As a society, we’ve made the transition from unfolding a paper map to navigating with a GPS only recently, yet the shift has been so complete as to render paper maps as having been from another age. At this stage in history, it’s not uncommon for people to use a GPS the way we use our Contacts apps in our phones: because we can’t remember all the details. But global positioning systems are not so ubiquitous or unchanging as to be labeled a utility. This is advanced technology that is only going to get more advanced with new innovations that might be closer to reality than we think.
Development for what would be known as the GPS began as early as the 1950s and progressed steadily through the ‘60s and ‘70s, although these systems would be unrecognizable compared to what we have today. By 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive calling for the GPS to be made available for civilian use. Many consider this to be when the modern GPS era began. But, as with all other forms of electronics at the time, they were not quite ready for mass consumption.
It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium, while President Bill Clinton was in office, that “Selective Availability” was turned off, making this technology much more accurate by allowing the satellite network that serves as the back-end for GPS technology to get a better reading on your location.
Not long after this, numerous companies began manufacturing products that made use of the technology that were also popular with the buying public. Dedicated devices from companies like Garmin and TomTom were made to be put in your car and serve as an onboard navigator, replacing those folded paper maps in everyone’s glove compartment.
In tandem with these developments in GPS technology, the public had already become familiar with the Internet as a service. Advancements in computer hardware and cellular networks combined to form the smartphone revolution that had a subsequent impact on seemingly every industry through some sort of app that could be made compatible with these devices. With the smartphone serving as a central node for any and all of our technological purposes, applications both dedicated to navigation and featuring GPS-enabled elements became common.
But that development wasn’t entirely one-sided. GPS wasn’t just waiting in the wings for people to be ready for it. As smartphones became a common sight, the cost of GPS chipsets has been driven down, creating more opportunities for these systems. Even a decade ago, the expansive uses we have for GPS technology now such as driver and vehicle tracking, would’ve been prohibitively expensive while still requiring manpower. Today, all of that can be accomplished with a GPS and a wireless modem.
Companies like LiveViewGPS that develop GPS technology for a variety of usage scenarios such as remotely tracking drivers and vehicles, have seen much of this evolution occur firsthand. LiveViewGPS makes easy to use GPS devices that are ready for use out of the box without requiring any software installation. Their devices are flexible for a wide variety of uses and compatible platforms. The GPS devices are for personal or business use, and transmit data live in real time. Most commonly, these devices are used for theft protection or asset or vehicle tracking. When asked how they’ve responded to industry-wide changes, CEO George Karonis specifically mentioned the shift to mobile and tablet applications, while still keeping these features available for desktop computer users. In his experience, he’s found that “developing mobile applications and products are critical for a company like ours to stay competitive while providing our customer's with products that provide use value.”
Recently, Alcatel-Lucent and Las Vegas first responders announced that they would be conducting a trial of a 4G LTE public safety network. This trial makes use of a spectrum specifically allocated for the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet), a government authority created to build a nationwide public safety broadband network. Among the technology they will be employing for this project is a LiveViewGPS Live Trac G5 Vehicle Tracker for the purpose of GPS vehicle tracking. This device will be used in conjunction with a variety of other pieces of technology to create a more efficient network for dispatching first responders to an incident.
The inclusion of LiveViewGPS technology in this usage scenario is just one instance highlighting the efficiency of the devices provided and also of the ways in which the role of the GPS in our daily lives is growing and changing. With regards to where the industry will be heading next, George envisions location-based technology having a greater role in people’s everyday lives. One development he sees is GPS technology becoming a truly global enterprise, where other countries bring their own satellites and GPS systems online, which can be used to improve upon the technology we have today. As much as our technology makes us feel like we live in the future, it’s likely there’s much more still to be seen.