Effective midnight tonight (May 1st) the president has authorized releasing the military GPS signals to civilian users in the US and some other regions of the world.
For many years the civilian signal has been degraded for security purposes. Now with a new technology, they can degrade the signal selectively in certain regions of the world. The technology is called SA (Selective Availability).
One government scientist likened it to, "As illustration, consider a football stadium. With SA activated, you really only know if you are on the field or in the stands at that football stadium; with SA switched off, you know which yard marker you are standing on."
RBBI salutes President Clinton for this accomplishment. Besides immediately bringing much greater accuracy to recreational boating GPS applications (navigation and finding your old fishing hole more accurately) other applications abound. We have not seen details, but expect Differential GPS systems (locating from both a known ground position and GPS sattelites) will now be capable of use in highly precise applications. A whole new world of applications will be opening up. Some may be on the factory floor, another that rapidly come to mind is accurate boat speedometers.
A nice presidental news release is below. If you want in depth scientfic
info and some nice graphics, try:
Interagency GPS Executive Board.
Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State
(Navigational accuracy will improve for civilian GPS users) (1140) President Clinton announced May 1 that civilian users of the Global Positioning System (GPS) will enjoy more accurate navigational readings as of May 2. The improved data will result from a government decision to discontinue an intentional degradation of the GPS system through a technique known as Selective Availability (SA). "This will mean that civilian users of GPS will be able to pinpoint locations up to ten times more accurately than they do now," Clinton said. A White House press release on the decision says that the market for GPS applications is expected to double in the next three years. GPS was originally developed as a military system by the Department of Defense. The military establishment previously employed SA to globally degrade the signal for national security reasons. Improved technologies now allow the military to downgrade the signal's quality on a regional basis. According to the White House press release, "GPS users worldwide would not be affected by regional, security-motivated GPS degradations, and business reliant on GPS could continue to operate at peak efficiency." The release says the decision will provide more accurate navigational data for a variety of civilian uses. They include automobile navigation, emergency services location, and recreation navigation. The text uses the following terms: NSF -- National Science Foundation DARPA -- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency NIST -- National Institute of Standards and Technology Further information on GPS is available at http//www.igeb.gov Following is the text of the White House statement: (begin text) THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary May 1, 2000 President Clinton: 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 accurate. 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. (end White House text)
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