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Directions from a GPS navigation system Reuters

A team of researchers has found an improved way to locate you with the accuracy of within an inch on the Global Positioning System (GPS), the space-based navigation system that registers your location.

A team from the University of California, Riverside, has augmented the regular GPS data by reformulating a series of equations used to determine a GPS receiver's position and reducing the complexity and number of calculations by several orders of magnitude. This reduces computational effort required to attain centimetre accuracy.

The team recently published a paper in IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology by Jay Farrell, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering at UCR's Bourns College of Engineering. "This paper proposes a novel implementation approach with significantly lower computational requirements and includes a thorough theoretical analysis. The implementation results show that the proposed method resolves an integer vector identical to that of the original method and achieves state estimation with centimeter global positioning accuracy," wrote the research paper.

Until now, it required large computers to combine the two data streams, GPS and Inertial Measurement Units (IMU), which is a device used to measure a body's force, angular rate and the magnetic field around, limiting its use in real-world applications like cars or mobile devices. The GPS is a network of around 24 and 32 satellites orbiting the earth, which were originally developed by the US government for military purposes.

There are at least four satellites 'visible' at any one time, and every satellite sends information about its location and time at regular intervals. By measuring the time taken to receive signals, a GPS receiver can pinpoint a user's position. GPS registers location and speed by measuring the time taken to receive signals from four or more satellites. It can tell you where you are to within 30 feet.

More recently, a technique called Differential GPS (DGPS) added ground-based reference stations increasing accuracy to within three feet. Better and accurate location tracking will help in the development of autonomous vehicles, improved aviation and naval navigation systems, and precision technologies. It could be included to better the navigation and location finding on our mobile phones and wearable technologies.