To many directionally-challenged people the Global Positioning System (GPS) is more than just a helpful tool. It is a saviour of sorts
“We were travelling to Kuntala waterfalls in Adilabad. On the way, we realised that there were no signboards. We turned on our GPS and got directions for the waterfalls. And before you know it, we reached Kuntala waterfalls spot on,” recalls Rajesh Kandregula, an IT professional in the city. Rajesh has used the GPS on several other instances and swears by the technology.
Having installed Google Maps on her Nokia E72, Manisha Kunta, an IT professional in a leading BPO said that it was a blessing in disguise. “I travel a lot and in cities that I am not familiar with, I have to switch on my GPS. Although on roaming, it can cost a bomb. Having said that, there have been many occasions where a GPS has come in handy,” she says.
“I was lost in the bylanes of Goa near Anjuna Beach and had to reach my hotel on Calangute Beach. I tried asking people for directions and no one seemed to direct me properly. I used Google Maps and voila, I was back at my hotel! I don’t think I will ever travel without a GPS,” she says stressing on how much the GPS helped her in a dire situation.
Mansoor Ali Khan, a resident of Chennai, who travels to the city often, says that a GPS navigator helps him get to his destination faster. “GPS shows a direct route to your destination. It keeps updating the maps and this, especially helps when I am on unfamiliar roads. Hyderabad has lots of one-way streets and a GPS helps me navigate through them and save time,” believes Mansoor.
Venkat Naidu, deputy sales manager at KUN Exclusive, a BMW showroom in the city, says that the 7-series and 5-series are equipped with GPS as a standard accessory. However, the 3-series doesn’t. “But we will have GPS in the 3-series in a couple of months,” he assures.
On the other hand, Abdul Rahman Mohammed says that a GPS isn’t all that handy, at least in Hyderabad. “I use MapMyIndia to get directions to go to places that I don’t often go to. However, older areas in Hyderabad are difficult to navigate, especially through a GPS. There are hundreds of by-lanes and the GPS can’t detect them all. But for people who have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to recalling routes, GPS definitely helps,” says Rahman.
Sanjay Sumani, accessories salesman at Saboo Maruti, points out that no Maruti cars come with GPS as a standard accessory. “But if you want to purchase one, you can get either a MapMyIndia or SatNav navigation system for Rs.9,000 only,” he adds.
So, whether it’s a voice-navigated or just one of the apps in your phone, a GPS is a fantastic thing to have.
How does a GPS work?
GPS is a location system based on a constellation of about 24 satellites orbiting the earth at altitudes of 11,000 miles. GPS receivers take this information transmitted by GPS satellites, and use triangulation to calculate the user’s exact location. Essentially, the GPS receiver compares the time a signal was transmitted by a satellite with the time it was received. The time difference tells the GPS receiver how far away the satellite is. Now, with distance measurements from a few more satellites, the receiver can determine the user’s position and display it on the unit’s electronic map. GPS was originally developed by the United States Department of Defense (DOD), for its application as a military locating utility. However, over the past several years, the GPS has proven to be a useful tool in non-military mapping applications as well.
Types of GPS
Portable GPS units are small enough to be carried between the house and the car or between different cars but not small enough to fit in a pant or shirt pocket. They typically weigh about 10 ounces and are about 4 inches in width. The biggest brand by far is Garmin, which makes the Street Pilot Series of portable GPS units.
An automobile In-Dash unit is built into the dashboard of the car and so it’s not portable. New cars offer In-Dash GPS as an option but they are usually expensive for what you get in terms of functionality. The advantage is that they are integrated into the dashboard instead of being mounted on top of the dash and they aren’t easily lost like a portable unit. Pioneer is a good buy.
Camping and hiking
These GPS units are designed to be lightweight and rugged for outdoor use for hiking, camping, and geocaching. Some of the more expensive units are also waterproof. They usually come preloaded with some maps but you will often have to load additional maps onto the device if you are heading off road.
Fitness and cycling
Fitness and cycling GPS devices are used for walking, jogging, running and cycling. Typically they fit on your wrist like a watch and can track speed, distance, pace and calories burned. Cycling GPS units often fit on the stem or handlebars of a bike.
GPS units designed for motorcycles are very similar to those used for cars except that they are often waterproof, vibration resistant, and designed to fit on a motorcycle console. Bluetooth handsfree technology is also popular for these devices.
Marine GPS units typically have chart plotting functionality. They are loaded with a special marine database including marine navigational aids like buoys, sound signals, day beacons and tide data.
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