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Nov 7, 2005

GPS Navigation In Its Infancy?

The past 27 years have seen tremendous advances in global positioning system (GPS) technology. While the size and cost of receivers have continued to decrease, the system's accuracy has steadily increased. The Seattle Times reports today on research by the Stanford Center for Position, Navigation and Time to greatly improve the accuracy of satellite navigation. The goal of the research center is to create a navigation system capable of locating objects within 1 centimeter (0.39 inch) within the next 20 years.

GPS In Its Infancy
James Spilker one of the founders of the Stanford research center, and one of the creators of GPS, says that satellite navigation is just in its infancy. Technologies are coming to the forefront that will impact billions of people and millions of businesses," Spilker tells the Times. While consumers are getting comfortable with GPS navigation systems in their cars, the researchers envision one that could tell whether you are in your car or standing next to it.

New Technologies
Pinpoint accurate satellite navigation is just one of the technologies the center is working on. Inertial navigation, may allow sensors that could be embedded in GPS receivers and detect tiny movements, even when out of satellite detection. Silicon oscillators that could improve the reliability of GPS devices. Smarter antennas could improve GPS reception in hard-to-locate places, perhaps even underwater and underground.

New Applications
These new technologies could bring incredible new applications in both the military and commercial fields. Some possibilities might include: Super smart bombs and missiles that almost never miss; Airplanes capable of landing on an aircraft carriers without a pilot guiding them; Small robot helicopters capable of flying over unexploded mines and mapping them for soldiers to see. Commercials applications may include: A computer security system where anyone logging into to computer would have to prove they were in the location before being allowed to access the computer. A system to track Alzheimer's patients and alert caregivers if they did something out of character.