Navigation Systems: Then and Now


It’s not long ago that we have heard our grandmother’s stories, how in ancient time people used to solely rely on the northern star for directions. The bible itself has the account, “Stars lead them to Jesus”. Well in the long past, people solely relied on the movements and positions of stars for navigation. Great voyages and discoveries were heeded solely by following the pattern of stars. But with time humans evolved, different civilizations cropped up. Slowly and steadily, technology sneaked in our civilized lives. With the introduction of technology, there was no looking back. Phenomenal changes took place, and today the whole of the navigation system has come to a stage, it seems it’s directly taken out from a sci-fi movie. Everything is just a click away.

Few decades ago, navigation technology was solely an advantage and boon to the Defense, Aviation, and the Navy of the countries. But now basic navigation is accessible to every common man. The acronym GPS stands for Global Positioning System, it can accurately locate detailed location of various geographical positions. It was born initially in US, and used by the US military, but today every Smartphone has the accessibility to GPS with mere internet connection.

The mechanism behind the working of GPS is very interesting. Thirty man made satellites revolving around the earth at an height of 20000 km which continuously transmits and receives signal at regular time intervals. The process of trilateration is used to pin point your location. At any fixed time, various satellites sends signal to your GPS devise, then the signal is transmitted back to one of those satellites. The signals travel at the speed of light. Once the signal is received back to the satellite, it calculates time interval, how long it took for this entire process. In the same way, multiple time intervals are calculated, thus finally it determined how far the device is.

Today’s navigation system is multi dimensional. Turn by turn direction is visible in vehicles. Live traffic congestion is available. The mere input of any land mark, supplies you with whole lot of data, about the various amenities present nearby. Be it fuel stations or restaurants, anything and everything. Even verbal direction is possible too, with your device feeding you with verbal direction.

In 2004, as technology was at the peak of path braking innovations, the search engine giant Google launched “Google Earth”. Its 3D virtual globe, with maps and all the geographical information, allowed users to access various information. Simply entering a particular address or co-ordinates, will give the viewer a birds-eye view of the location, with quite good resolution. In February 2005, again Google maps were launched; it offered 360 degrees panoramic view of the streets, and real time traffic condition. These two were two of the most landmark technological advances, in the world of navigation.

With the boom of technological advances and discoveries, in future basic navigation will simply be a Childs play. Through organizations like JibeStream, we have even begun using GPS technology indoors. Thus every dot in this earth and outer space will be connected.

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