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What are the benefits of using GPS? What are the alternatives to it?

GPS is one of the several navigation systems that you can use to carry out basic location-based tasks. 

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If you use an Android smartphone, chances are that you are familiar with GPS. GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite navigation system that was launched by the US Department of Defence in 1978, five years after starting the project. Due to its popularity in modern gadgets and devices, GPS as a term is used synonymously with satellite navigation. But GPS is one of the several Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) currently in use across the world. You may have heard of NavIC, which is India’s very own satellite navigation system launched not too long ago. So what is it that GPS does apart from determining the location of your device? In this article, we bring you the benefits of using GPS and some alternatives to it.

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Here are some of the benefits of using GPS


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We don’t need to tell you this, but satellite navigation is one of the key areas where GPS is put into use. When paired with a detailed map, your smartphone can use the GPS to track your position and navigate you from point A to point B. One of the most popular navigation apps, Google Maps, uses GPS to give you directions to your destination as you drive. Other services like Apple Maps and Waze also utilise GPS to offer detailed navigation along with a bunch of other features.

Keep a check on your kids’ safety

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There are several GPS-based apps that let you monitor your children’s location in real-time. Apps like Family360, Glympse, and FamiSafe not only let you keep a tab on your family members’ location but also give you access to functions like creating safe circles on the map, tracking vehicle speed, and more. Here is our list of some of the best location-sharing apps you can download right now.

Find your lost phone

Use Google’s Find my Device to check the IMEI number. What are the benefits of using GPS? What are the alternatives to it?

Finding a lost or stolen phone is made easy by GPS. Android users can simply log in to Google’s Find My Device page and track their phone’s live location if it is still switched on and connected to the internet. In case your phone is switched off, you can still get to know its last known location. Certain smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple have tracking services of their own that can locate anything from smartphones to styluses and wireless earbuds.

Find services near you

All the petrol pumps in your area will be marked on the map with a red icon. What are the benefits of using GPS? What are the alternatives to it?

Using GPS you can find services like hotels, restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, and more near you. Your current location made available via using GPS lets other apps give you a detailed list of the all services and attractions near you. Most navigation apps like Google Maps make use of this. If you’re travelling to a place you’ve never been before, you can use GPS to your benefit by checking out all the services available there. 

Get detailed stats about your workouts

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If you’re obsessed with fitness, you probably use a smartwatch or fitness band to track your workout routines. Your smartwatch uses GPS to track your runs, giving you a detailed account of the distance covered, average speed, and the route taken. If you’re looking to buy your first smartwatch, check out our list of the best smartwatches for fitness and health tracking here.

What are the alternatives to GPS?

Even though it is the most popular satellite network, GPS is not the only navigation system around. Here are some other Global Navigation Satellite Systems that are a good alternative to GPS.

GLONASS (Russia)

Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) is a network of 27 satellites operated by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces. It is currently the best alternative to GPS. GLONASS was launched in 1993. It wasn’t always a network of 27 satellites. In the beginning, GLONASS consisted of 12 satellites in 2 orbits around the Earth. GLONASS precision of 5-10 metres is very close to that of GPS (4-7 metres).

BeiDou (China)

BeiDou is China’s network of satellites and was first launched in 2000. This GNSS had humble beginnings, being a network of just 2 satellites on its launch. However, in 2012, China replaced it with BeiDou-2 which consists of 22 satellites, with plans of extending to accommodate 35 operational satellites. As of now, BeiDou is mostly used in China and its neighbouring regions. Its positioning accuracy is just as good as GPS, tracking location with a precision of 3-5 metres.

NavIC (India)

NavIC, formerly known as Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), is the newest addition to the global network of satellites orbiting the planet. As of now, NavIC is only used to monitor India and its neighbouring regions. The constellation of 7 satellites provides position accuracy better than 20m. India plans on launching more satellites in future to join the NavIC network.

Quasi-Zenith (Japan)

Japan’s indigenous satellite navigation network is called Quasi-Zenith (QZSS) and is a constellation of four satellites. In Japanese, Quasi-Zenith is known as Michibiki. QZSS covers the Asia-Oceanic regions, where it provides better accuracy than GPS. As of now, QZSS works in tandem with GPS, providing the latter with additional data from the Asia-Oceanic region. This year, Japan plans to add seven more satellites to the network, making it completely autonomous.

Galileo (European Union)

Galileo was launched by the European Union in 2016 and currently consists of a network of 30 satellites, out of which 24 are operational. Galileo is operated by the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). This satellite network offers a position accuracy of 1 metre (public) and 20cm (on-demand)

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Every smartphone user is aware of the benefits offered by GPS. But you would be surprised to know that your smartphone uses GPS interchangeably with GLONASS, BeiDou, and Galileo. Almost all of the major navigation apps like Google Maps don’t rely only on GPS for their positioning services.

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