Using GPS to Track You – Is It Real?

A licensed land surveyor trusts his GPS system like  his gun in a battlefield. Though it sometimes do not provide all the info that you may need, it is nonetheless very helpful in producing an accurate boundary survey.

Many have heard of “Big Brother” being able to track our movements. One of my favorite TV shows is “Person of Interest” where a secret machine keeps track of all conversations and people’s “criminal intent” in order to help the heroes stop the crimes before they happen.

While I’m SURE that there are tracking capabilities in most cell phones and different government agencies CAN track our locations, we might be a ways away them being able to determine criminal intent.  But there IS a recent application in England that I found very interesting.

licensed land surveyorNestle (yes, the chocolate company) is placing GPS Trackers in six KIT KAT bars in their aptly named “We’ll Find You” marketing campaign in the UK. When the person opens the package it notifies KIT KAT and the prize delivery team will find them within 24 hours and present them with a check for £10,000 (about $16,000.) See the article here.

Just about all new type cell phones, all smart phones, iPads and other tablets, lots of cars (more than you think), public transportation vehicles, golf carts, and watches have GPS devices in them now days. Another place they are, and rightly so, are in ankle monitors used by law enforcement. But, what you might not realize is that the electronic devices mentioned above can work just like the ankle monitor. Now, while it is true that you can disable the GPS tracking device in your cell phone or tablet, that doesn’t give all of us complete comfort in walking around with these devices on us.

Now, I’m not trying to be a conspiracy wonk here, but it is POSSIBLE that this could be taken advantage of by well-meaning agencies. And, as we know, law enforcement can make mistakes in identifying the correct suspect.  Of course, as a licensed land surveyor myself, I WANT emergency services to be able to find me if and when I need their service, so this is a double edged sword. Most of us probably have nothing to worry about in this regard, but if you worry about this sort of thing, it could keep you up at night.

licensed land surveyorEven as a licensed land surveyor, having used GPS technology in land surveying for almost 20 years, I still trust them more than I should.

One example is when I was in an unfamiliar town my GPS navigation device told me to take a “road” to the right. I slowed down and attempted to turn but it was a power line.  Not wanting to believe that Gizell was wrong (yes I named her), I went to the next street and turned and tried to find the “road” further back. I ended up driving down the sandy power line, which turned into a bike lane until I was finally stopped by a gate. As I backed down the bike lane looking for a turn-around spot I thought, “maybe this wasn’t a road and maybe my GPS device is fallible.” Of course, I soon justified Gizell by recalling that a human had to “digitize” the roads in and she just did what they programmed her to do.

If you need to turn off your GPS tracking device in order to sleep tonight, call your device’s customer service line and stay away from KIT KAT bars. If you would like to find out how GPS surveying technology can help you in surveying your property boundary, call a Licensed Land Surveyor at Montgomery Land Surveying at (334) 625-9540.

Using GPS in Land Surveying

Land surveying is a profession that greatly utilize the GPS system.

ladn surveyingToday, man-made constellations are in orbit. Their purpose is to provide instant, exact and global positioning information. This global positioning system of GPS is revolutionizing the modern construction sites, automating and guiding land surveying equipment, providing instantaneous circles and volume gap, simplifying total and controlled surveys. Nearly everyone involved in the land surveying and construction industry has heard something about satellite positioning technology or maybe you or someone you know is already using it. Whether an operator or a casual observer, there are still many questions about how this exciting system really works.

These positioning satellites don't stay in one place like the stars; they orbit the earth about twice a day. Constantly transmitting uniquely identified radio signals that can be perceived by specialized units on earth. These signals are used to precisely measure the distance to the receiving instrument from each satellite visibly overhead.

Just as stars have exact locations in the sky, the locations of the GPS satellites are also defined, becoming orbiting reference points. Using a process based on triangulation, a GPS receiver processes the signals from multiple satellites to compute an accurate position on Earth, which is why it is widely use in land surveying.

For mobile applications that require high accuracy, such as three dimensional machine control, there are two requirements that must be met. First, the signals from a minimum of five satellites must be received at all times. And second, those five satellites must be distributed across the sky. This is called Dilution of Precision or DOP. The simple rule of thumb is this, the more satellites received the better your system will perform.

land surveyingAll land surveying receivers incorporate standard GPS tracking technology; unfortunately the GPS satellite constellation alone cannot continuously make the minimum requirement of accurate mobile positioning. For any given location, there are times in a day when there are less than five available satellites or very poor DOP.

Now, consider a land surveying job site with trees, buildings, or other obstructions when satellite receptions are easily be further reduced. All land surveying GPS receivers suffer this same problem because they all use the same satellites to operate.

Even the planned signal modernization to the GPS satellites won't solve this problem. An obstruction that blocks one signal blocks all signals from that satellite. A land surveying equipment provider has solved this problem. The solution isn't adding more signals from the same satellites; it's adding more satellites.

Today, there is a second positioning satellite constellation in operation, the Glonass System. This positioning system is operated and maintained by the Russian government; much like the GPS is operated and maintained by the United States government; combining these two satellite constellations give land surveyors access to 38 different satellites; 14 more than a GPS-only system.

The additional satellites mean stronger and more accurate positions and better performance in obstructed land surveying areas. These additional satellites mean maximum up time in all land surveying locations, in all conditions.

For an up to date and accurate land surveying service, contact Montgomery Land Surveying at (334) 625-9540 or better yet, you may fill out our contact form request and a licensed land surveyor will contact you.