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Exciting GPS Improvements and Opportunities

GPS Beginnings

The beginnings of the Global Position System concept, better known as GPS, was first recognized by USA scientists in 1957. They were tracking Russia’s launch of the spacecraft, Sputnik, the first artificial satellite that orbited the earth. It was then that members of the U.S. aeronautical and military spheres realized that satellite-based positioning was technically feasible and foreseeable.

GPS Role and Benefits

GPS has become a life-changing technology. There are thousands of benefits that we enjoy every day. For example, GPS signals give accurate, concise, pinpoint information and is used to synchronize time. It can locate objects as well as humans with high accuracy. It helps you get from point A to point B. GPS systems are in your car, your watch, your smartphone. Maps, shopping, dating are just a few benefits we enjoy because of smartphones, which have GPS receivers in them.

GPS has other major ramifications on the way we live that many may not be aware of. Just to name a few: airplanes are now capable of landing on autopilot. It is used for earthquake detection and measurement, precision farming, road construction, and surveying. Law enforcement uses GPS not only to catch the bad guy but for instant dispatching and safety monitoring such as “Amber Alert”. Even banking and the stock market depend upon GPS technology.

It is estimated that GPS has generated around $1.4 trillion in economic benefits since it was made available in the 1980s. The GPS miracle is available to anyone in the world at no cost. What a wonderful time to be alive.

The Father of GPS

Bradford Parkinson is best known as the lead architect, advocate, and developer of GPS.  He is also an emeritus professor from Stanford University.  There were many who contributed to GPS as we know it today. However, I consider Brad Parkinson to be the Father of GPS and the grand orchestrator of this marvelous technology.

Along with my colleagues in the Time and Frequency Division at NBS/NIST, in Colorado, it was my privilege back in the ‘60s until I retired in 1992, to give seminars on the use of atomic clocks. Many of the Air Force people would come to those seminars as they were designing and building up the GPS.

I remember Brad well. He was then an Air Force Colonel and had attained a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He was leading the GPS development team and attended one of the classes I was teaching. I can even remember one of the questions he asked because it was so relevant since atomic clocks are the heart of GPS.
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