How GPS works
So one of the frequent questions we get is questions about GPS tracking accuracy. Sometimes your GPS location will show you bouncing around or moving around, even though you’re at the same spot. We think having a little understanding of how GPS works will help you understand why you see such behaviors or results.
So GPS is a powerful technology that is used for many different things. Most people use it for navigation or Google Maps or Apple Maps to find their way around. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and almost every smartphone these days has a GPS receiver chip built in it.
Contrary to what most people believe, you don’t need to have an internet connection to use your GPS. GPS uses satellites to pinpoint your location, and your internet is dependent on your data plan or Wi-Fi. So, GPS or global positioning system is known, or sometimes also called a Navstar. The US military built this technology, and it’s been used since 1995.
Many GPS receivers also use the Russian GLONASS, the Russian equivalent of GPS, to improve your location accuracy.
GPS works by transmitting signals from the phone’s GPS receiver chip to the satellite to pinpoint your location. GPS requires a minimum of three different satellites to pinpoint your location.
I will demonstrate how that works and so you can have a little understanding of how GPS points at your location. Let’s just say we’re somewhere in North America. And we want to be able to pinpoint our location.
Our GPS receiver will talk to multiple satellites to find where they all intersect, and that will be our location.
So let’s say it talks to the first satellite and it points to our location here:
So the satellite gives you an approximation of where it thinks you are. For demonstration purposes, we are making the circles bigger. The radius of the circle is what we will refer to as the accuracy and it usually is within 5 meters. Based of the above diagram, we think your current location could be anywhere within that circle. Now that’s a wide area!
Next, we receive another signal from a second satellite:
You will notice the two circles intersect, so your location is likely in the shaded region with the lines. However, that is not accurate enough. So this is where the third satellite comes into play. The point where all the 3 satellites intersect is your location.
Again GPS requires a minimum of three satellites to pinpoint your location. Three satellites typically give you a coarse location, which isn’t very accurate. Hence most GPS locations will rely on four satellites to get a more precise location. So, this is how GPS works in a nutshell.
Even though your current location is at the intersection of the three signals, that is far from perfect. The truth is, there is a little margin of error in the location. At Timeero, we show you accuracy levels on each point.
To see the accuracy level, you can click on a GPS point like below:
So if you had an accuracy of 3 meters, then it means that we think your location was within 3 meters of the displayed point.
Hopefully, this helps you have a better understanding of how GPS works. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our support team, and we will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
GPS tracking in business
GPS is widely used in businesses these days to solve many different problems. Examples of such usages are for navigation, fleet tracking, employee tracking and many more. If you are looking for an employee GPS tracking or mileage tracking system, be sure to checkout Timeero.
Start a free trial of Timeero here.