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10 Surprising Ways GPS Improves Your Life

Civilian use of the Global Positioning System, better known as GPS, has increased exponentially.
In the 20 years since the U.S. Air Force first developed the satellite-based Global Positioning System (better known as GPS), its use as a free public utility has skyrocketed. For most of us, “GPS” is that screen in our car or that app on our smartphone that helps calculate drive times, avoid traffic jams, locate a nearby restaurant or navigate unfamiliar neighborhoods.
 
What we know less about are all the thousands of effects GPS has on our everyday lives. Here are ten little-known ways GPS helps to keep us on course:
Keeping Your Snacks on Track
GPS helps stores keep your favorite foods in stock and offer you coupons that seem to read your mind to know exactly what you like. Many retailers use the system in concert with data from loyalty card programs to track shopping habits, making it possible to share buying behavior with manufacturers and distributors. The result? Your local grocery store knows what you like to buy and can offer you tailored discounts as well as keep popular items on the shelves.
 
Taking the Bite Out of Summer Vacation
The beach became a little safer when an organization called OCEARCH tagged dozens of large sharks with GPS devices. Now, when those sharks get close to shore, an alert is sent to lifeguards telling them to get beachgoers out of the water. Read more about the system at http://www.ocearch.org/
 
Keeping Tabs on the Kiddos
Schools and parents are increasingly using GPS-enabled wearables, mobile phones and even uniforms with integrated trackers to monitor the locations of young children and students. That makes it harder for your kid to get lost at the zoo on that school field trip.
 
Getting More From Your Time Outdoors
Need to know if you’ve run seven miles while training for an upcoming race? Or where to find a good running trail in a new city? The workout apps in your smartphone and your Fitbit, Jawbone or Apple Watch fitness trackers all rely on GPS to calculate your performance. GPS can even help you save the spot of that secret fishing hole you found or mark the trailhead on a hiking trip.
 
Following the Money
Did you know GPS is used by ATM machines to timestamp your transaction? GPS devices are also used by banks for safeguarding cash, and have resulted in same-day recovery of millions in stolen funds -- and the capture of robbers.
 
Making Sure You've Got The Power
There's really no need any more to call the utility company after a big storm to let them know your power is out. Using GPS technology, utility companies can pinpoint the downed power line, locate the nearest repair crew and get your home back on the grid before everything melts in your freezer. It saves money for both you and the power company.
 
Entertaining the Masses
The amazing aerial shot you saw in that latest epic film? There’s a good chance it was taken by an unmanned GPS-guided drone. The jaw-dropping scenery that served as a backdrop to your favorite RomCom? The director probably used GPS to locate the perfect setting. Hollywood wouldn’t be such a blockbuster without GPS.
 
Feeding the Masses
You may have heard the term “precision agriculture,” but you may not know that GPS is one of its key enabling technologies. It allows farmers to be more efficient and productive, working in low-visibility conditions and tracking how they fertilize and treat the land – saving money and reducing impact on the environment while improving crop yield. With the world’s booming population, the increased use of GPS-enabled technologies will have big implications for solving future food supply challenges.
 
Organizing the Losers
Phones, keys, wallets, purses...the list is long. It seems there’s an endless supply of important objects we often misplace. If you’re not naturally blessed with superior memory skills, take comfort. GPS has your back. Just download an app or buy some affordable nanotechnology and, voila. No more destroying your house during a mad scramble search for your phone.
 
Keeping Seniors Safe
For the elderly who want to maintain a level of independence without compromising safety, GPS-enabled devices can help keep them living on their own. With a press of a button, a loved one in need can summon help to their exact location without so much as making a phone call.
 
At Raytheon, we’re proud of our partnership with the Air Force to modernize the systems used to control GPS satellites – supporting not only the important missions of our military, but the millions of civilians that benefit from GPS technology. We’re working hard to improve the availability, accuracy, security and integrity of GPS for all of its myriad uses above, and for the countless applications that have yet to be imagined.

Last Updated: 12/18/2015

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