Anyone who drove a car in the 90′s probably remembers a time when getting lost in a car couldn’t be solved with a talking box filled with maps. But for the last 10 years drivers have had the luxury of global positioning systems that provide accurate directions and travel time estimations from within the comfort of your car cabin. Many automakers now install GPS units directly into vehicle dashboards, assuming — not incorrectly — that any driver will appreciate the navigation support.
But GPS continues to evolve and expand in its functionality, and those changes are making life easier for businesses and consumers. Here are five evolutions of GPS that are changing how we operate in and explore our world:
1. Google Glasses
By far the most revolutionary of the upcoming evolutions in GPS technology, Google’s “Project Glasses” is bringing sci-fi to reality. Just like Robocop, wearers of the glasses will be able to call up information from the Internet and layer it over the physical world around them. This will let “Glasses” users view GPS maps and navigation through their lenses while they walk or drive.
Google is also hoping that the glasses are ultimately able to record video and take pictures of whatever the lenses are trained on. Video conferencing may also be possible.
And if you’re super eager and have the money, you might be able to buy a pair of these bad boys by the end of 2012.
2. Cloud Computing
Yes, cloud computing is far more expansive than just its GPS functionality, but GPS tracking systems are increasingly being hosted on the cloud. The main reason is that GPS requires constant updates to remain accurate as road construction and other roadway changes occur. With traditional GPS units, this requires plugging in every unit to a computer so that it can download updates — a tedious task that won’t be completed by all consumers. But cloud-based GPS can easily be updated at its central storage location, providing real-time updates that service every GPS unit.
3. Location-based Marketing
Mobile marketing has become more valuable as smart phone coupons and other marketing tactics are able to reach consumers on the go. With location-based marketing, GPS can be employed to feed coupons, advertisements and other marketing materials to consumers based on their location. This can even be as specific as to what part of town a consumer is in, allowing marketers to recommend eateries and other businesses close to their location.
4. Fleet Management Systems
For companies utilizing large fleets of vehicles for deliveries or other functions, GPS units can be utilized to run fleet tracking systems. These systems, many of which are based in the cloud, can be used by business operators to observe at any given time the location of a vehicle, the destinations it has reached and estimated arrival times. This improves communication and planning for businesses and cuts down on the time required to keep track of fleet operations.
5. Geotagging Photos
With some electronic devices, each picture taken can be accompanied by bits of GPS data that identify exactly where the picture was taken. Websites like Facebook already allow you to tag a location to any given picture, but this new GPS technology will do so automatically. Sure, it may have a Big Brother feel to it, but in a world of oversharing, is that anything new? Sites like Flickr use geotagging to add an extra layer to their sophisticated photo interface and even art museums have played with the ideas of what geotagging can unlock
It may all seem very futuristic, but then, the present always does, doesn’t it? GPS has so ingrained itself in our lives that unless those satellites fall out of the sky, we’ll be seeing it long into the future.