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How The Latest Satellite Improves GPS Technology


On Feb. 5, 2016, the United States launched the final satellite in its current GPS improvement plan. As a fleet professional who relies on GPS fleet tracking every day, you may find yourself curious about what the launch of this satellite means for your fleet and your vehicles. Here's what you need to know.

A History of GPS Technology

GPS and GPS tracking technology may feel like a somewhat new invention, but in reality, it has been around for a while. The basic technology behind today's GPS systems was launched in the 1960s, with the original satellites sending signals used primarily for military use. In its earliest days, GPS technology and the signal behind the systems were blocked from most civilian applications. However, an incident in the 1980s involving a commercial airliner entering prohibited Soviet airspace — due to poor calculations — changed that. When the airliner was shot down because of this simple piloting error, the U.S. government decided to take measures to open its GPS technology for the world to use.

In 2000, former President Bill Clinton told the Department of Defense to turn off the selective availability feature commonly used in GPS technology. This feature allowed the military to degrade the accuracy of civilian GPS technology. By turning it off, people had accurate and reliable GPS technology at their fingertips. This opened the door to the fleet tracking systems today's fleet managers know and love.

That said, as with all types of technology, the satellites that run the GPS system will eventually wear down. Because the United States owns and operates these satellites, the government has launched a modernization initiative to replace the old satellites with newer models. The most current initiative was completed in February with the launch of the final satellite.

How GPS Works

GPS (Global Positioning System) utilizes a number of satellites orbiting the earth that have synchronized atomic clocks, continuously broadcasting their positions. GPS receivers in tracking systems, cellphones and other devices constantly collect the satellite signals from those satellites, providing the device's current location. As technology has improved, we now have the ability to get a nearly perfect location for any GPS-embedded device instantaneously.

Why Improvements Were Needed

In 1997, the U.S. Air Force began an effort to replace the aging satellites that were running GPS technology. At the time, there were 38 satellites offering GPS technology. From 1997 through February 2016, several of these older models were replaced with an improved set of satellites. In February, the final satellite — a $131 model offering a high level of accuracy — finished the current round of updates.

Why did the older satellites need to be replaced? The answer comes down to accuracy. Prior to the launch of the most recent satellite, the GPS system had a reported accuracy of about 1 meter. Now, the U.S. Air Force estimates the accuracy to be 42 centimeters. While this is not a guaranteed accuracy, it is a significant improvement, and in a world where accurate information about location is vital, it is an important upgrade. In the day-to-day operations of managing a fleet of vehicles, 1-meter accuracy is probably sufficient to get the work done, but greater accuracy is almost always beneficial.

Find Reliable Tracking Systems From Track Your Truck

At Track Your Truck, we offer reliable and accurate fleet tracking technology designed specifically for small- and medium-sized fleets. We are excited to see what the updated satellite signal will do for our services, especially as we continue to focus on the dependability of our devices and our system. While we cannot promise any particular accuracy improvements from the updated satellite, we believe that the government's efforts to upgrade and update this important technology will continue to assist us in providing reliable and accurate service to our customers.

Are you benefiting from GPS tracking devices for your fleet? With these updates and with the systems provided by Track Your Truck, you may find that the technology is more accurate than it was years ago, and our systems offer the scalable solutions you need to make it a viable option for your business, no matter the size of your fleet. We invite you to try our service by scheduling a free demonstration. We believe that you will see the benefit of GPS tracking technology for your fleet. Give us a call today.

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