28 Sep, 2018

From Military to Mainstream: How GPS Technology Entered the Civilian Market

GPS tracking technology in civilian markets
28 Sep, 2018

Earth is surrounded by a web of man-made technology. With more than 1,500 satellites and a debris field of broken parts orbiting the Earth, our planet from space probably looks a bit cluttered. Each satellite was sent to space for a specific purpose, whether to provide a tracking network for location devices, or to test the limits of human possibility. While GPS tracking satellites were originally created solely for military use, they eventually entered the civilian world as one of the most beneficial pieces of technology ever to escape the military monopoly.

A President’s Decree

It began with a Korean passenger jet shot down by Soviet missiles after inadvertently entering prohibited USSR airspace. Struck by the tragic circumstances that cost 269 people their lives, President Ronald Reagan announced on September 16, 1983 that all GPS satellites under U.S. control were now available for international public use in an attempt to prevent this devastating accident from ever happening again. However, there was a provision to this release. The military would maintain ownership over the satellites and would withhold the exact precision data, leaving civilians able to use GPS devices but limiting their accuracy to an area of 100 meters. As beneficial as this step forward was, this forward-looking decree had limited uses for the average American at that time, as GPS tracking devices and data would not become mainstream until much later.

Looking to the Future

By the year 2000, GPS had entered mainstream life, and was beginning to make appearances in now common household items such as cellular phones and integrated car guidance systems. Now still useful, but outdated as military monopolized tech, President Bill Clinton passed a decree removing the jamming of GPS signals, allowing the public greater accuracy than ever before. Individuals and corporations were then able to build on the data collection already available to them and expand their possibilities in the business sector.

GPS Tracking Technology in the Present

Which brings us to the world today. GPS tracking technology can now be found in civilian airplanes and trains, personal vehicles, and even in your own pocket as an app on your phone. Around the globe, companies are incorporating GPS data tracking units into their businesses to promote safety and profitability. With GPS equipment, fleet managers can accurately locate each vehicle in operation, track vehicle maintenance to prevent time consuming damage repairs, and inform customers of the exact location, and thus delivery time frame, of their products. Knowing the location of your vehicles and transported materials promotes driver and product safety, as well as limiting theft and thus liability issues.

In the realm of human creativity, people can take simple ideas and expand them for practical and beneficial use in their own lives and businesses. Without access to GPS tracking technology, would businesses have developed to be as profitable then as they are today? We may never know, but thanks to inventors of the past, not to mention several forward-thinking presidents, we now have access to a world of data right at our fingertips.

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