(+) A GPS Device That is Accurate to Within One Centimeter

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

My earlier article Don’t Use QR Codes on Tombstones! at https://blog.eogn.com/2015/12/31/dont-use-qr-codes-on-tombstones/ about defacing tombstones by attaching new objects with adhesives has generated a lot of comments about one thing I didn’t expect: the use of GPS (Global Positioning System satellite navigation system) in a cell phone to determine the location of a tombstone. Some of the comments questioned the accuracy of cell phone devices; so, I decided to write a separate article to address those questions. I will divide this into three different points in time: what the cell phone accuracy was a few years ago, what it is today, and it what it might become in the near future.

At https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System, Wikipedia states:

“The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally NAVSTAR GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force. It is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.”

Columbarium Markers

GPS receivers have been available to military and commercial users since the 1970s. By the 1990s prices were dropping, and the units then became popular with the general public. Nowadays, inexpensive GPS navigation receivers are commonly found in all sorts of automobiles, trucks, and, more recently, even inside the so-called “smartphones” that combine a cell phone with a handheld computer and camera and more inside a shirt-pocket-sized case. GPS receivers are used by millions, including truck drivers, bus drivers, fishermen, Uber and Lyft drivers, genealogists, and anyone else who simply wants easy-to-use guidance to find a place. In fact, many joggers purchase wristwatches that have built-in GPS receivers that will record the runner’s distance traveled as well as the exact route.

I even use my iPhone’s GPS receiver when riding my bicycle for exercise and enjoyment. A smartphone app shows exactly where I am at the moment, displays my speed, the average speed since I started the ride, the amount of elevation gained or lost, and an estimate of the number of calories burned. It tracks all this on a map displayed on the screen. At the end of the ride, I can even send a log file showing the details of the ride via email to myself or to a friend or even upload the log file to a web site. I can visit the web site later to view reports on my progress over the last few weeks or months, showing if I am getting enough exercise and burning enough calories or not. The app I use is free (plus the price of the smartphone, which I already owned) although some other GPS apps cost a few dollars. Not a bad price for using all that technology, including satellites in outer space!

You can find hundreds of other uses for GPS receivers, including those built into smartphones. Genealogists have learned that GPS receivers are great for recording locations that are important to us.

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