The downside of our excessive dependence on GPS and telematics services and how we can protect ourselves during outages

GPS, satellite-based navigation and telematics play an important role in the day-to-day life of people across the world. From navigating through traffic, food delivery to giving parents information about when their child will arrive home, we rely heavily on GPS services to keep us informed. However, these services can create chaos and disruption in services across industries. Recently, Europe suffered a mass blackout of its global positioning system called GSA (European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency – Galileo). Concerns were raised by their commercial partners about the reliability of GSA’s positioning system. GSA was fast to explain that the service disruption was not because of a satellite issue but due to a technical glitch at their ground station. Experts in the field commented that the disruption in service did not come to them as a surprise as GSA is a relatively newer player in the global positioning system market.

As more and more businesses and industries go online, our reliance on services like GPS is only bound to increase. Recent statistics suggests that in developing countries like China and India, smartphone adoption is growing by 300% a year. It is expected that India will have about 450 million smartphone users by 2022, thanks to the affordability of smartphones and inexpensive data plans. This will lead to an increase in the usage of GPS and telematics in these markets to solve a wide variety of problems. Currently, we rely on positioning services for shipping, food delivery, logistics, etc.

We, at Safetrax, also depend on GPS services for tracking school buses and employee transport cabs. GPS data is critical in ensuring the safety of school children as they are transported to and from school. It is also important to identify and manage emergency situations. For example, if a school bus meets with an accident, it is of utmost importance to accurately pinpoint the location and time of the mishap, to mobilize an emergency response.

Similarly, in employee commute operations, a panic button, physically fitted in the vehicles, comes in handy to notify the authorities of an emergency situation. A GPS outage would make it extremely difficult to manage such situations and would put the safety of thousands of children and employees at risk.

A GPS outage can also result in a slew of other inconveniences - Users will be unable to predict when they will arrive at their destinations. It will be harder for companies to track when their raw materials will reach them, distributors will have difficulty in planning orders and estimating delivery times to customers. Therefore, it is essential for us to develop a fail-proof technology that we can fully rely on. It is recommended that we continue using services like GSA and in parallel, we need to invest in a more reliable technology that is resilient from downtime. This parallel technology can be used as the default GPS for emergency services and for mission critical use cases.
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