Navigation and GPS

Every two weeks, I go to the grocery store that’s 0.5 miles away from my house. That’s a 6 minute walk and a 3 minute drive. I’ve been living at my current house for a few months now, and you’d think I would be able to get there on my own, but every time I get into the driver’s seat, I find myself opening up my Google Maps application in order to navigate myself there.

Even though the grocery store is just 0.5 miles away, I still want Google Maps to tell me where to go. Not because I don’t know my way there, but because I think Google Maps knows better. It knows the route I know and it also knows multiple more. Plus, through analytic technologies that I don’t have, it is able to calculate a live flow of traffic and provide me faster-route recommendations.

This is just one example of how integrated GPS/navigational systems have become with our daily lives. It’s also the most common implementation that comes to mind when thinking about GPS/navigational systems; however, its range in implementation does not stop there. GPS systems can be implemented into so many different areas that we normally do not even consider. They are extremely versatile and can be found in almost any industry sector. They can be used to deliver real-time data during races, to help emergency crews locate disaster relief sites, to help farmers harvest their fields, to update customers on their purchased goods’ shipping statuses, to locate friends at a social gathering, to keep a visual journal marked by location and more.

When looking at all the different ways GPS systems can be implemented for consumer use, it’s interesting to note that GPS (a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)) was originally developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. An early satellite-based system was running as early as 1960, but it wasn’t until 2000 that GPS became truly open to the public. In 2000, President Clinton signed a bill ordering the military to stop the intentional degradation of public GPS signals. This instantly upgraded the accuracy of the few consumer-based systems already in existence by a factor of 10, and opened the doors to a much larger, consumer electronics-based industry for GPS navigation.

In remembering this moment, I can’t help but to think of how much power the U.S. Department of Defense had and continues to have. GPS is the only fully functioning GNSS in the world and because it is managed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Defense has the power to deny GPS service at anytime. Right now, users are able to utilize the system free of cost, but how will the future look? Why are users being allowed to utilize the system free of cost? For larger economic benefits? To increase use and identify ways to better the system? How has the system been bettered since 2000? How much has information intake changed and how is the information privately being used by the U.S. Department of Defense?

Don’t get me wrong, I love GPS, but doesn’t the fact that the U.S. Department of Defense is the sole controller of the only fully functioning GNSS in the world concern you a little bit?

Let me know your thoughts! Am I being too critical? Or am I onto something?