Get ready for GPS Block III

Recent news reveals that the prototype of the third generation of GPS, which is called GPS Block III, is being tested at a Lockheed Martin complex in Colorado. The new system consists of about 32 satellites, 8 more than the current positioning system in use. After months of test the first satellite of this new global positioning system is to be launched into space in May 2014. The whole upgrade costs about some 5.5 billion dollars.

The new GPS system has made an important improvement in accuracy. At the moment, you could expect to get your location within 10 feet with a normal GPS receiver, while the new system will reduce it to 3 feet. This means when in place, your GPS system will not only be able to tell which road you are in, but as accurate as whether you are driving in roadway or walking in footway.

This improvement makes tracking down your missing mobile device easier. With higher accuracy, your search can narrow down to a few people in the area (sometimes just one person!). And you can easily find who among those people has your missing handset by playing a sound even if all of them own the same phone as yours. This is hardly imaginable in the past.

Another advance will be made is higher powered signals. As we all know when you are in a garage or a tall building or under a thick tree etc, your GPS receiver could hardly receive any signal from the satellites. And that is exactly why various network based or WiFi based tracking technology were developed. Well this won’t happen in the future. Block III will cover all those places its predecessor couldn’t.

This means a lot for mobile tracing. Just image then man who has got your cell phone enters into a building and you suddenly lost track of it. It must be frustrating! Well, this happens now and then. This Spring I took trip to a nearby city, at 4 in the morning I was waken up and took out my handset, then run Garmin to look at where I was. Although the vehicle was on a high way at the time without any buildings or trees, my cell phone GPS could not determine my location without A-GPS. However in the future the situation may improve when block III replace the current GPS system.

The last but not the least feature of Block III is that it will allow any receiver to connect to other navigation systems at the same time such as Galileo and GLONASS positioning system for enhanced precision. This could mean more options and better results, and you can always stay connected.

Generally these improvements all favor our cell phone tracing thing and we are yet waiting to see the actual results and impact on other GSM and WiFi based tracking systems.

Update, LockheedMartin recently announced that GPSIII satellite SV1 had passed the key system tests and the air force will get it in 2014, which means it could be launched into the sky by 2015.

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2012-Feb-Tue | Category: GPS | Tags:

9 factors that could affect GPS positioning accuracy

Although GPS tracking is the most accurate compared to WiFi based and cell tower based tracking techniques, there are a few factors could affect the accuracy of GPS positioning accuracy which could affect cell phone GPS tracking.

1 The sun. Yes, the sun almost affects everything in the solar system. The magnetic field generated by the sun could have a direct impact on the GPS system and our cellular network.

2 Weather. As the radio signal travels between the earth and the satellites, bad weather like rain, storm could cause signal attenuation, while we have better signal when it’s sunny and cloudless.

3 Buildings. As we live in the city full of high buildings, this could reflect the signals. If you could barely see the sky, neither could your GPS or cell phone.

4 Containers. Although you have a handset, you do not hold it in your hand all the time. In most cases, we put it in our pocket or bag which could reflect signal as well, luckily people do not use metal bags.

5 Our body. Yes our body absorbs signal too, if you are in a crowded bus, the signal fades. Hey buddy, you stopped my signal.

6 Metal. Metals could not only reflect signal, but also absorb it. So never put your mobile device in a area full of metallic or electronic products.

7 Multipath. The GPS receiver could receive radio signals following multipath, as buildings, trees and other things can reflect radios.

8 GPS chip. Now the mostly used GPS chip is SiRFstar III (GSW 3.0/3.1), it has lot improvements in the hardware and software to provide better sensitivity and anti-interference.

9 Clock errors. Timing is critical to GPS, and the GPS satellites are equipped with very accurate atomic clocks, but they are not perfect and slight inaccuracies can lead to errors.

2010-Dec-Wed | Category: GPS | Tags: ,

Free cell phone GPS logger for BlackBerry devices

You can see often GPS data loggers out there that can record your track, time and location for viewing on application such as Google Earth. They are actually GPS units which mean you need to spend extra money to record your trips. However if you have a BlackBerry cell phone with OS 4.2.1 or higher, you can try a FREE mobile device GPS logger tested successfully by other BlackBerry users.

This GPS logger, as the website stated, is a pretty straightforward application. It records your physical movement on your BB device over time, including elevation, speed, and some additional data. GPS Logger can also direct you to a location that you either entered manually or have previously recorded. What’s more important is that it works completely offline – no data will be transferred while you use it.

It can record and store various information include longitude/latitude, altitude, Speed, number of satellites you connected to. It also can show the data in a number of ways include path view, elevation view, speed view, GPS view, time view, compass view and direction view. And you can even send the data to your friends via SMS and Email. Finally, you can export the tracks into CSV, GPX, KML files, which means you can view the tracks in Google Earth. And, you can import a GPX or KML file as well.

