How GPS Creates a Safer World

They say necessity is the mother of invention and a modern day example of this adage is the Global Positioning System, which has altered the way humans navigate their surroundings. Few people know that the birth of this revolutionary technology as we know it today, was owing to a grievous public tragedy. When 269 passengers aboard the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 were killed because of a navigation error that led them into Soviet air space in 1983, President Ronald Reagan ordered the US military to make GPS available to civilians; according to a Bloomberg Business article published in December 2014. The GPS is also a classic example of how a weapon can become a shield in a different context. What was devised as a lethal weapon during the Cold War, grew to become one of the main reasons why we are better protected from all kinds of hazards today. Better navigation in land, water and air has not only resulted in time saved and efficiency in business, it has also resulted in safety from physical harm.

4 Areas that have benefited from GPS

  1. Roads: This is one area in which we are most familiar with in terms of using GPS. Whether it is the person on the driver's seat or the unfamiliar pedestrian, it is not uncommon for us to see people turn to the navigation system on their smart phones to get around. Not only does this ensure that a person does not get lost in an unknown neighborhood and come into harm's way, it also improves the way in which one drives a vehicle. The Driver Awareness Alerts of GPS devices warns the driver about all possible hazards in order to keep them on the right track. One of the biggest advantages of this, according to an article in About Tech, is that it has made night driving, especially in bad weather, much safer than before.

  2. Oceans: Once the most hazardous element to traverse through, the seas have become a much safer place for humans owing to developments in technology. Marine safety gear is most often fitted with GPS in order to ensure that a vessel is traceable at all times. The Very High Frequency (VHF) Radio is an example of this. They are equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and have an inbuilt GPS that alerts other vessels in proximity of the distressed vessel. According to The GPS Store Advice and Tips, “This is vital, as nearby boats are your best shot at quick rescue.”

  3. Disaster Relief: In times of disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado, it is critical that help arrives in time so as to be able to rescue as many people as possible from the debris. Technology such as Geographic Information System (GIS), remote sensing technology and Global Positioning System together work to empower rescue teams to be swift and efficient. Moreover, GPS is playing a central role in helping scientists to anticipate earthquakes in areas like the Pacific Rim, says the US Government website, In addition, meteorologists are using GPS to predict floods by analyzing water vapor content via the transmissions of GPS data through the atmosphere.

  4. Crime Prevention: We all know that our smartphones are safe because they are GPS enabled. In case of theft or misplacement, we can log on to our account and trace our phone from a remote location. However, this is not the only way in which GPS makes us more secure. It has helped the Brooklyn police locate a stolen car in less than 30 minutes, reported The New York Times, on September 10, 2015. The young man who had stolen the car was reported to be on a 'crime binge,' including murder, and timely interception allowed the police to prevent him from causing any more harm than he already had. Moreover, the US police force have started to use GPS enabled bullets from 2013, reported BBC News in February 2014. This has allowed them to trace a fugitive, rather than chase and lose them, as has often happened prior to this intervention.

As amazing as the 24 active GPS satellites that circle the Earth once every 12 hours already are, their ultimate potential is yet to be harnessed. If used in the right way, they could help save lives and improve the quality of life too.