Satellite navigation technology has been a real game-changer for drivers over the years, enabling vehicle users to get audio directions as they travel. Over the past decade, dashboard-mounted sat nav systems have been among the best-selling Christmas gifts in the UK; brands such as Garmin and TomTom have stood out from the crowd when it comes to accurate, easy-to-use navigation units.
The science behind a sat nav is its Global Positioning System (GPS) functionality, which pinpoints the exact location of the unit as it travels and uses that location to return directional and geographical information to the user. Although typically linked to map-based navigation within a vehicle, there are many other uses for GPS technology, and we are starting to see GPS used to its full abilities thanks to the advent of the commonly used smartphone.
Maps on your smartphone
GPS mobile apps can be used instead of a satellite navigation system, offering all of the same capabilities. Apple Maps and Google Maps work with iPhones and Android phones respectively, with voice-enabled directions taking you round each turn safely and accurately. The apps integrate features like Point Of Interest searching, offline maps and support from your phone’s virtual assistant – and what’s more, they can be downloaded for free to any compatible phone or tablet device.
Having your navigation system on your phone means you can keep on accessing maps when you have left your vehicle. Using your phone, you can stroll around new locations without fear of becoming lost, and you will be able to locate plenty of interesting places along your route. When it is time to set off again, simply fix your phone to the dashboard and key in your destination – the voice commands will lead you the rest of the way!
Of course, dedicated satellite navigation systems will always be more committed to the task at hand, so if you want guaranteed reliability and precision – and a unit that remains fixed in one place – then you still may feel a sat nav unit is the right option for you.
Keep track of your vehicle
Of course, GPS apps can do much more than just tell you which direction to travel in. GPS can pinpoint any device, which makes it valuable for vehicle tracking applications. Anti-theft devices in vehicles use the same technology a sat nav does, but instead of telling you which way to turn, they tell a separate device – via mail or text alert, for example – where the vehicle currently is. This information can be given to the police in the case of theft, and they can get your vehicle back. If the car is still in motion, it may even help the authorities to apprehend the culprits.
Even if your car hasn’t been stolen, it can still help to keep an eye on it remotely from time to time. GPS can be used to help you find your vehicle in a busy car park, or to keep track of a teenage driver when they are out alone. Using mobile applications, you can have information about a vehicle’s journey sent directly to you, or even to follow it via a website app. Not only will these apps be useful in your personal life, but many managers and business owners will appreciate being able to monitor their fleet from a distance.
Multi-feature devices – changing technology
Now that smartphones have put GPS at the fingertips of every user, we can all navigate our lives a little better. Many people will prefer the fact that applications are often free, and can be downloaded to any device. Rather than carrying a sat nav unit around, the mobile phone can perform navigational and tracking functions whilst still offering all the communication tools you expect it to. Perfect for on foot or behind the wheel, mobile GPS is the flexible way to harness satellite positioning technology.