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what will happen to the world if their is nothing like GPS

Sat, Nov 2019

 

what will happen to the world if their is nothing like GPS

 

What would happen if GPS - the Global Positioning System - stopped working? For a start, we would all have to engage our brains and pay attention to the world around us when getting from A to B. Perhaps this would be no bad thing: we'd be less likely to drive into rivers or over cliffs through misplaced trust in our navigation devices.


Pick your own favourite story about the kind of idiocy only GPS can enable. Mine is the Swedish couple who misspelled the Italian island of Capri and turned up hundreds of miles away in Carpi, asking where the sea was. But these are the exceptions.


Devices that use GPS usually stop us getting lost. If it failed, the roads would be clogged with drivers slowing to peer at signs or stopping to consult maps. If your commute involves a train, there'd be no information boards to tell you when to expect the next arrival. Phone for a taxi, and you'd find a harassed operator trying to keep track of her fleet by calling the drivers.


Open the Uber app, and - well, you get the picture. With no GPS, emergency services would start struggling: operators wouldn't be able to locate callers from their phone signal, or identify the nearest ambulance or police car.


aps could appear on supermarket shelves as "just-in-time" logistics systems judder to a halt. Factories could stand idle because their inputs didn't arrive just in time either. Farming, construction, fishing, surveying - these are other industries mentioned by a UK government report that pegs the cost of GPS going down at about $1bn (£820m) a day for the first five days.


If it lasted much longer, we might start worrying about the resilience of a whole load of other systems that might not have occurred to you if you think of GPS as a location service.


It is that, but it's also a time service. It is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can find more information about the programme's sources and listen to all the episodes online or subscribe to the programme podcast. GPS consists of 24 satellites that all carry clocks synchronised to an extreme degree of precision.


When your smartphone uses GPS to locate you on a map, it's picking up signals from some of those satellites - and it's making calculations based on the time the signal was sent and where the satellite was.


If the clocks on those satellites stray by a thousandth of a second, you'll mislay yourself by 200km or 300km. So if you want incredibly accurate information about the time, GPS is the place to get it. Consider phone networks: your calls share space with others through a technique called multiplexing - data gets time stamped, scrambled up, and unscrambled at the other end.


A glitch of just a 100,000th of a second can cause problems. Bank payments, stock markets, power grids, digital television, cloud computing - all depend on different locations agreeing on the time.


If GPS were to fail, how well, and how widely, and for how long would backup systems keep these various shows on the road? The not very reassuring answer is that nobody really seems to know. No wonder GPS is sometimes called the "invisible utility". Trying to put a dollar value on it has become almost impossible.


As the author Greg Milner puts it in Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Our World, you may as well ask: "How much is oxygen worth to the human respiratory system?" GPS pioneers awarded Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering It's a remarkable story for an invention that first won support in the US military because it could help with bombing people - and even it was far from sure it needed it.


One typical response was: "I know where I am, why do I need a damn satellite to tell me where I am?" GPS pioneers Richard Schwartz, Brad Parkinson, James Spilker Jr and Hugo Fruehauf were awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering The first GPS satellite launched in 1978 - but it wasn't until the first Gulf War, in 1990, that the sceptics came around.


As Operation Desert Storm ran into a literal desert storm, with swirling sand reducing visibility to 5m (16ft), GPS let soldiers mark the location of mines, find their way back to water sources, and avoid getting in each other's way.


It was so obviously lifesaving, and the military had so few receivers to go around, soldiers asked their families in America to spend their own money shipping over $1,000 (£820) commercially available devices.


GPS technology was extremely useful for allied soldiers during the Gulf War ground offensive against Kuwait Given the military advantage GPS conferred, you may be wondering why the US armed forces were happy for everyone to use it.


The truth is they weren't but they couldn't do much about it. They tried having the satellites send in effect two signals - an accurate one for their own use, and a degraded, fuzzier one for civilians - but companies found clever ways to tease more focus from the fuzzy signals.


And the economic boost was becoming ever plainer.

 

 

 

 

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