Improving the Civilian Global
Positioning System (GPS)
Source: The White House
Compare the old to the new
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 1, 2000
Improving the Civilian Global Positioning System (GPS)
May 1, 2000
"The decision to discontinue Selective Availability is the latest
measure in an ongoing effort to make GPS more responsive to civil and
commercial users worldwide. --This increase in accuracy will allow new
GPS applications to emerge and continue to enhance the lives of people
around the world."
President Bill Clinton
May 1, 2000
GPS IS A CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY FOR INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES AROUND THE
GLOBE. GPS is a dual-use system, providing highly accurate positioning
and timing data for both military and civilian users. There are more
than 4 million GPS users world wide, and the market for GPS applications
is expected to double in the next three years, from $8 billion to over
$16 billion. Some of these applications include: air, road, rail, and
marine navigation, precision agriculture and mining, oil exploration,
environmental research and management, telecommunications, electronic
data transfer, construction, recreation and emergency response.
GPS IS THE GLOBAL STANDARD. GPS has always been the dominant standard
satellite navigation system thanks to the U.S. policy of making both the
signal and the receiver design specification available to the public
completely free of charge.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES ENHANCE AMERICA'S NATIONAL SECURITY. The U.S.
previously employed a technique called Selective Availability (SA) to
globally degrade the civilian GPS signal. New technologies demonstrated
by the military enable the U.S. to degrade the GPS signal on a regional
basis. GPS users worldwide would not be affected by regional,
security-motivated, GPS degradations, and businesses reliant on GPS
could continue to operate at peak efficiency.
GPS IMPROVED SIGNAL WILL BRING INSTANT BENEFITS TO MILLIONS OF GPS
USERS. It's rare that someone can press a button and make something you
already own worth more, but that's exactly what's happening today. As
of midnight tonight, all the people who've bought GPS receivers for
boats, cars, or recreation will find that they are ten times more
The technology that makes this extraordinary technology possible grows
directly from our past research investments in basic physics,
mathematics, and engineering supported from NSF, DARPA, NIST and other
Federal agencies over a period of decades. GPS works because of super
reliable atomic clocks -- no mechanical device could come close. These
clocks resulted from Nobel-prize winning physics, and creative
engineering that managed to package devices which once filled large
physics laboratories into a compact, reliable, space-worthy device. The
improved, non-degraded signal will increase civilian accuracy by an
order of magnitude, and have immediate implications in areas such as:
- Car Navigation: Previously, a GPS-based car navigation could give
the location of the vehicle to within a hundred meters. This was a
problem, for example, in areas where multiple highways run in parallel,
because the degraded signal made it difficult to determine which one the
car was on. Terminating SA will eliminate such problems, leading to
greater consumer confidence in the technology and higher adoption rates.
It will also simplify the design of many systems (e.g., eliminate
certain map matching software), thereby lowering their retail cost.
- Enhanced-911: The FCC will soon require that all new cellular phones
be equipped with more accurate location determination technology to
improve responses to emergency 911 calls. Removing SA will boost the
accuracy of GPS to such a degree that it could become the method of
choice for implementing the 911 requirement. A GPS-based solution might
be simpler and more economical than alternative techniques such as radio
tower triangulation, leading to lower consumer costs.
- Hiking, Camping, and Hunting: GPS is already popular among outdoor
enthusiasts, but the degraded accuracy has not allowed them to precisely
pin-point their location or the location of items (such as game) left
behind for later recovery. With 20 meter accuracy or better, hikers,
campers, and hunters should be able to navigate their way through
unmarked wilderness terrain with increased confidence and safety.
Moreover, users will find that the accuracy of GPS exceeds the
resolution of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographical quad maps.
- Boating and Fishing: Recreational boaters will enjoy safer, more
accurate navigation around sandbars, rocks, and other obstacles.
Anglers will be able to more precisely locate their favorite spot on a
lake or river. Lobsterers will be able to find and recover their traps
more quickly and efficiently.
- Increased Adoption of GPS Time: In addition to more accurate
position information, the accuracy of the time data broadcast by GPS
will improve to within 40 billionths of a second. Such precision may
encourage adoption of GPS as a preferred means of acquiring Universal
Coordinated Time (UTC) and for synchronizing everything from electrical
power grids and cellular phone towers to telecommunications networks and
the Internet. For example, with higher precision timing, a company can
stream more data through a fiber optic cable by tightening the space
between data packets. Using GPS to accomplish this is far less costly
than maintaining private atomic clock equipment.
Additional information about GPS and the Selective Availability decision
is available online at the Interagency GPS Executive Board web site:
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