The GPS logger has a few other small features which could facilitates your normal operations, including zooming in/out for path, distance peep/vibrates, wildlife tracking/recording, night mode etc. It can also display your previous recording to save you time. These are not outstanding features, but you will find they make your daily operations easier and can save a lot of time. These features are part of an app, detail is devil.

Full details about this GPS logger can be found here, you can download it to your Blackberry device either via “over the air” or via RIM Desktop Manager.

Although the app is free, if you want to support its future development, you could make a donation of any amount (five currencies are available via PayPal), this could make the app better.

2010-Nov-Wed | Category: GPS | Tags: ,

China launched its fourth satellite of Compass navigation system

According to China Compass navigation system official site, China launched its fourth satellite of Compass navigation system (BeiDou-2) successfully at 23:53 last night, an important move toward the completion of the world’s fourth independent GPS navigation system.

China set up its first BeiDou-1 navigation system by 2003 which consists three BeiDou experimental satellites, it covers China and its laboring countries. The completion of BeiDou1 navigation system makes China the world’s third country which owns an independent GPS navigation system, the other two is US and Russian.

China sent its first satellite of BeiDou-2 (Compass) navigation system into space in 2007, the second and third in 2009 and 2010. Its aim is to have around 10 satellites orbiting the earth in 2012 which covers the Asia-Pacific area and provides locating, timing and short message communication service to domestic and abroad customers.

Compared to US GPS system, Compass mainly covers China and Asia-Pacific area although its final goal is to set up 35 satellites covering the whole global. And its less accurate, the accuracy is 10 meters, and speed is 0.2 meter/second for normal users.

All in all, the feature of Compass navigation system is simpler, less satellites, low cost, less accurate and has short message communication model (120 Chinese characters at most per time).

Compass navigation system image

Update, China launched its seventh Beidou navigation satellites last December. And there are still a few satellites to be launched this year. The Compass Navigation System will cover the Asia-Pacific areas tomorrow and open for public uses, the chip cost is said to be lower than that of GPS, so the overall price of a navigation device might be lower. In addition to navigation capabilities, Beidou satellite system is capable of sending and receiving messages.

It seems China is progressing rapidly on its own navigation system, meanwhile, GALILEO satellite navigation system developed by EU countries is in trouble. Hopefully the Chinese drivers will have another alternative in addition to GPS the next year. Anyway, let’s wait and see.

We will update you on future news about Beidou navigation system. At the same time, if you are interested in this article, you can subscribe to our feed or follow us on Twitter.

Update, China shot the eighth Beidou satellite into the sky successfully on 10th April, its launch means China’s regional satellite navigation system was completed.

2010-Jun-Thu | Category: GPS | Tags: , ,

Tracking cell phone locations with Google Maps for mobile

Google Maps is one of the best GPS maps out there. Like Google earth, it could be used to show ones’ locations; hence many cell phone tracking software would work with Google Maps to display your target’s locations.

Google Maps shows your current location and latitude (via My Place), navigate and direct driving, and it can even show real-time traffic. It also supports street view and satellite view.

However, you need to turn Find My iPhone on if you own an iOS handset, or Android device manager on if you own any Android device, or any third-party mobile tracking apps on in order to track your phone. Google Maps alone does not do that, it just shows the location on a map so you can better picture where your phone is. Find more information here.

As long as you have a GPS enabled mobile device (even without GPS can use GSM cell towers or WiFi hotspots to locate your handset), be it Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia s60 series or Windows mobile device, you can always find a version for your mobile phone; however the functions vary depending on your mobile phone OS.

If you have mobile internet, you can go to http://m.google.com/maps on your handset to download your copy, or go to http://www.google.com/mobile/maps/index.html from your desktop or laptop, download the app and then transfer it to your GPS mobile device.

In order to learn more about GPS mobile tracing, you need to have some solid knowledge about Google Maps and Google Earth.

Google Maps now could help you avoid traffic jams. By collecting data from enough users running Google Maps, Google will be able to provide real-time traffic information in US, so drivers could escape from the traffic jam in advance.

Google Maps for mobile now comes with built-in Google Latitude, so you can now share your location with your friends directly from your Google Maps. In the past, you need to access Google Latitude from your PC. I tried it on my Symbian Smartphone and it worked great for me. The nuisance is that you could not store the map on your internal memory. Every time you run Google Maps, you need to connect to Google server.

Another thing worthies noting is that the latest version 5.2 of Google Maps for Android allows you to check-in, if you have an Android cell phone, you can share your location with your friends using Google Maps. If your friend is nearby, you can ping them to get in touch. Meanwhile, you will be able to post your reviews and ratings on places like restaurants to Twitter.

