The Global Positioning System (GPS) was founded by the United States Department of Defense in 1973 to track objects on Earth in real time. It uses 24 active satellites known as the Global Navigation Satellite System, and three backup satellites in case an active satellite fails, all on a 12-hour orbit of Earth. While GPS is mainly funded and managed by the US Department of Defense, non-military users are allowed to use its standard positioning system without fees or restrictions. GPS is invaluable to an IoT system since it quantifies and records location, speed, time, and direction.
How Does GPS Work?
GPS uses satellites to track the position of any object with a GPS tracking chip, including vehicles, people, and pets. It works regardless of weather conditions and provides real-time and historical data. At least three satellites -- positioned to be in the sky over any area at any given time -- are used to triangulate the position of a tracking chip.
The satellites use microwaves to collect information in three dimensions and calculate position from their intersecting spheres. These satellites update regularly to allow the tracking of objects in motion.
This information is collected by tracking stations strategically placed around the globe. Tracking the verticality of objects is possible, but nowhere near as accurate as horizontal tracking.
GPS and IoT: A Perfect Match
As one of the first methods to track and catalogue digital data of the physical world, GPS has had an essential influence on Internet of Things technologies. IoT can collect and quantify large amounts of data for everything from personal health to vehicles; GPS tracking is needed to provide location information for these objects.
For example, IoT could sense when a driver ends up in a crash or stranded due to vehicle malfunction, but GPS tracking provides the location information that emergency vehicles will need to respond in time. Your house pet may run out the front door without you noticing, but a GPS-capable tag may detect the animal is in distress, so you can quickly locate your pet and bring it back home. GPS and IoT complement each other to form a more complete, usable set of interconnected data.
IoT monitors objects and hardware to give you real-time information and data about a device’s operations, while GPS provides the physical coordinates of the hardware or object. With these systems working in tandem, they form the foundation of smarter cities, innovative products such as self-driving cars and health-related wearable technologies, and a vast, interconnected ecosystem that allows for smart devices to interact with sophisticated locating capabilities to achieve goals previously thought impossible.