Tag Archives: GPS

GPS Accurate to a Centimeter

How to find peace, love, and joy in the midst of the storms ahead in all that we do:

I have chosen to include God in all that I do, and that has made all the difference in my life.  I have learned that as we ask, seek, and knock (Matt. 7:7), God will put thoughts into our minds and inspire our doings.  I believe my master’s thesis, which gave birth to the Allan variance (AVAR), was inspired by God: Allan Variance – Spirit of Revelation | It’s About Time (itsabouttimebook.com).  Similar experiences have occurred over my professional career, and I give God the glory.  As an example, before I retired from the lab in Boulder, I was pondering on the problem of the inaccuracies in determining the positions of the GPS satellites; the vertical error component is the largest.  And the idea came into my mind that Kepler’s Third Law could solve this problem.  I asked my good friend, Professor Neil Ashby, to help me do the simulations.  We got some impressive results and presented a paper in the UK and later at an Institute of Navigation GPS conference in 2001 in Salt Lake City, UT: A New Paradigm for High Accuracy Orbit Determination at the Centimeter Level (allanstime.com).
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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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GPS Moving Forward To Zion

My experience with GPS is a fascinating one.  I spent many man-years helping in the development of GPS http://itsabouttimebook.com/my-involvement-with-gps-development/ – working with Brad Parkinson, who I consider to be the father of GPS.   He was both a colonel in the Air Force, but also got his Ph.D. at Stanford University graduating in 1966, with a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Colonel Parkinson and  his Air Force blue suiters came to our seminars in Boulder, CO, to learn how to best use atomic clocks.  Atomic clocks are the heart of GPS.  The signals from the satellite constellation  need to be synchronized to about a billionth of a second (a nanosecond) for GPS to meet its navigation goals.  In 2018 Brad received the IEEE Medal of Honor Award for his leadership in developing GPS.  I congratulated him at the time and offered him a copy of my book.  He said he already had a copy.

When I published by book www.ItsAboutTimeBook.com in 2014, part of it was a special letter to the GPS Headquarters folks suggesting four things that could help improve the system.  Ironically, I heard nothing back from them until last week (six years later).

IEEE Nomination

This recent interaction with them occurred because of a series of events in which the IEEE’s previous president, John Vig, recently nominated me to be an IEEE Fellow, and I needed five people to be part of the nomination process.  I asked Brad, and he agreed to do so.  This opened up an e-mail dialog coming back to my letter of six years ago.  They have a GPS Phase III planning meeting coming up and will consider what I have shared.  It will be interesting to see where it goes.

I love how the Lord is in the details of our lives, and He sees the end from the beginning.  Because of His infinite love, He orchestrates events to best help us find our way back to Him and helping us better live our lives and how to serve – never violating our free choice (agency).  He sees us from pre-mortal to where we can go in eternal realms of glory, and lovingly wants the best for us.  I see this GPS interaction event as just another means leading me to better ways to share His glorious gospel message.

The IEEE is the biggest technology institution, and has the largest scientific papers data base.  As our really good friend, BYU Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Chauncey Riddle, taught me, technology has advanced society further along than has science – though most scientists would have you believe otherwise.  GPS, cell phones and the internet are three great examples of technology advancement.  With over 400 thousand members in 120 different countries, and with its 41 different societies the IEEE is the greatest organization on the planet for promoting technology.  I was pleased that Dr. Donley, representing the IEEE/UFFC, came to our home in November 2018 and spent two days recording my ORAL HISTORY, which they put up on their web site, and gave me opportunity to share my testimony.

This Is My Joy

In those six years, I have overcome some major health challenges: quadruple by-pass open heart surgery, three strokes, serious blood clots in my legs and lungs.  But in that time, I have enjoyed miraculous healings and learned some extremely important lessons from the Lord about who I am and how I can best serve His children.  “This is my joy.” (Alma 26:37; 29:9) Indeed, these challenges have been a “trial of my faith,” (Ether 12:6-7) but it is in that process we grow closer to Him.  As we use our time and talents with an eye single to His glory, joy will come to our souls.  The above is case in point for me.  And know that the Lord’s healings in my life have me back on my mountain bike, and I rode to the Post several times last week in the snow!