2010-Feb-Sat | Category: GPS | Tags: ,

How to take advantage of A-GPS on your handset

It normally take more than one minute to acquire your current coordinates (longitude, longitude and altitude sometimes) from the satellites when you have a cold start, even in the open air. But if you have A-GPS in your handset, this may only take some twenty seconds, depending on your mobile internet speed. If you have Symbian GPS enabled mobile device, here are a few tips to help you speed up locating, please note for different models, the path may vary.

In my previous post, I introduced how to speed satellite acquisition of satellites on your handset. The whole process is in fact download the satellite data from the cell towers, thus there is no need to search for satellites. It simply uses the data to find the frequency and orbits of the satellites and connect to them for quick locating.

As a matter of fact, companies like Nokia and Google etc have their own servers which provide the same service to help Smartphone to speed up the satellite acquisition. But the servers are not known to all. If we use their server, our handsets could download the data needed from the server directly instead of query nearby base stations, thus make the whole process quicker.

Tips for Android phone

There are lots of discussions out there on how to position your handset fast. Well, none of them seem to be verified and widely accepted. I will just list them here for your reference. Please note you need to root your handset first.

1. Modify the gps.conf file. If you know something about Linux, you the know the conf extension means settings for your system. Here gps.conf contains the settings about how your cell phone GPS works.

First, open your browser and point it at NTP international servers, select your continent and then country and you will find a few servers for your area. For example, for the United States you will get following servers:

server 0.us.pool.ntp.org
server 1.us.pool.ntp.org
server 2.us.pool.ntp.org
server 3.us.pool.ntp.org

Second, change your gps.conf file. If you have root explorer installed, then tap the icon, and navigate to /system/etc/ and open gps.conf in text editor mode. Now copy and paste the server addresses you have found before the “XTRA_SERVER_1=http://xtra1.gpsonextra.net/xtra.bin” command and save it (just exit and it will ask you to save it).

2. Delete the gps.conf file. Some say they have removed the gps.conf file and it have worked just great and connected to 4 satellites within 10 seconds. As to the reason? It’s still unknown. And they did not confirm if the device auto generates the gps.conf file. However, please backup the file before trying this method. Even if you have no backup, it’s a simple file and can be found on the internet which you can download to your phone.

Tips for Symbian

If you have a Symbian mobile device, you can follow below steps.

First, select and use Assisted GPS for locating. Go to Menu>Tools>Settings>General>Positioning>Positioning Methods, check Assisted GPS (Network Based) and save, please note the path may vary according to different models.

Now input the Positioning Server Address. Go to Positioning Server, select ‘Automatic’ for Positioning Server Use; Then select the Access Point (you should define it first); and the most important, type “supl.nokia.com” for the Server address, save and exit (Google has the same server as well).

Please note you may be charged for using your internet connection, you should always contact your carrier for the charges. Or you can get a data plan from your carrier, as it’s much cheaper.

Please also note for many cell phones, the data will be valid in 7 days. You need to download it again after 7 days or if you move to another city.

If you know how to speed it up on iPhone or Android mobile devices, please contact me, so we can share it to other users.

2010-Jan-Thu | Category: GPS | Tags: ,

How to speed up satellites acquisition on your cell phone

You have to wait a few minutes for your GPS cell phone to acquire the coordinates of your current location when you get a cold start. However, you can always speed up satellites acquisition on your handset by using A-GPS.

There are two options for A-GPS:

– Always download satellites data from the A-GPS server via your nearby base station. When you travel to New York, your GPS cell phone will download New York satellites data, the same is true when you are in London. Now you can get your current coordinates in less than one minute wherever you go. However, you need a special software which is not provided in most GPS Maps.

-Download long-term satellites data from the A-GPS sever via mobile internet so that your handset does not need a cold start. In most cases, the satellites data downloaded are only valid in four hours. However, you can use a seven-day long-term satellites data to speed up satellites acquisition. The cons are, when you travel to another city, you need another cold start to download the local satellites data.

The second method is widely used; you can see that in many GPS mobile device there is GPS+ service, which in fact is A-GPS. When you run it, it will use your mobile internet and you will be charged for it.

In my case, the satellites data is valid in seven days on my Samsung I8910, and its really fast, it only take less than twenty seconds to pinpoint my location on the GPS map even when at home.

Please note however, the satellite data you download, in most cases is valid in 7 days. After that period of time, you need to download the data again as the location of satellites have already changed, that is, they are not where they once were. On the other hand, if you move to a new city, you have to download the satellite data again. Apparently, the satellites covers Washington are not the same as in New York, or Paris, or London.

Another thing to note is, each time you connect to the nearby cell tower, you get charged. So it’s important for you to get a data plan from your mobile operator. In fact, if you use mobile tracking apps, a data plan is essential. You definitely do not want to be billed on this matter.

2010-Jan-Wed | Category: GPS | Tags: ,

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