What is GPS?
GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a service that provides positioning, navigation, and timing. GPS was developed by the United States military and is currently maintained by the United States Air Force. GPS consists of three major segments: user, control, and space. The user segment is the portion of GPS that you see – as in, any device that sends or receives GPS information. The control segment, currently the Air Force, is the organization that maintains the operation and usability of GPS technology. The space segment is what many think of when it comes to GPS – the 24 satellites that currently sit in the Earth’s atmosphere. Each of these segments works in tandem to provide reliable and accurate information to millions of users.
GPS works by pinpointing your exact time and location by measuring the distance between your device and four satellites. A signal is sent from each satellite to your device at the speed of light; the time it takes for this signal to reach your device allows each satellite to map its distance from you. When four satellites create this link, they create a three dimensional image that gives your exact time and location on Earth. What happens with this data is entirely dependent on the device.. Many industries also rely heavily on GPS information, such as aviation, agriculture, mapping, and marine navigation.
What are the limitations of GPS?
The only limitation of GPS is that it requires a connection to four satellites in order to provide correct information. Many objects exist in the environment that can potentially block one or more of these signals, such as tall buildings, trees, and tunnels. If the signal fails to lock, you will be unable to track your position. In many cases, especially in tunnels, many apps and devices can predict how long you’ll be in the dead zone based on your current speed.
There are several misconceptions about what exactly can break a GPS signal. One of the most common regards the weather; many believe that dark clouds and dense fog can cause a disruption in a GPS signal. A second misconception involves speed; many claim that their navigation systems start to become inaccurate as their vehicles hit high speeds on highways. While GPS tracking can be a bit finicky in some circumstances, such as on a highway that runs parallel to a road, it will work without issue in inclement weather and at high speed. Needless to say, you can track your run in bad weather – just try to keep your top speed under that of a military jet!
I already have a tracker – why do I need GPS?
In terms of tracking activity, GPS should be considered an advanced feature. If you currently track steps and your primary activities are walking and running, then a step-based pedometer will work as well as any GPS-capable device. However, if you’re interested in any type of activity that doesn’t involve a walking motion, such as biking or rock climbing, then a GPS tracker will be better suited for you. A pedometer is also a better option if you live in an area where GPS signals tend to be weak; an easy way to determine this is through any activity app that uses GPS. One final and very important note about GPS trackers is their cost – they tend to be expensive in comparison to pedometers.
If you are looking to track activity, a simple pedometer will get the job done. If you’re looking to take your fitness to the next level, it might be time to consider the step up to a GPS tracker.