The future of many of the things we rely on at the moment will be controlled from 21,000 kilometres above us. In areas as diverse as early warning systems and autonomous vehicles, GPS-like systems will be in control and save lives.
The recent mudslides in Hunan province could have taken many lives. Still, an early warning system developed on the back of China’s BeiDou (Big Dipper) system was able to alert residents 12 days in advance that landslides were imminent. Accurate to between 1.5 and 2 metres and accurate to within a millimetre with some extra post-processing, the system detected anomalies and issued an orange alert, followed by a red alert to the villagers who were able to escape but then had to watch their houses washed away.
With that level of accuracy now being achieved and not just by BeiDou, you can see the future of a range of activities being greatly enhanced by BeiDou and GPS III technology.
Everything from farming to autonomous transport to locating the whereabouts of criminals to a specific room will drive the benefits. And soon.
We have long been disappointed by the slow progress being made with autonomous cars, but a step-change will improve the future of autonomous travel and deliveries by drones in the accuracy of GPS in its many forms. And, like all technologies, if used in combination with other technologies, the results could be even better. It might even bring autonomous cars a little closer than before, with an accuracy of 1.5 metres instead of 10 with current systems.
We often overlook technologies such as GPS as enablers of advances in different fields. And, as we know, they are not always 100% accurate. We look, instead, to proximity sensors in cars, for instance, as the only way to deliver that level of autonomy.
Anyone can buy into China’s BeiDou system or wait for a few months for some others to come online. And scientists are already working on positioning systems that go beyond satellites, relying instead on the very nature of matter and how it interacts with its surroundings.
Either way, the future of much of what we get frustrated by today will be solved with these new advances – and relatively soon.