the satellites at any given moment, the receiver uses trilateration, the navigation technique of ship captains for centuries, to pinpoint its own location. See triangulation.

First launched in 1978, GPS satellites have been replaced several times with newer models. There are also numerous government and commercial monitoring networks around the world that use earth-based reference stations to improve accuracy. For example, in agriculture, such systems enable farm equipment to automatically plant ultra-precise rows of crops within inches (see GPS augmentation system). See social navigation, vehicle tracking, reality view, GPS augmentation system, mobile positioning, LORAN, MEO, GNSS, Galileo and geocaching.

An Early Car Navigation System
In 1996, Sony's NVX-F160 was one of the first vehicle systems, and it was able to find the nearest restaurant and hotel. (Image courtesy of Sony Corporation.)

GPS in the Woods
Portable navigation works everywhere. The flat object pointing up is the antenna. See portable GPS.

Navigation App in a Laptop
The Delorme Street Atlas offers extensive details including satellites in range (#15 just lost signal), elevation (Elv), azimuth (Az) and signal-to-noise ratio (dB). NET means: N=navigation satellite, E=ephemeris data available and T=being tracked (yellow object on dashboard is the GPS antenna).

It Doesn't Get Better Than This
Tesla's navigation system is unlike any other. The 17" touchscreen displays more map area than any other nav screen.

Personal Use Only

Before/After Your Search Term
GPOGPS radio occultation
GPONGPS receiver
GPRGPS time server
GPRSGPS tracker
GPSGPS tracking
GPS augmentation systemGPS vehicle tracking
GPS-enabled cameraGPSS
GPS fleet trackingGPT

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