Students in a Texas School Districts have been equipped with a GPS tracker device as part of a truancy prevention program. The program uses a sample of students who are assigned a mentor with whom they will check-in with several times a day. The program is being run by a Dallas company that has worked with other school districts to lower truancy levels after a pilot program in 2011. The Texas School District aren’t the only ones to develop such programs, either. GPS development is increasing beyond everyday uses and into vehicles, cameras, and phones to create systems that improve and monitor the well-being of students.
In another helpful and innovative development, GPS is being used in a new app to help locate missing pets. With a small device attached to the collar, GPS tracking features add precise location information. Similarly, Rental car companies can track the location of their vehicles to get a better idea of what’s happening now, and what they can plan for. One company even develops GPS trackers for fleet tracking for companies all over the country.
Outdoor sports enthusiasts can benefit from a new watch that uses GPS technology to aid in fitness goals. Participants in almost any outdoor sport – cross country skiing, cycling, biking, boating and running – can use the watch to measure speed, distance and heart rate. It includes a 13 hour battery and is a light, thin watch that replaces bulky GPS devices.
Improvements in software and the GPS backbone itself are leading the way toward more practical uses. Devices, apps, and improved GPS tracking accuracy are being integrated into today’s gadgets and gizmos. Open source technology is moving beyond the world of computers and could benefit devices that use GPS technology. With open source, computer programmers can use code to create specific applications, making it free and easy for other developers to add plug-ins and add-ons. In the world of GPS gadgets, open source can allow manufacturers to share and access information.
Most important to both military and civilian GPS uses is the recent announcement that confirms the next generation of GPS technology is on the way with GPS III. GPS III is a US government project with a 5.5 billion dollar budget. Testing is currently being conducted in simulated conditions with radiation, freezing temperatures and atmospheric conditions related to orbit. With plans to launch the first GPS III satellite in 2014, both civilians and government will likely find great benefit from the technology. New satellites will add three new signals to the civilian GPS system. Currently only one signal, L1 C/A, is in use. New signals L2C, L1C and L5 will result in more robust system with more precise tracking capabilities. The benefits include a boosted signal that is easier to receive in poor atmospheric and environmental conditions and offers substantially improved data recovery.
Currently, most signal errors are caused by ionospheric delay; carriers correct errors by using local Wi-Fi hotspots or the FAA’s Wide Area Augmentation System. Receivers that use the new civilian channel L2C will compensate by comparing signals for faster correction and more accuracy that will benefit standard GPS users. For travelers, the L1C signal will make United States GPS system compatible with worldwide systems.
Users will need to upgrade current devices to receivers that can handle the new signals, which will be more widely supported by 2016.