We live in the most exciting time in history.  GPS will continue to improve its timing, navigation and position accuracy, but know there is a better navigator and that is the Lord. We may not know in detail what the future holds, but we know who holds the future, and to be in step with Him is the greatest opportunity of our existence.  We know a Zion (the pure in heart) society is coming that the Bride may meet the Bridegroom in great rejoicing, and the exciting thing is we can be part of it if we will truly come unto Him.  He will navigate us HOME!

David W Allan

Synchronizing Deep Space Network

How GPS helped NASA/JPL synchronize their Deep Space Network tracking stations and my personal involvement in that process.

I just learned of the passing of a friend and colleague from Boulder, Dick Davis.  Dick was an amazing electrical engineer, and he was part of the team that developed TV captioning – earning them an EMMY AWARD.  Later on he was part of my time and frequency dissemination research team.

I had listened to a JPL talk at the Frequency Control Symposium in Atlantic City, NJ, on how they synchronized the Deep Space Network using quasar signals and hydrogen maser atomic clocks. The DSN locations were in Canberra, Australia, Goldstone, CA, and Madrid, Spain. They would point their 64 meter wide dish antennas at the same quasar in the center of our galaxy, and then using the excellent time stability of the hydrogen maser atomic clocks, they would correlate the signals being received between these DSN sites.
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GPS or Come Follow Me

Trust in GPS?  Or God?

When Christ began his ministry he invited Peter, and Andrew his brother to follow him: “And he saith unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway  left their nets, and followed him.”  At that moment, he became the GPS or guide for his apostles and for all mankind.  “Come follow me” and gain eternal life.

During my 82 years on this planet, we spent 32 of them in Boulder, Colorado, (1960-1992) helping develop the nation’s official time — based on atomic clocks.  During that time I also helped in the development of GPS.  It has been an inspiring ride. I spent many man-years on GPS alone – helping with the atomic-clock part of that system.   The GPS usage is growing rapidly, and the GPS user device market is expected to be $3 billion in four years.  Everybody loves their GPS, which Google Maps has taken over.  How did people get along without it? Continue reading GPS or Come Follow Me

Finding Peace On Earth

We are also dreaming of a system better than GPS that could help bring “Peace on earth.”  This will require collaboration with other countries in a large variety of scientific activities.  Our goal is to use technology to help further the effort of “Finding Peace on Earth Good will toward men.” I will show you how and why precise timekeeping plays a major role in this goal.

Precise timekeeping has improved by a billion fold during my 82 years on this planet, and it has been exciting to be part of it.  It is the most accurate and precise of all technologies and growing faster with enormous benefits to the human family.  GPS is an example: the heart of GPS is precisely synchronized atomic clocks; it would not work without them.

(By reading this blog article, it may help you under stand in five minutes how GPS works. )    The incredible accuracies of the ever improving atomic-clock technologies opens an opportunity to make an advanced GPS with much greater precision than it has now and with enormous benefits.  It is now about 5 meters accurate; can you imagine 1 millimeter?
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Why GPS – Why Internet – Why Cell Phones

GPS Internet cellphonesWhy GPS?  Why the Internet?  Why Cell Phones? Are these amazing technologies being used wisely in relation to the fundamental question, “Why are we here on earth?”

Over my 57 career years, I have been privileged to help in the development of GPS in the area of precise timing which is necessary for telecommunications, the internet, and the precise synchronization of cell phone towers. It has been an exciting ride. These three technologies have made an enormous impact on society. Technically, they are well described in the world wide encyclopedia, Wikipedia. (see links below)

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Everyone Can Understand GPS

Learn How GPS Works in Five Minutes!

Get Ready to Paint a Picture in Your Mind

GPS Satellites Around The Earth
GPS Satellites Around The Earth

Think in your minds eye that you can look up into the sky and see three GPS satellites in very different parts of the heavens.  Think further that you have three looooooooooooooong measuring sticks that are able to reach out from you to each of the three satellites, so that you have a way of measuring the distance to each of them.

The picture you have is an upside down tripod with you at the focal point, and with each of the three GPS satellites at the end of each stick.  This, of course, is totally absurd in practice, but there is a fascinating way to do the equivalent that is practical using the speed of light as your measuring stick.  If you are traveling in your car at 60 miles per hour (~90 kph), and you travel for an hour, you know the distance you have traveled is 60 miles.

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